Friday, June 15, 2007

An Open Letter to Gilbert Young

I came across Gilbert Young's racist campaign through the ARTNEWSlistserv and I was appalled at what the media has been complicit in promoting. Mr. Young has appeared on CNN as well as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and other media outlets. His campaign is racist and these Open Letters and their responses from Mr. Young confirm it.

An Open Letter

paul boshears
to gilbertyoung Jun 6

I have to say I am VERY disappointed in the tone of as well as it's operator, Gilbert Young.

First, I cannot but ask directly, "Is there no racist undertone to your objection in having a Chinese sculptor for a national monument?"

And frankly, I feel the answer is, "Yes." To Mr. Young's defense I will say that he suffers from the very same ignorance that he accredits his perceived-antagonists. You see, Mr. Young, the thrust of the Civil Rights Movement has been (and hopefully will continue to be) always a global movement:

Consider the heroes of Martin Luther King, Jr.:

  • Thich Nhat Hahn, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk whom King nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize
  • Marcus Garvey, in Jamaica with his wife, Rev. King made a speech celebrating Garvey's work toward black nationalism
  • W.E.B. DuBois, who is not indebted to DuBois?
  • Kwame Nkrumah, the first President of Ghana and the long-celebrated voice of Pan-African Unity (itself intimately related to the civil rights movement).

You see, Mr. Young, Dr. King was a very enthusiastic supporter of Nkrumah. Nkrumah represented a true feat: the first African President of a former British Colony. The thrill of it, Mr. Young, can't you see? W.E.B. Dubois and Nina Simone imposed their own "exile" to France (both for very different reasons) but DuBois then sent himself to Ghana. He is a national treasure to the Ghanaians.

But who supported Kwame Nkrumah and Ghana? Initially it was not the U.S., it was China, Mr. Young. China and Du Bois, China and Nkrumah, at the intersection of these nations is a rich and informative relationship which you would be good to revisit, sir.

Gilbert Young, you have reached an age where knee jerk reactions are simply not good enough. May I suggest that you investigate further the importance of understanding "Communist China" (which continues to be Nixon-era Crackerspeak).

Re: An Open Letter artnews

to me Jun 8

Thank you for your email,

In answer, I must tell you that you are ignorant to what is actually going on with the MLK monument. It is you who have exibited the "knee jerk" reaction because you do not know the facts. This is not about Yixin being Chinese.

This is about the fact that an African American artist was chosen as Artist of Record. His name is Ed Dwight. Dwight worked with the King Foundation for years until Yixin was chosen to take Dwights 12" model from maquette to monumental stone sculptor. Dwight saw Yixin's work and wrote a 13 page critique citing numerous problems with Yixin's interpretation of Dwight's original model. He also expounded on the fact that African America would have a problem with Yixin himself, a man who knew nothing of Dr. King. It was Dwight who gave Yixin books and movies and writings to help him know who Dr. King was!

What Dwight didn't realize was that deals had been made, money had changed hands and he was threatening to disrupt the flow. Dwight was kicked to the curb and Yixin was named Artist of Record.

Sir, this is about African American people being marginalized and disprespected. This is about African American history and culture being bought and sold.

I know all about Dr. King and his mission and his philosophy and his mentors. What has happened in Washington for this monument to this great man is a travesty. If you saw the CNN report with Lou Dobbs, you would have seen that 91% of America agrees with me.

Gilbert Young.

Jun 8 (6 days ago)

Thank you, Mr. Young, for your time and response.

As you've presented your issue, the problem with the monument is that Dwight was not chosen to be Artist of Record, Yixin was. Naturally, Mr. Dwight critiqued Yixin's interpretation. As you've presented the critique, however, it sounds like it's a poor critique that would state, "the fact that African America would have a problem with Yixin himself."

What problem would that be? That he is not African American? Was King not dreaming of a day when we would be judged not by the color of our skin but the content of our character?

I cannot accept as fact that Yixin being selected as Artist of Record in any way supports your claim that your argument is about African American culture being bought and sold.

To even suggest that it is African American culture, and not the nobility of Humanity itself embodied by Dr. King, that is at stake here is to miss the point. King did not dream of a separate but equal access to cultural icons, and why are you?


Jun 11 (3 days ago)

Again, you have missed the point. You wrote "As you've presented your issue, the problem with the monument is that Dwight was not chosen to be Artist of Record, Yixin was."

Dwight WAS chosen to be artist of record. Yixin was hired to take Dwight's model from 12" maquette to a monumental stone sculptor. Yixin was the subcontractor. Dwight's name was to go on the monument as artist. When Dwight saw Yixin's model, he sent his critique to the King Foundation. Yixin's model did not look like Dwight's. Yixin's model does not look like Dr. King.

What Dwight did not know was a deal had been made with Yixin, with China, with a Chinese granite company, that trumped Dwight's complaint. The Foundation did not want a "burr beneath the saddle" so Dwight was fired.

Gilbert Young.


to Youngartone, artnews
Jun 12

Thank you, again, Mr. Young, for your patience in responding to my open letter; it is appreciated.

Not that I want to hold you to the flames, but I fail to see how you've addressed your campaign's problem. Now you've succinctly stated that the issue with the King Memorial is one of contract management. However your response has simply masked the real issue that I have presented to you, an issue, frankly, that may die hard in your campaign. Your campaign is primarily motivated by a racist claim: that Chinese rocks and Chinese people cannot communicate the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.

I agree with you in one sense, Mr. Young, the legacy of Rev. King and of the Civil Rights Movement has been compromised. But before we start making nativist claims to an exclusive understanding and ability to communicate the message of "I Have a Dream" let us look to our own backyard.

Who sold the "I Have a Dream" license to Alcatel (a French company, Mr. Young - imagine it!)? The King Family did, sir, not the Chinese, not the French, not some shady cabal wheeling and dealing. In your previous response (June 8, 2007) you stated, "This is about African American history and culture being bought and sold," and I ask you, with all gravity, "Are you serious?"

Paul Boshears


Jun 12

I am serious. Yixin is quoted as saying that he has received books, films, and pictures of Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement so he could "get inside of King's head."

Now I ask you, do you believe African Americans need any outside assistance to know what what going on in King's head to motivate him to do what he did and become who he became?

The answer is NO. The reason is: African American people suffered through it and survived it.

Let me ask you another question. If the government of these United States allowed another monument on the Mall, one to the heroic survivors of the Holocaust, and the best sculptor in the world to create the facial expressions for the sculpture were German, do you believe Jewish people would protest? Do you feel they would have a right to? Do you believe the German would get the job?

I can tell you this: There would be no protest because the question would not even be discussed because a German would not be considered. Someone of Jewish descent would be contracted for the job and no question would be asked. And you and no one else would cry foul. It would be expected and universally accepted.

Gilbert Young


paul boshears

to Youngartone, ArtNews

Jun 13

Again, Mr. Young, I thank you for your time and earnest engagement in this conversation.

If I may, I will go point by point and perhaps we will arrive at some better understanding.

There seems no fault in an individual researching for a major project; in fact, usually, that is a sign of great seriousness and an investment in which all receive dividends. Would you have liked it better if he "winged" it?

You ask me if I believe African Americans need outside assistance to know what Dr. King thought and the answer stares at you mutely, sir. "In a rare interview with The New York Times in 1997, Dr King's third son, Dexter, who is president of The King Centre, said his family had been left in a 'very precarious position because we had no instructions.' He added: 'My father did not leave a will to say, `I do or do not want my intellectual property protected.' All we had to go on was his conduct.' (from "I Have a Dream Inc."

It would seem that the King Family itself is actively seeking outsider's help, have you thought to advise them, sir? They are his family.

In your hypothetical scenario you ask if the made-up people would have the right to protest and my answer is, "Of course." I'll ignore the latent anti-semitism underwriting your argument and hope and trust that you are not simply a "grade A" racist.

But you see, Mr. Young, I am not arguing the rights of anyone to protest. I am questioning the aesthetics. Don't you see, sir, my complaint is not simply the problem of racism in your campaign, I find in bad taste, and it is misguided, sir. The campaign is simply a symptom of a much deeper problem and so I ask you again to stop, Mr. Young. At your age I would hope you knew better. Had you been younger I would perhaps have slowed my tongue, but as Confucius said, "It is only when one reaches forty or fifty years of age and has yet done nothing of note that we should withhold our esteem."

Please understand me from this position, sir:

Actions such as yours are undercutting the Movement, where King sought to connect and ask that all people learn to better see themselves in "the other" you are merely lampooning and causing dis-ease in a legacy you and your supporters poorly understand.

I again thank you for your earnestness and patience.

Paul Boshears