In his famous speech, Dr. King answered those who asked "When will you be satisfied?" He replied:
We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “For Whites Only”. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
As my friend notes, some of these, like the exclusion of Blacks from hotels, the "Whites only" signs, and the flat prohibition on Blacks voting in the South, have been rectified. Others, though -- like police brutality and rampant residential segregation, have not.
Has Sarah Palin spoken out on the issue of housing segregation? Has she spoken out on the issue of police brutality? Not that I can recall. Those aren't her issues. Those aren't her passion. And I doubt she knows or cares enough about the legacy of Dr. King to even know her short-comings.
I wrote several years ago that, for much of America, the only "good" civil rights leader was, quite literally, a dead one (Dr. King). There is a reason why the same admiration the right bestows upon Dr. King hasn't been granted to any of his surviving lieutenants.
Being dead, he can't contest or contextualize the actual content of his beliefs. Being dead, he can't remind audiences of the criticisms and abuse he was subjected to during his campaigns, and how it is eerily reminiscent of the charges foisted upon contemporary Black leaders. And being dead, he is no longer a political threat, and thus is a safe person to prop up upon an altar and praise. Were he alive, we might be faced with the uncomfortable prospect that this great hero of American history might demand we actually fulfill our covenant with Black citizens, and that would require actual change and reform and sacrifice. Dead people tell no such tales.
I firmly believe that, if Dr. King were alive today, Sarah Palin and her cohorts would believe he is a radical agitator, a socialist sympathizer, maybe someone who once had some important ideas, but whose time had effectively passed. It is quite fortunate, then, that he is dead, so he can be stripped of his essence and turned into a icon.
So no, I don't think Dr. King would be proud to be treated in this manner. I don't think he would be proud to have his legacy abandoned -- contorted as some abstract paean to "equality" rather than as a concrete struggle for justice. Sarah Palin can change that, by actually adopting Dr. King's agenda. But she won't. And he is not proud to be used as a tool by the likes of Sarah Palin..