Does Anybody Else Have a Problem. . .

. . . with this MLK memorial?

Aside from the fact that, as Maya Angelou pointed out, his words were mutilated into a quote that made him sound like an arrogant jerk?

Why is Martin Luther King Jr. suddenly white in this monument? Not only was the guy black, the very reason he is getting commemorated is his heroic activism on behalf of African-Americans. Right?

I’m just not comfortable with this monument at all. Surely, it would have been pretty easy to make it in a way that didn’t transform MLK into a white guy, wouldn’t it?

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18 comments on “Does Anybody Else Have a Problem. . .

  1. I actually didn’t realize that there are any white people whose complexion is the color of chalk or marble. Non-dead white people, that is.

  2. I look that way right after I’ve finished a round of vomiting.

    I guess talking about “peach” people would be boring.

  3. I feel that way about the Crazy Horse memorial. My maternal cousins are Lakota, and they consider the whole thing to be an eyesore and a rather weird tribute that makes no sense and skews his true legacy.
    I remember once, when I was in high school, we watched a movie about the creation of the Vietnam memorial, and one of the people protesting the memorial objected to it being carved from black stone, because black was “the colour of shame”. A black soldier who fought in the war stood up and refuted that bit of silly logic quite nicely.

  4. The color of the stone is neither here nor there (it doesn’t attempt, for instance, to distinguish between King’s face, hair, and clothes). The rendering of the face is faithful enough to look like the subject. But it’s pretty weak as a sculpture.

    General discussion question: what’s the most recent representational public sculpture that you think succeeds? Louise Bourgeois’s spiders, sure. But faces?

  5. I like it. To me it suggests a man thrust out of a megalithic social structure, into the public square, but who has his own fundamental strength that allows him to stand alone.

    I think it’s a good visual representation of the quote the sculpture focused on – “Out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” from his “I have a dream” speech.

    Something else I like, which often doesn’t get mentioned, is the inclusion of 24 niches along the upper walkway that commemorate other individuals who also gave their lives as part of the civil rights struggle.

    • Now THAT would have been a good quote to carve onto this sculpture.

      Drum major? WTF?

      I feel sort of “doh” that the “why is the statue white” question never crossed my mind when looking at these photos. But yeah, that’s the $20,000 question. That’s just sort of…wrong.

      The whole thing has the feeling of some committee (of white people) going, “erm, okay, we need a memorial, not sure how to do it or what to say, but, well, they’ll have a memorial to the guy, so what’s to complain about?”–like the whole deal was assembled by people who absolutely don’t get what the guy was about.

  6. From the daily telegraph:

    However, there has been controversy over the choice of Lei Yixin, a 57-year-old master sculptor from Changsha in Hunan province, to carry out the work. Critics have openly asked why a black, or at least an American, artist was not chosen and even remarked that Dr King appears slightly Asian in Mr Lei’s rendering.

    Mr Lei, who has in the past carved two statues of Mao Tse-tung, one of which stands in the former garden of Mao Anqing, the Chinese leader’s son, carried out almost all of the work in Changsha.

    More than 150 granite blocks, weighing some 1,600 tons, were then shipped from Xiamen to the port of Baltimore, and reassembled by a team of 100 workmen, including ten Chinese stone masons brought over specifically for the project.

    They couldn’t find anyone willing to carve it for poverty wages in the States so they outsourced it to China. And they wonder why America’s job increase is zero.

      • Thanks for putting me onto this story C. I did some more background research and discovered that the official reasons for using white granite (from China so they should put a made in China sticker on the back) were (Economist magazine):

        White rock shows up better than black rock at night. Chinese white granite is harder than the domestic variety, so it will last longer. The artist best prepared to work the hard Chinese rock is, not suprisingly, Chinese. As it happens, the memorial’s sculptor, Lei Yixin, is “better known for his mammoth tributes to Chairman Mao”, as Mr Page puts it.

        Some of the Mao works by the artist are remarkably similiar. I wonder if he did a rework on a spare Mao statue lying around in his workshop.

      • It’s very possible that a discarded Mao statue was used. :-) This happened very often in the USSR where there were sculptors who never sculpted anything but monuments to Lenin. They had their studios filled with Lenin’s spare parts and they had to bring all the body parts together to make one sculpture. Of course, if you needed somebody else’s statue, it was just as easy to transform the existing Lenin’s statue a bit and there you were. I can see that the technique is being adopted in the USA.

        It’s funny how Americans don’t even realize how close they have come to imitating the Soviet Union in many many different ways. :-)

  7. Hahahahaha, oh you little nutters are AWESOME! If they’d rendered his monument in black stone you’d be going apeshittaloon over *that*. “see how they are emphasizing his otherness from the other monuments!!????!”

  8. Pingback: With My Coffee, A Delicious Bowl of Racial Irony…. | On Becoming a Domestic and Laboratory Goddess

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