Musings on the Mural

On Monday Jan. 20, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the beautiful King mural was unveiled. Since its unveiling, the mural has been moved to its new home on the wall above the stairs leading up to the dining hall, where the eye of King stares down at students and faculty alike as they maneuver the dining hall. Lots of students gave the mural looks of confusion. While it is well-intentioned, it came as a bit of a surprise, leaving students feeling slightly awkward. Now, don’t get us wrong, King is a man that no one will ever be able to adequately honor for how great of a legacy he left behind. Even so, the mural has definitely caused some adverse reactions.

On numerous occasions, students have expressed bafflement and disapproval of the mural. Some even find it in poor taste when it’s put in consideration next to the recent tuition increase in combination with the poor maintenance of some dorms and buildings around campus. The motive behind the mural, to promote diversity and awareness and honor a great activist, is commendable. All things considered, it’s difficult to form one clear opinion about the mural. On the one hand, it’s a step in the right direction for the College because they’re acknowledging racial diversity, while on the other hand it perpetuates the fact that MLK has become an over saturated image.

Even though the mural came as a bit of a shock, it is commendable in its effect on the student and faculty. While the mural may seem out of place, which is problematic for reasons beyond the 500 word count this editorial allows, it can still inspire something amongst the college public. It has caused us to question why King is now staring at us as we get our fries and coffee between classes. It is causing us to not only think about him, but to think about other relevant figures.

For instance, in order to inform ourselves about this article, we had to do some research on figures in this area that would be more relevant to the campus.  For one, there are several other African-American faces of history with a much more specific relationship to Washington College and the Chestertown community. Figures such as Frederick Douglass, who was born in Talbot County, or Henry Highland Garnett, for which H.H. Garnet Elementary School is named, would make viable candidates for such an honor. While each of those figures do have several standing monuments in their honor, the same could certainly be said of Martin Luther King, Jr. The argument here is not that Martin Luther King, Jr. does not deserve such an honor, but that the mural is seemingly random for the Chestertown setting.

This mural, if anything, is causing us to think about African-American involvement on campus and, at the very least, is calling attention to diversity at the College. With all that considered, the mural doesn’t seem as out of place or offensive.

Some may find the mural a random and unnecessary gesture, some may find it too sparkly, but all in all it’s got us talking about more than the halftime show of the Super Bowl. It has inspired a conversation about race, diversity, and just how far we’ve progressed in making King’s dream a reality. The fact that we find the mural surprising is the real discomfort here.

Editorials  represent the collective viewpoint of the entire Elm editorial board.

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