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"It is better to fight": On Martin and Malcolm

“It is better to fight”: On Martin and Malcolm

The effi­gy of a black man, a son of South­ern soil and descen­dant of slaves, now stands over the nation’s Mall among its found­ing fathers, noto­ri­ous slave own­er in front and the so-called Great Eman­ci­pa­tor to his back. Look­ing out over the placid Tidal Basin with a steely-eyed reserve and chis­eled deter­mi­na­tion, the Mar­tin Luther King, Jr. Nation­al Memo­r­i­al, the first mon­u­ment on the Mall ded­i­cat­ed to a man of col­or, has whipped up yet anoth­er tem­pest of protest. Besides the same types who did not and still do not com­mem­o­rate the life of this influ­en­tial Civ­il Rights leader on the third Mon­day of every Jan­u­ary, oth­er dis­senters have not­ed that the veined, con­fronta­tion­al depic­tion of the Broth­er Preach­er by the Chi­nese sculp­tor Lei Yix­in does not evoke the round docil­i­ty asso­ci­at­ed with the open-armed love of non­vi­o­lence. For them, the image goes against what they see as King’s true lega­cy, while oth­ers see the statute as an appro­pri­ate stance of well-ground­ed, stony defi­ance and pride.