There was the picture of President Barack Obama made to resemble Hop-Hop artist 2 Chainz; then, there were the seemingly endless party flyers and Instagram posts with an edited image of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to include gold chains and peace signs. Are these images disrespectful, or simply an unorthodox way of honoring these figures?
Critics have said the altered images of these and other African-American figures are disrespectful, and have no place in public. The volume of edited images is rampant and widely distributed with the tools and convenience of Photoshop, Instagram, and Twitter. They have become symbols…but of what?
While being interviewed on CNN on his father’s birthday, Martin Luther King, III was asked about how he thought the late Civil Rights’ icon may respond to being put on a party flyer. His response was profound.
He said his father was one to meet people where they were, and would probably not see this as disrespect by those who were simply including and honoring the senior King the best and maybe only way they knew how.
Whenever the discussion includes race, there is and should be a degree of sensitivity because one never really knows the intent behind words and actions, and the intent may not mirror the interpretation.
But, I wonder if we have become so politically correct that we fail to see any flexibility in the opportunity to share and celebrate those with a younger, hipper audience not otherwise exposed or interested in what others may deem significant.
At a time when the need for cultural awareness is at an all time high for African-Americans, I believe following another charge from Dr. King is appropriate: meet them where they are. Perhaps a regular engagement on the level of our youth, and one beyond criticism would yield a better understanding on both sides and then a more accurate representation of and for all.