I really enjoyed reading this article. I’ve thought a lot about the white washing of Martin Luther King, Jr’s legacy. Though, I do wonder about the term whitewashing used in this way. I’ve also heard that used in reference to white people playing not-white people in movies. Regardless, I can remember reading about MLK as a child and thinking of him as a savior figure almost. I thought he was unanimously beloved, despite his being assassinated. But even now that I’m older, I have still had to go out of my way to get the real story on MLK. If I didn’t work in a church that celebrated MLK day, or if I hadn’t taken this course, I would likely still be under the illusion that Martin Luther King, Jr was a hero in his time. He definitely wasn’t. He was hated. He was firebombed. He was threatened time and time again. But in the 50 or so years since his death, his image has been distorted. I feel like he isn’t really represented as a warrior, fighting tooth and nail for what he believes. He almost seems like a Mr. Rogers type character who just wants everyone to get along.
He’s also become sort of a symbol for acceptance or inclusion. People can use him to make sure that everyone knows they aren’t racist. There’s probably not a single town in the whole United States of America without a Martin Luther King, Jr Dr/Rd/Ave/Pkwy/St. But I suppose that that is a better strategy than hanging a neon sign in the town square that says “We want to give off the impression that we’re progressive!”
Atlanta goes the extra mile with their road names. We honor Hosea Williams, John Lewis, MLK, Donald Lee Hollowell, Ralph Abernathy, Andrew Young, etc. Sure, in retrospect everyone loves those guys. But they weren’t all appreciated in their days. I think it’s a nice gesture to name roads after these gentlemen, and I appreciate the sentiment, but I feel like I could possibly have unintended effects. It could allow people to say things like “Atlanta doesn’t have race issues! Look at all these roads we have named after black people!”
I chose the picture of the Hosea Williams mural for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a sweet mural. I bike past it a lot, or at least I used to before the world went to hell in handbasket. But also because Hosea Williams is one of those people that everyone knows the name of, but no one really knows who he is. He was a civil rights leader, but according to Wikipedia, he may be best known for his association with Martin Luther King, Jr. I also did little bit of research on the mural and found an interesting interview with artist, Fabian Williams (no relation). He talks some about gentrification and how people of color were displaced to Reynoldstown back in the day, but now Reynoldstown is being gentrified. It’s ironic that a mural of a civil rights leader would be painted on a wall in Edgewood along the beltline, now a quickly gentrifying area. Fabian also talks about his more recent work in the West End, to do more work in communities of color. He wants to paint murals of black people there so that little kids can see heroes that look like they do in the public art.
I enjoyed the podcast as well. It was nice in tandem with the article and the interview I found with the artist. The quote that stuck out to me the most from the podcast was when Calinda Lee said that Atlanta has a “much more reasonable cost of living.” I’m not sure where she’s living, but this place is expensive!!!