Martin Luther King, Jr. Monument Controversy

There’s a controversy brewing in Washington over the recent unveiling of a memorial dedicated to Martin Luther King, Jr. People aren’t happy with the quote chosen to adorn the statue and the choice of artists to create it.

I have a soft spot for Dr. King because my kids are black and I thank people like him and those that fought alongside him, for making it possible for us to be a family. Remember the old days when blacks and whites weren’t supposed to mix? Remember when some people said it was stated in the Bible that it was wrong? I like to remember that and point it out when people use the Bible to justify their own prejudice against any group of people. I don’t think God meant for my family to be a mistake in any way.

I also was lucky enough to study Dr. King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail in college, long before I became a mother. But it struck me back then and has stayed with me since that he was an incredibly important man in our society. He is a man deserving of a memorial of his own.

The controversy isn’t over should he or shouldn’t he have his own memorial. I think it is agreed on by most that he should have one. Still, there is controversy: over the quote used on the memorial and the artist chosen to design it.

Here’s the quote used:

I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness

It was taken from this:

“If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice,” King said. “Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.”

Some say that the shortened quote makes a man known for his selflessness and passion for others seem like a self-centered person, tooting his own horn. In a speech where he imagined his future eulogy, he suggests that someone could say these things about him. He wouldn’t say them about himself, according to those who know about his work.

The memorial is 30 feet long and appears to have boulders along side the statue. Surely there was enough room to fit the entire quote.

Also at issue is the use of a Chinese artist to design and create the memorial. Some feel it should have been a black artist chosen to be the designer. I say it should have at least been an American.

In a nation crazy with artists, there wasn’t one whose talent met the requirements needed to create a memorial for an important figure in American history? This was a project that someone decided should be farmed out to a foreign artist?

If we are to learn one important lesson from this it is that context is so important. Oh, and buy American…


2 thoughts on “Martin Luther King, Jr. Monument Controversy

  1. This just shows the stupidity of some people. I don’t know how anyone could argue that the statue should not have been created by a black artist… and the fact that they didn’t actually use a direct quote is inexcusable. You don’t change a quote.

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