Posted by: Ophelia | May 9, 2008

Stern MLK isn’t taking any of your bullshit

MLK Tribute Statues is Too “Confrontational”

“A powerful federal arts commission is urging that the sculpture of Martin Luther King Jr. proposed for a memorial on the Tidal Basin be reworked because it is too “confrontational” and reminiscent of political art in totalitarian states.”

Yes, that statue is truly frightening. Frankly, given the state of our nation, I think he has the right to look stern if he wants. What do they want him to be doing? (a soft shoe maybe). I presume they want a smile plastered on his face, you know, so he doesn’t look so mean.

Ah, much better.



  1. To me, MLK represents a never ending political battle for true equality, to not be simply content with the status quo and to fight for what you believe in without needing to resorting to violence. It’s obvious that the battle for true equality isn’t really over, so why would he be smiling?

  2. In Charlottesville there is this statue near the UVA campus that depicts 2 white men on horses – Lewis and Clark, I think, because they set off from C-ville – trampling through a group of cowering Native Americans. I kid you not. People walk past every day without even raising an eyebrow.

    None of our national heroes look warm a fuzzy in the statues depicting them – it isn’t like Lincoln is grinning or like Mt. Rushmore resembles a Crest ad. Why should MLK be cheesing it up?

    Oh, wait… there might be something different about him…

    It is amazing that we can even be scared of a black man carved in sand stone.

  3. MMm… white folks love MLK cuz history has remodeled him as this compliant, pacifist do-gooder. Put a stern look on his face and he looks a little too much like Malcolm X.

    What the fuck do they mean it looks to confrontational. I’m sorry, but history is dialectical. He fucking WAS confrontational!

    Oh wait. I’m supposed to be a pacifist do-gooder as well. Ah yes, I remember now, he built coalitions and loved all the lynchers as much as he loved his children. If only we could all love that much?


    (Sorry for this nonsensical comment.)

  4. It’s interesting to see this come up so soon after the post on that fox news interviewer who though that MLK would have wanted us to look past the whole icky matter of race. Can’t we all just get along?

  5. MLK was probably the most intellectual of American heroes. Who else memorialized on the Mall has a doctorate?

    In that sense, I can see why the committee is probably going to eventually force the sculpture into something more like Rodin’s “Thinker”. Something evoking his peacemaker/philosopher/orator reputation. Nothing necessarily wrong with that.

    However, given the deep level of anti-intellectualism in American culture, and the fact that an educated, nonviolent negro like MLK represented the worst fears of the white establishment, I think the “stern” look of the current iteration definitely represents MLK’s legacy–striving to make America wake up to our racial problems, and reminding us into the 21st century that we have not yet reached the promised land. It’s defiant and edgy, just like MLK was. He was a peacemaker, and he advocated nonviolence, but he would have settled for nothing but our best.

    Finally, he was not some gentle soul who quietly passed away in his sleep of old age after accomplishing a lifetime of work. His life was cut brutally short at a young age by an assassin’s bullet, like so many great, great people of that time. We must remember the hope and promise of the 60s, and a statue of MLK in a more defiant, stern pose would shock us into realizing how much times have changed in his absence.

  6. Like I said, his crusade is far from over, and I know for a fact that if he was still alive today, he wouldn’t be smiling. Especially with reports like the ones featured in the post after this one about the missing woman. In a sense, his job may never be truly ‘done’. And, in a way, he may be the truest American of them all. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…” If that’s supposed to be America, then that would mean he is America. He wouldn’t stop just when African Americans get equality, but when everyone got equality.

  7. I think the statue looks badass and SHOULD be confrontational. It’s exactly what MLK was about.

    Even if they make it less “confrontational,” people are still going to use the space in a way that asserts their civil rights. The Lincoln Memorial was supposed to be a non-confrontational monument with no recognition to the causes of the war in the first place, just Lincoln’s union of the separated country. It was designed and built after Reconstruction and in order to get Southern senators on board for the design, it had to be bland. Ironically, even the dedication ceremony was segregated. It wasn’t until people started using the space for civil rights marches that it became seen as we view it today. So even if the MLK memorial is watered down to be less confrontational, people are going to use the space to remember what MLK was really about.

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