Speed Reads

A ‘masturbatory metal homage’

Why are people angry about the new monument honoring MLK and Coretta Scott King's love story?

A new monument meant to honor the legacies of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King, sparked backlash after it was unveiled in Boston last week, CNN reports. Critics have denounced the sculpture as visually unappealing, and others have mocked the monument for being reminiscent of a sexual act.

"The Embrace," a 20-foot tall and 40-foot wide sculpture, debuted on Friday on Boston Common, where King once spoke to a crowd of 22,000 on April 23, 1965. The $10 million bronze statue features the arms of the couple embracing, inspired by the photograph of King and Scott King hugging after he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. Conceptual artist Hank Willis Thomas designed the monument. 

The abstract piece quickly generated criticism. Seneca Scott, a cousin of Scott King, argued the sculpture is an insult to his family, describing it as "masturbatory metal homage" in an essay for Compact Magazine

Scott told CNN, "If you can look at it from all angles, and it's probably two people hugging each other, it's four hands. It's not the missing heads that's the atrocity that other people clamp onto that; it's a stump that looked like a penis. That's a joke." 

However, not every relative denounced the abstract sculpture. The couple's eldest son Martin Luther King III, defended the statue in an interview with CNN's Don Lemon, expressing gratitude for a monument to his parent's love story. 

"I think that's a huge representation of bringing people together," King III said. "I think the artist did a great job. I'm satisfied. Yeah, it didn't have my mom and dad's images, but it represents something that brings people together."