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May 20, 2008

Robinson On King

Columnist Eugene Robinson weighs in on the current monument design discussion via The Washington Post today.

Here's what is really going on: It's clear that some people would prefer to remember King as some sort of paragon of forbearance who, through suffering and martyrdom, shamed the nation into doing the right thing. In truth, King was supremely impatient. He was a man of action who used pressure, not shame, to change the nation. The Montgomery bus boycott, to cite just one example, was less an act of passive resistance than a campaign of economic warfare. Yes, he knew that televised images of black people walking miles to work would help mold opinion around the world. But he also knew that depriving the bus companies of needed revenue would hit the Jim Crow system where it really hurt.

Lei, the sculptor, is understandably miffed at the commission's second-guessing, especially since the panel had already approved the basic concept -- King is supposed to be emerging from a massive "Stone of Hope" like a superhero with the power to walk through walls. The artist points out that the chosen pose comes from a famous photograph of King, standing -- with his arms crossed -- in front of a picture of Gandhi, who was his hero (and who, by the way, also was supremely confrontational).

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