Friday, January 25, 2008
Don't Tarnish a Legacy
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” –Martin Luther King Jr.
This April, on the National Mall in Washington DC, construction will start for the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. This memorial will be the first on the Mall honoring an African American, and will be located near the spot where King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech.
After decades of planning and searching, an artist was found who is qualified to make the 30 foot granite sculpture, but not without controversy. The artist of record chosen is from China, and the NAACP has passed a resolution against his selection, preferring that an African American be chosen as the artist of record.
This week, our nation celebrated the life of Martin Luther King Jr. and all that he stood for. One thing we can say about Dr. King is that he was one who did not participate in doubletalk, unlike many modern day politicians and leaders, Dr. King meant what he said and said what he meant. He frequently spoke of “all of God’s children” when he spoke of civil rights and equality.
In honoring Dr. King with a memorial on the National Mall, we are honoring the legacy of a man who literally gave his life for the cause of equality. The not so humorous irony of modern times has us arguing about the race of the person creating a memorial for a leader whose mission was to see that we move beyond looking at race as an identifier of qualification and competency.
In doing this we are tarnishing a legacy and pushing a movement backwards. The NAACP is citing China as having a poor at best, record for human rights, as to why this artist should not be chosen. Isn’t this exactly where this country was when Dr. King arose as a leader of the Civil Rights movement? It is our responsibility as people to let the legacy of others live on by putting into practice the values that made them a legend. To deny an artist the opportunity to create this sculpture because of his origin of birth is negating everything that this monument will stand for.
In Dr. King’s I have a Dream speech he said “as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back”. For us to continue to move the legacy of Dr. King forward, to accept his dream, we must accept that this monument is being made by an individual who was chosen because he is the best qualified person for the job. To try and make sure that the person making the monument is of the same skin color of Dr. King is turning back and tarnishing a legacy.
The final paragraph of Dr. King’s speech says:
“And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"”
Our responsibility to future generations lies in allowing the legacies of our leaders to live on through acting out the ideas that made them legend, not by letting personal agendas and ideals get in the way of the message.