Martin Luther King, Jr. is widely known as a champion for equality, a brave advocate for nonviolence and now (it turns out) a cunning linguist.
On Friday, the city of Boston unveiled a new bronze sculpture, known as “The Embrace,” which purports to show Dr. King’s arms, shoulders and hands wrapped around those of his wife at the moment he learned he’d won the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize.
That was the intention. In execution, plenty of social media users have accused sculptor Hank Willis Thomas of depicting a far more private moment in the civil rights icon’s life.
Some were coy about what they perceived when the sheet fell from the sculpture in video posted to Twitter by a reporter for local station WHDH. “I’m not gonna say it,” tweeted conservative commentator Lauren Chen. Another user wrote that it looked like a “very different kind of ‘loving embrace.'”
BREAKING: The bronze sculpture called “The Embrace” honoring Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King has just been unveiled on the Boston Common #7news #MLKWeekend #MLKDay2023 pic.twitter.com/IckphP15FL
— Amaka Ubaka (@AmakaUbakaTV) January 13, 2023
Others were more explicit. “This looks like a sexual act,” wrote libertarian metalcore singer Phil Labonte, while Slate journalist Derreck Johnson posted, “Coretta said she a baddie and she get what she want.”
Coretta said she a baddie and she get what she want like.
— Dee Phunk (@DeePhunk) January 14, 2023
Others were even more explicit. For anyone still not getting it, multiple brave users — who aren’t afraid to call it like they see it — simply posted, “MLK eating pussy.”
Now, to be fair to Hank Willis Thomas, it doesn’t look like thighs wrapped around a bald head from every possible viewpoint. One Twitter user even credited the cameraman, not the sculptor, for the X-rated connotations, suggesting that whoever filmed the unveiling “should get an [E]mmy.”
Please read my other tweets about the sculpture—but here is another angle and the photo of the two “The Embrace” is based on. It’s when MLK Jr. found out he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. pic.twitter.com/Q7Vyk7OPKK
— Amaka Ubaka (@AmakaUbakaTV) January 14, 2023
But it still looks pretty weird no matter where you’re standing. A photo from another angle reminded several users of “hands cradling a turd.”
Looks like someone cradling a large turd.
— matty whitehead (@matty_yted46) January 14, 2023
I scrolled through Twitter comments for about half an hour and only found one person who liked the thing. And I suppose that, from the right vantage, there are a few nice details, like Coretta’s bracelet or the lovingly rendered wrinkles at her finger joints.
Of course, Hank Willis Thomas is also the man behind the 25-foot-tall Afro pick sculpture unveiled in West Philadelphia in 2020. So maybe he should just take a break from public commissions for a while.