Gandalf Mantooth’s Law of The Dream Speech
As dialogue about race goes on longer, the probability of a person saying “content of their character” approaches one.
The degree of political or social conservatism of the speaker is directly proportional to the probability of the speaker quoting Martin Luther King, with the exception of Internet trolls.
Admittedly, the oft repeated phrase is the most powerful rhetoric in one of the most dynamic rhetorical performances in American history. Like most great rhetoric, it can mean something different to each individual, and interpreted favorably by people from all different walks of life. Thus it is no surprise that conservatives and liberals find usefulness and inspiration.
However, a lot of people forget the speech was more than the one sentence when quoting MLK. He called the “new militancy” “marvelous.” He said “America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check that has come back marked “insufficient funds.”
The speech has a context, and some people would seem to want to wrest the speech from its context by using that one sentence as a rhetorical tool. Most people who use it are aware of the reverence paid King by many here. The man has a President’s holiday for f***’s sake. You may well have the same heartfelt attachment to the quote and it’s perceived everyman/woman sentiment. You may have the best of intentions. However, when some right winger like George Will or Limbaugh is tut-tutting people of color about Affirmative Action or something and drags out The Quote, it smacks of smarmy condensension. It says “See, your greatest leader agrees with me, so there! Nyaa, nyaa, game over.” It’s the photo negative of the Godwin thing.