Tag Archives: Cornel West
Cornel West steps in for Bernie –
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Bernie Sanders spoke Saturday to a half-empty gymnasium at Benedict College in South Carolina. The school is historically black, but the crowd appeared to be largely white.
This underscores the severe challenge facing the Sanders campaign: African-American voters have yet to fully connect to the man and the message.
An August Gallup Poll found that Hillary Clinton’s favorability among African-Americans was 80 percent, while Sanders’s was 23 percent. Two-thirds of blacks were unfamiliar with Sanders. This could pose a problem after the contests in overwhelmingly white Iowa and New Hampshire, where he has surged to tie or best Clinton, give way to contests in Southern states with much more sizable black populations.
South Carolina will be the first test. According to The New York Times, 55 percent of South Carolina Democratic primary voters were black in 2008. Yet current polls show Clinton with a massive lead over Sanders in the state. And those polls show Vice President Joe Biden leading Sanders, even though Biden has yet to announce whether he’ll run. That’s why it’s important not only for Sanders to spend more time in the state, but also to pick a venue like Benedict College.
But appearing at the college, a favorite speaking spot for Democratic primary candidates trying to boost their black vote in the state, is by no means a sure path to victory. Bill Bradley spoke there in 2000 when running against Al Gore. Gore crushed Bradley with 92 percent of the caucus vote. Carol Moseley Braun announced her candidacy there in 2003but had to withdraw before the primary in the state. Al Sharpton and Wesley Clark spoke at the school in 2004, and both lost the state. In 2008, Clinton visited the school the day before the primary. She only won one county in the state.
Sanders is hoping for better….
Cornel West on CNN
CORNEL WEST: You can’t talk about wealth and inequality, you can’t talk about education, you can’t talk about massive unemployment and under employment and you can’t talk about drones being dropped on people in other parts of the world without talking about white supremacy and its ways in which it operates. It doesn’t have to be overt. The president is right about that.
But too many black people are niggerized. I would say the first black president has become the first niggerized black president.
CNN ANCHOR: What do you mean by that?
WEST: A niggerized black person is a black person who is afraid and scared and intimidated when it comes to putting a spotlight on white supremacy and fighting against white supremacy. So when many of us said we have to fight against racism, what were we told? ‘No, he can’t deal with racism because he has other issues, political calculations. He’s the president of all America, not just black America.’ We know he’s president of all America but white supremacy is American as cherry pie.
We’re talking about moral issues, spiritual issues, emotional issues. White supremacy has nothing to do with just skin pigmentation, it has to be what kind of person you want to be, what kind of nation we want to be. Democrats and Republicans play on both of those parties in terms of running away from the vicious legacy of white supremacy until it hits us hard. Thank God for Ferguson. Thank God for the young folk of all colors. Thank God for Staten Island and fighting there. Thank God in Baltimore, now the precious folk in Charleston.
President Obama delivers the eulogy for the dead in Charleston…
RESIDENT OBAMA: Giving all praise and honor to God.
The Bible calls us to hope, to persevere and have faith in things not seen. They were still living by faith when they died, the scripture tells us.
They did not receive the things promised. They only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.
We are here today to remember a man of God who lived by faith, a man who believed in things not seen, a man who believed there were better days ahead off in the distance, a man of service, who persevered knowing full-well he would not receive all those things he was promised, because he believed his efforts would deliver a better life for those who followed, to Jennifer, his beloved wife, Eliana and Malana, his beautiful, wonderful daughters, to the Mother Emanuel family and the people of Charleston, the people of South Carolina.
I cannot claim to have had the good fortune to know Reverend Pinckney well, but I did have the pleasure of knowing him and meeting him here in South Carolina back when we were both a little bit younger…
… back when I didn’t have visible gray hair.
The first thing I noticed was his graciousness, his smile, his reassuring baritone, his deceptive sense of humor, all qualities that helped him wear so effortlessly a heavy burden of expectation.
Friends of his remarked this week that when Clementa Pinckney entered a room, it was like the future arrived, that even from a young age, folks knew he was special, anointed. He was the progeny of a long line of the faithful, a family of preachers who spread God’s words, a family of protesters who so changed to expand voting rights and desegregate the South.
Clem heard their instruction, and he did not forsake their teaching. He was in the pulpit by 13, pastor by 18, public servant by 23. He did not exhibit any of the cockiness of youth nor youth’s insecurities. Instead, he set an example worthy of his position, wise beyond his years in his speech, in his conduct, in his love, faith and purity.
As a senator, he represented a sprawling swathe of low country, a place that has long been one of the most neglected in America, a place still racked by poverty and inadequate schools, a place where children can still go hungry and the sick can go without treatment — a place that needed somebody like Clem.
His position in the minority party meant the odds of winning more resources for his constituents were often long. His calls for greater equity were too-often unheeded. The votes he cast were sometimes lonely.
But he never gave up. He stayed true to his convictions. He would not grow discouraged. After a full day at the Capitol, he’d climb into his car and head to the church to draw sustenance from his family, from his ministry, from the community that loved and needed him. There, he would fortify his faith and imagine what might be.
Reverend Pinckney embodied a politics that was neither mean nor small. He conducted himself quietly and kindly and diligently. He encouraged progress not by pushing his ideas alone but by seeking out your ideas, partnering with you to make things happen. He was full of empathy and fellow feeling, able to walk in somebody else’s shoes and see through their eyes.
No wonder one of his Senate colleagues remembered Senator Pinckney as “the most gentle of the 46 of us, the best of the 46 of us.”
Clem was often asked why he chose to be a pastor and a public servant. But the person who asked probably didn’t know the history of AME Church.
As our brothers and sisters in the AME Church, we don’t make those distinctions. “Our calling,” Clem once said, “is not just within the walls of the congregation but the life and community in which our congregation resides.”
He embodied the idea that our Christian faith demands deeds and not just words, that the sweet hour of prayer actually lasts the whole week long, that to put our faith in action is more than just individual salvation, it’s about our collective salvation, that to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and house the homeless is not just a call for isolated charity but the imperative of a just society.
What a good man. Sometimes I think that’s the best thing to hope for when you’re eulogized, after all the words and recitations and resumes are read, to just say somebody was a good man.
You don’t have to be of high distinction to be a good man.
Preacher by 13, pastor by 18, public servant by 23. What a life Clementa Pinckney lived. What an example he set. What a model for his faith.
And then to lose him at 41, slain in his sanctuary with eight wonderful members of his flock, each at different stages in life but bound together by a common commitment to God — Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, DePayne Middleton Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel L. Simmons, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Myra Thompson.
Good people. Decent people. God-fearing people.
People so full of life and so full of kindness, people who ran the race, who persevered, people of great faith.
To the families of the fallen, the nation shares in your grief. Our pain cuts that much deeper because it happened in a church.
The church is and always has been the center of African American life…
… a place to call our own in a too-often hostile world, a sanctuary from so many hardships.
Over the course of centuries, black churches served as hush harbors, where slaves could worship in safety, praise houses, where their free descendants could gather and shout “Hallelujah…”
… rest stops for the weary along the Underground Railroad, bunkers for the foot soldiers of the civil-rights movement.
They have been and continue to community centers, where we organize for jobs and justice, places of scholarship and network, places where children are loved and fed and kept out of harms way and told that they are beautiful and smart and taught that they matter.
That’s what happens in church. That’s what the black church means — our beating heart, the place where our dignity as a people in inviolate.
There’s no better example of this tradition than Mother Emanuel, a church…
… a church built by blacks seeking liberty, burned to the ground because its founders sought to end slavery only to rise up again, a phoenix from these ashes.
When there were laws banning all-black church gatherers, services happened here anyway in defiance of unjust laws. When there was a righteous movement to dismantle Jim Crow, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached from its pulpit, and marches began from its steps.
A sacred place, this church, not just for blacks, not just for Christians but for every American who cares about the steady expansion…
… of human rights and human dignity in this country, a foundation stone for liberty and justice for all.
That’s what the church meant.
We do not know whether the killer of Reverend Pinckney and eight others knew all of this history, but he surely sensed the meaning of his violent act. It was an act that drew on a long history of bombs and arson and shots fired at churches, not random but as a means of control, a way to terrorize and oppress…
… an act that he imagined would incite fear and recrimination, violence and suspicion, an act that he presumed would deepen divisions that trace back to our nation’s original sin.
Oh, but God works in mysterious ways.
God has different ideas.
He didn’t know he was being used by God.
Blinded by hatred, the alleged killer would not see the grace surrounding Reverend Pinckney and that Bible study group, the light of love that shown as they opened the church doors and invited a stranger to join in their prayer circle.
The alleged killer could have never anticipated the way the families of the fallen would respond when they saw him in court in the midst of unspeakable grief, with words of forgiveness. He couldn’t imagine that.
The alleged killer could not imagine how the city of Charleston under the good and wise leadership of Mayor Riley, how the state of South Carolina, how the United States of America would respond not merely with revulsion at his evil acts, but with (inaudible) generosity. And more importantly, with a thoughtful introspection and self-examination that we so rarely see in public life.
Blinded by hatred, he failed to comprehend what Reverend Pinckney so well understood — the power of God’s grace.
This whole week, I’ve been reflecting on this idea of grace.
The grace of the families who lost loved ones; the grace that Reverend Pinckney would preach about in his sermons; the grace described in one of my favorite hymnals, the one we all know — Amazing Grace.
How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.
According to the Christian tradition, grace is not earned. Grace is not merited. It’s not something we deserve. Rather, grace is the free and benevolent favor of God.
As manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings. Grace — as a nation out of this terrible tragedy, God has visited grace upon us for he has allowed us to see where we’ve been blind.
He’s given us the chance where we’ve been lost to find out best selves. We may not have earned this grace with our rancor and complacency and short-sightedness and fear of each other, but we got it all the same. He gave it to us anyway. He’s once more given us grace.
But it is up to us now to make the most of it, to receive it with gratitude and to prove ourselves worthy of this gift.
For too long, we were blind to the pain that the Confederate Flag stirred into many of our citizens.
It’s true a flag did not cause these murders. But as people from all walks of life, Republicans and Democrats, now acknowledge, including Governor Haley, whose recent eloquence on the subject is worthy of praise…
… as we all have to acknowledge, the flag has always represented more than just ancestral pride.
For many, black and white, that flag was a reminder of systemic oppression…
… and racial subjugation.
We see that now.
Removing the flag from this state’s capital would not be an act of political correctness. It would not an insult to the valor of Confederate soldiers. It would simply be acknowledgement that the cause for which they fought, the cause of slavery, was wrong.
The imposition of Jim Crow after the Civil War, the resistance to civil rights for all people was wrong.
It would be one step in an honest accounting of America’s history, a modest but meaningful balm for so many unhealed wounds.
It would be an expression of the amazing changes that have transformed this state and this country for the better because of the work of so many people of goodwill, people of all races, striving to form a more perfect union.
By taking down that flag, we express adds grace God’s grace.
But I don’t think God wants us to stop there.
For too long, we’ve been blind to be way past injustices continue to shape the present.
Perhaps we see that now. Perhaps this tragedy causes us to ask some tough questions about how we can permit so many of our children to languish in poverty…
… or attend dilapidated schools or grow up without prospects for a job or for a career.
Perhaps it causes us to examine what we’re doing to cause some of our children to hate.
Perhaps it softens hearts towards those lost young men, tens and tens of thousands caught up in the criminal-justice system and lead us to make sure that that system’s not infected with bias.
… that we embrace changes in how we train and equip our police so that the bonds of trust between law enforcement…
… and the communities they serve make us all safer and more secure.
Maybe we now realize the way a racial bias can infect us even when we don’t realize it so that we’re guarding against not just racial slurs but we’re also guarding against the subtle impulse to call Johnny back for a job interview but not Jamal…
… so that we search our hearts when we consider laws to make it harder for some of our fellow citizens to vote…
… by recognizing our common humanity, by treating every child as important, regardless of the color of their skin…
… or the station into which they were born and to do what’s necessary to make opportunity real for every American. By doing that, we express God’s grace.
For too long…
For too long, we’ve been blind to the unique mayhem that gun violence inflicts upon this nation.
Sporadically, our eyes are open when eight of our brothers and sisters are cut down in a church basement, 12 in a movie theater, 26 in an elementary school. But I hope we also see the 30 precious lives cut short by gun violence in this country every single day…
… the countless more whose lives are forever changed, the survivors crippled, the children traumatized and fearful every day as they walk to school, the husband who will never feel his wife’s warm touch, the entire communities whose grief overflows every time they have to watch what happened to them happening to some other place.
The vast majority of Americans, the majority of gun owners want to do something about this. We see that now.
And I’m convinced that by acknowledging the pain and loss of others, even as we respect the traditions, ways of life that make up this beloved country, by making the moral choice to change, we express God’s grace.
We don’t earn grace. We’re all sinners. We don’t deserve it.
But God gives it to us anyway.
And we choose how to receive it. It’s our decision how to honor it.
None of us can or should expect a transformation in race relations overnight. Every time something like this happens, somebody says, “We have to have a conversation about race.” We talk a lot about race.
There’s no shortcut. We don’t need more talk.
None of us should believe that a handful of gun safety measures will prevent every tragedy.
It will not. People of good will will continue to debate the merits of various policies as our democracy requires — the big, raucous place, America is. And there are good people on both sides of these debates.
Whatever solutions we find will necessarily be incomplete. But it would be a betrayal of everything Reverend Pinckney stood for, I believe, if we allow ourselves to slip into a comfortable silence again.
Once the eulogies have been delivered, once the TV cameras move on, to go back to business as usual. That’s what we so often do to avoid uncomfortable truths about the prejudice that still infects our society.
To settle for symbolic gestures without following up with the hard work of more lasting change, that’s how we lose our way again. It would be a refutation of the forgiveness expressed by those families if we merely slipped into old habits whereby those who disagree with us are not merely wrong, but bad; where we shout instead of listen; where we barricade ourselves behind preconceived notions or well-practiced cynicism.
Reverend Pinckney once said, “Across the south, we have a deep appreciation of history. We haven’t always had a deep appreciation of each other’s history.”
What is true in the south is true for America. Clem understood that justice grows out of recognition of ourselves in each other; that my liberty depends on you being free, too.
That — that history can’t be a sword to justify injustice or a shield against progress. It must be a manual for how to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, how to break the cycle, a roadway toward a better world. He knew that the path of grace involves an open mind. But more importantly, an open heart.
That’s what I felt this week — an open heart. That more than any particular policy or analysis is what’s called upon right now, I think. It’s what a friend of mine, the writer Marilyn Robinson, calls “that reservoir of goodness beyond and of another kind, that we are able to do each other in the ordinary cause of things.”
That reservoir of goodness. If we can find that grace, anything is possible.
If we can tap that grace, everything can change. Amazing grace, amazing grace.
… how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind, but now, I see.
Clementa Pinckney found that grace…
… Cynthia Hurd found that grace…
… Susie Jackson found that grace…
… Ethel Lance found that grace…
… DePayne Middleton Doctor found that grace…
… Tywanza Sanders found that grace…
… Daniel L. Simmons, Sr. found that grace…
… Sharonda Coleman-Singleton found that grace…
… Myra Thompson found that grace…
… through the example of their lives. They’ve now passed it onto us. May we find ourselves worthy of that precious and extraordinary gift as long as our lives endure.
May grace now lead them home. May God continue to shed His Grace on the United States of America.
Dr. Martin Luther King said:
“Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.”
Think it’s time Cornel West heed those words.
Cornel West certainly has a problem with President Obama – and this isn’t the first time it has come out. The last time his criticisms were so ill formed and logic so convoluted he got his head handed to him.
Well…Maybe Dr West has learned something, although it must have been a tremendous blow to his over-sized ego to do so.
This is actually a pretty reasonable critique of Obama’s Presidency sans a few things I will discuss below.
Very few progressive voices articulate more vitriol and uncompromising disdain for President Barack Obama than Cornel West. During Obama’s six years in the White House, West has critiqued every layer of the president’s policies, from his use of drones in the Middle East to what he feels is the president’s cozy relationship with Wall Street.
In 2011, West wrote in the New York Times that Obama has fallen short of epitomizing Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream.
“The age of Obama has fallen tragically short of fulfilling King’s prophetic legacy,” he wrote. “Instead of articulating a radical democratic vision and fighting for homeowners, workers and poor people in the form of mortgage relief, jobs and investment in education, infrastructure and housing, the administration gave us bailouts for banks, record profits for Wall Street and giant budget cuts on the backs of the vulnerable.”
West’s commentary is a breath of fresh air for some who feel they’d be blacklisted in liberal circles for criticizing the president, while others see his remarks as coming from a space of personal bitterness. Regardless of where you stand on West’s opinions, his remarks are always worthy of further inspection. In an excerpt from his new bookBlack Prophetic Fire, West outlines why he believes Obama has turned his back on the black philosophical traditions that put him in the White House. Here are eight of the most insightful quotes.
1. African Americans Have Done Worse Under Obama
“The great irony of our time is that in the age of Obama the grand black prophetic tradition is weak and feeble. Obama’s black face of the American empire has made it more difficult for black courageous and radical voices to bring critique to bear on the U.S. empire. On the empirical or lived level of black experience, black people have suffered more in this age than in the recent past. Empirical indices of infant mortality rates, mass incarceration rates, mass unemployment and dramatic declines in household wealth reveal this sad reality.”
2. Leadership In The African-American Community Has Weakened
“First, there is the shift of black leadership from the voices of social movements to those of elected officials in the mainstream political system. This shift produces voices that are rarely if ever critical of this system. How could we expect the black caretakers and gatekeepers of the system to be critical of it?”
3. Upward Mobility Is The Worst In The Modern World
“Second, this neoliberal shift produces a culture of raw ambition and instant success that is seductive to most potential leaders and intellectuals, thereby incorporating them into the neoliberal regime. This culture of superficial spectacle and hyper-visible celebrities highlights the legitimacy of an unjust system that prides itself on upward mobility of the downtrodden. Yet, the truth is that we live in a country that has the least upward mobility of any other modern nation!”
4. Leaders Who Challenge the Statue Quo Are Silenced
“Third, the U.S. neoliberal regime contains a vicious repressive apparatus that targets those strong and sacrificial leaders, activists, and prophetic intellectuals who are easily discredited, delegitimated, or even assassinated, including through character assassination. Character assassination becomes systemic and chronic, and it is preferable to literal assassination because dead martyrs tend to command the attention of the sleepwalking masses and thereby elevate the threat to the status quo.”
5. Mass Media Ignores Voices That Take on Issues Such as Use of Drones and War Crimes
“The central role of mass media, especially a corporate media beholden to the U.S. neoliberal regime, is to keep public discourse narrow and deodorized. By ‘narrow’ I mean confining the conversation to conservative Republican and neoliberal Democrats who shut out prophetic voices or radical visions. This fundamental power to define the political terrain and categories attempts to render prophetic voices invisible. The discourse is deodorized because the issues that prophetic voices highlight, such as mass incarceration, wealth inequality, and war crimes such as imperial drones murdering innocent people, are ignored.”
6. Obama Doesn’t Really Care About Protecting Working People
“The state of black America in the age of Obama has been one of desperation, confusion, and capitulation. The desperation is rooted in the escalating suffering on every front. The confusion arises from a conflation of symbol and substance. The capitulation rests on an obsessive need to protect the first black president against all forms of criticism. Black desperation is part of a broader desperation among poor and working people during the age of Obama. The bailout of Wall Street by the Obama administration, rather than the bailout of homeowners, hurt millions of working people.”
7. First Lady Michelle Obama Legitimizes Obama’s “Symbolic Status”
“Needless to say, the presence of his brilliant and charismatic wife, Michelle—a descendent of enslaved and Jim-Crowed people, unlike himself—even more deeply legitimizes his symbolic status, a status that easily substitutes for substantial achievement.”
8. To Be Successful and Black, One Must Turn His Back on the Poor
“To be a highly successful black professional or politician is too often to be well adjusted to injustice and well adapted to indifference toward poor people, including black poor people. The black prophetic tradition is fundamentally committed to the priority of poor and working people, thus pitting it against the neoliberal regime, capitalist system, and imperial policies of the U.S. government.”
Toward the end of the book, West writes how modern black leadership has abandoned the traditions that have helped position it and President Obama. “What does it profit a people for a symbolic figure to gain presidential power if we turn our backs from the suffering of poor and working people, and thereby lose our souls?” he writes. “The black prophetic tradition has tried to redeem the soul of our fragile democratic experiment. Is it redeemable?”
With all that said, I have to disagree with West in two areas. The first is his concept of “Prophetic” leaders. The time is long past for that. The Black Community is no longer powerless under the boot heel of Jim Crow, and group organizations like Color of Change, which find and their strategy and ideas from essentially crowd funding the ideas of the group are far more effective than the Big Man on the podium Dr West so desperately seeks to be. No Big Man – the entire strategy of suppression through attacking an individual become naught.
Second is his use of the term neo-liberal, and assigning it’s anchor to one political group. We are in the post Raygun era of neo-liberal destruction of the country’s basic beliefs and foundations (including the destruction of the Middle Class) – but that neo-liberalism and destruction isn’t being wrought by one party – both are guilty.
And picking on Michelle…
Will get you Pimp Slapped.
I’m putting this one under Giant Negroes.
Cornel West and Tavis Smiley have a tete a tete over poverty, Occupy Wall Street, and jobs…
OReilly’s 9% “addiction” number is questionable – when he ties it to poverty.
Lot of rich junkies in this country.
I am coming to feel that Martin Bashir is by far, MSNBC’s best interviewer. Bashir is on point, is aware of the facts, and is willing to confront bull.
In this clip, Cornel West discusses Obama’s recent discovery of a spine (the verdict is still out on that one), the vast wealth and income disparity that is a legacy of Raygun, and the need for Civil Disobedience to fight back …
Things are truly getting hot in here! I was also a former fan of Cornel West, until he turned into a sanctimonious boob. Not quite ready to go as far as Harvey – because some of the criticism leveled at President Obama certainly is legitimate in my view. Plus, there are plenty of Jockey Suited Lawn Ornament types much, much, more deserving of the approbation “Tom”.
During his syndicated radio show, comedian Steve Harvey called out Cornel West and Tavis Smiley for their poverty bus tour, while defending President Barack Obama.
After a listener sent an email about the duo’s tour being a hustle, Harvey didn’t shy away for offering his own opinion — accusing West and Smiley for using personal vendettas to damage the Obama’s name.
“I was a huge fan of Cornel West,” he said. “[But] Tavis, I seen him coming a mile away. His anger started when he had a town hall meeting, President Obama couldn’t come because of the campaign trail and he sent Mrs. Obama. He has held that grudge every since.”
The writer and comedian also mocked West for not getting extra tickets to Obama’s inauguration. Harvey said, “Have you ever been invited to the damn inauguration? Did Bush send for you? Did Clinton send for you? Did Reagan send for you?”
Harvey continued his rant by referring to Smiley and West as being affiliated with UTLO.org (which stands out for “Uncle Tom Look Out”).
Harvey mocked the tour by saying, “Make sure you don’t get on the poverty bus… because if you ain’t po’, when you ride the bus, you become po’.”