In an interview with Democracy Now's Amy Goodman, Dr. Cornel West discusses his long-awaited memoir "Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud." It's a great, wide-ranging conversation, definitely worth a full listen -- the two talk about West's childhood, the role of music in his life, the health care debate, and West's epic dispute with White House economic adviser -- then Harvard President -- Larry Summers.
"Larry Summers, I think, he had a long history of arrogance and relative ignorance about poor people's culture and working people's culture and so forth," West told Goodman. Their dispute began shortly after Summers was appointed President of Harvard, and ultimately led West to leave Harvard and join the faculty of Princeton. According to West, Summers accused him of canceling classes and called his interest in hip-hop an "embarrassment," among other slights.
West added that he was surprised when Obama selected Summers for his council of economic advisers:
I said, here's somebody who has no history whatsoever of sensitivity to poor people or working people, who had been supporting deregulation for a long time as a Clintonite, in the Clinton administration. What is going on here? Or has Obama already become so comfortable with the establishment that you had to have an economist who was legitimate to the establishment in order for him to get his regime off the ground? OK. I mean, if that's the kind of argument you have, then put it forward. But don't tell me you're a progressive, then, and generate that kind of support or major advisers speaking to you--speaking to you every day. Now, if he had Paul Krugman or Joseph Stiglitz or Sylvia Ann Hewitt, I'd say, "Hey, you got something going here. I think we've got a chance for some progressive policy that actually focuses on poor and working people."
But I do forgive Larry Summers for this reason: that I think we all ought to have joy in life, and you can only have joy when you overcome arrogance and open to your own ignorance, because you end up being smart and brainy, but suffering from spiritual malnutrition, emptiness of soul, you see.
Video below, the segment on Larry Summers starts around minute 43.