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Everyone Has Thoughts About the MLK & CSK Statue, But Not All of Them Deserve Space

Looking at you, Megyn Kelly.

A split image featuring two photos: On the left, a photo of 'The Embrace,' a bronze statue honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King, displayed in Boston. On the right, the black-and-white photo of Mr. and Mrs. King that inspired the statue.

Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott-King’s impact on this country cannot be understated. However, a new statue meant to represent the couple has been met with mixed reactions.

The statue was unveiled on Monday, January 16, on the Boston Common, where MLK spoke 58 years ago to a crowd of 22,000. Based on the famous photo of the couple hugging as MLK won the Nobel Peace Prize, the statue features only their arms wrapped around each other.

Unfortunately, from certain angles, the statue tends to look … suggestive.

Reactions

Immediately, reactions were mixed and fervent.

Martin Luther King III, son of the late couple, saw the statue as “a huge representation of bringing people together … Yeah, it didn’t have my mom and dad’s images, but it represents something that brings people together … And in this time, day and age, when there’s so much division, we need symbols that talk about bringing us together.”

He also reminded people that this was not just the work of a single architect or sculptor, but of thousands of artisans and workers, none of whom had a “perverse perspective” on the statue. King III had apparently given the statue his approval prior to construction. He also stated that the Vietnam Memorial and Washington Memorial were disliked by many initially, but are now two of the most famous American memorials.

His late mother’s cousin, Seneca Scott, saw things differently, writing for Compact magazine:

“Ten million dollars were wasted to create a masturbatory metal homage to my legendary family members—one of the all-time greatest American families. Still, the Boston debacle could be a blessing in disguise, by exposing the insidiousness of astroturfed woke movements that have come to dominate black America: How could anyone fail to see that this was a major dick move (pun intended) that brings very few, if any, tangible benefits to struggling black families?”

She does have a point. While MLK’s legacy is influential, many Americans struggle to cite a quote that isn’t from the “I Have a Dream” speech (or isn’t just the first line).

One person who almost certainly should not be weighing in is Megyn Kelly, who appeared to take glee in mocking the statue on her SirusXM show, saying it “looks like a giant penis.” Her guest, National Review editor-in-chief Rich Lowry, responded by saying, “The deeper story here is we’ve lost the capacity to create public beauty, there is no piece of public art in the last 50 years that has been beautiful or uplifting …”

That’s a pretty bold claim considering that the Vietnam Memorial just turned 40 and the 9/11 memorial at the World Trade Center has only been open for 12 years.

Leslie Jones had perhaps the most succinct take during her hosting debut on The Daily Show: “White people, you do not need to be saying shit about this statue, you understand? Black hands only. You need to sit your ass in the back of the bus for this one, okay? You need to honor this statue. This is our civil rights icon …” She and Dulce Sloan then proceeded to joke about the statue to hilarious effect.

Jones certainly has a point about avoiding tone-deafness; making fun of a monument to a Black civil rights leader who was murdered for his activism opens the door to racist comments. In a tweet, Everette Taylor, the CEO of Kickstarter, commented on how “[s]ome of the public discourse around ‘Embrace’ (MLK Statue) by Hank Willis Thomas is so disheartening, especially from those within the black community. No matter what your opinion may be … tearing down another black man who’s genuinely a great artist and good human is gross.”

This is a good reminder for white and non-Black allies to be considerate and remember to both listen to and prioritize Black voices, or else they risk laughing with the racists.

(featured image: AP Photo / Bettmann Archive, Getty Images)

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Kimberly Terasaki is a Creative Writing graduate, fanfiction author, and intersectional feminist. She liked Ahsoka Tano before it was cool, will fight you about Rey being a “Mary Sue,” and is a Kamala Khan stan. She appreciates all constructive criticism and genuine discussion.