This Sunday is the dedication of the new Martin Luther King Jr Memorial here in DC — it's a really big deal considering the individual and because it's the first memorial to a Black person on the National Mall. A group of my aunts, cousins, and I went this past Wednesday to check it out; it was quite a sight, made me feel really proud inside. The site overlooks the Potomac river, and the set-up is very clean and sleek... it's beautiful really. I plan to go back at night at some point, it's even better then I've been told. Anyway, this isn't about that; I came across a Washington Post article by Rachel Manteuffel which makes light of a particular error in the monument. If you click the pic above to enlarge it, you'll notice a quote on the side that reads: “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.” This didn't really strike me as anything to furrow my brow over [see what I did there] but Manteuffel instead points out that MLK never actually said that, but rather something a lot more detailed; in turn a lot more humbled and profound. Click after the jump for my commentary, I suggest reading the article first though.
This really upsets me — I don't want to be the one to throw out the race card, but you have to wonder; with all of the many approvals needed, individuals who oversaw the process, the hands, the eyes, the minds... no one questioned this? The person who at first retrieved this quote, and then butchered it, had to have seen how egocentric he had made MLK sound. If not, the various channels it went through had to have picked up on it. I could run all through the various scenarios which make it seem nonsensical for such an error to happen without race being pulled in. So I'll leave that alone.
On the other side of that coin of race, the many Black community leaders that participated along the way — none of you spoke up, or even had this pique your interest as puzzling? I have to admit it didn't strike me as much when I first noticed it, but I will also admit that I know not a lot about black history (as in, I wouldn't know that MLK was always about humility). I am just a college student with a blog, they are spiritually invested into this... and the aforementioned groups of people, they have no excuse if they have scholars searching up the information for the memorial to begin with.
I don't want to rant, but it just seems like with this being the first memorial to honor a Black figure and only the fourth of a non-president on the National Mall, it would be given all the care and respect as any of the others. I can't help but feel like this lapse in judgement, or ambivalent attitude in editing that quote was somehow racially based — not saying they were/are racist, just that there was a some lack in necessity of respect there. I could be very off base with this, but these are the thoughts that come to mind when history has proven that things like this do happen.
I just hope the city repairs it... I know we're in a debt crisis, but it would be wrong if they requested donors to pay for the correction; it should be on gratis.