Critiquing the Critiques: MLK Edition
The Washington Post editorial board is now weighing in on the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial quotation fiasco. Due to the dedication delay provided by Hurricane Irene, the board says there's time to "get it right" and replace the cocky quote with the longer, contextual version.
This has not been a good week for the new memorial. The criticism has ranged from the nitpicky to the serious. Let's see how they stack up:
- The quote is bad. Though Washington City Paper's Rend Smith is totally correct when he points out that King wasn't exactly lacking in confidence, the "drum major" quote is obscure at best, and misleading at worst. Though "I have a dream" may be a bit trite, there's got to be something better out there. Critique: A+
- The Chinese sculptor is bad. Complaints about Chinese artist Lei Yixin have ranged from "the sculptor should have been black" to "this isn't another statue of Chairman Mao." The Economist's Will Wilkinson called Yixin a "political bullshit artist," and Postie Courtland Milloy compared the finished product to Star Wars' Han Solo frozen in carbonite. Sure, the statue is kind of ugly, and the symbolism of having a black artist produce the sculpture would have been nice. But there's no proof a black artist would have done a better job, and anyway, when did bad art become a crime? Critique: C-
- The workers were exploited. It's pretty repugnant that a monument built to a man who died as he fought for workers' rights was built by workers who may have been exploited. While the Chinese workers brought over to construct the monument were given room and board, they had no idea what they'd be paid for the backbreaking work when they got home. Critique: A
- The Chinese granite is bad. Quips about the memorial being "made in China" have been floating for a while now. But complaints about using Chinese granite are turning out to be silly. The rock is harder (and more durable) than American granite. Critique: F
- King was bad. Okay, so the Washington Times doesn't go that far, but a fact-free editorial complains that because MLK supported social safety net programs to rectify the real economic ills caused by racism, the resulting "nanny state has crippled the black community, undermining self-reliance, entrepreneurship and personal responsibility." Critique: Oh, come on.
Photo by Marion S. Trikosko, [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons