For a response to President Obama's comments on the acquittal of George Zimmerman and racism in the United States, Democracy Now! speaks with Dr. Cornel West, professor at Union Theological Seminary and author of numerous books.
On Obama's remarks comparing himself to Trayvon Martin, West says: "Will that identification hide and conceal the fact there's a criminal justice system in place that has nearly destroyed two generations of precious, poor black and brown brothers? [Obama] hasn't said a word until now -- five years in office and can't say a word about a 'new Jim Crow.' ... Obama and [Attorney General Eric] Holder -- will they come through at the federal level for Trayvon Martin? We hope so -- [but] don't hold your breath. There's going to be many people who say, 'We see this President is not serious about the criminalizing of poor people.'"
West continues: "I think we have to acknowledge that President Obama has very little moral authority at this point, because we know anybody who tries to rationalize the killing of innocent peoples, a criminal -- George Zimmerman is a criminal -- but President Obama is a global George Zimmerman," pointing to Obama's attempt to rationalize the killing of innocent children in U.S. drone strikes.
Responding to the speech made by Attorney General Eric Holder at the NAACP national conference, West says. "There is no doubt the vicious legacy of white supremacy affects the black upper classes, it affects black middle classes, but those kinds of stories hide and conceal just how ugly and intensely vicious it is for black poor, brown poor. ... This black liberal class has proven itself to be too morally bankrupt, too hypocritical, and indifferent to criminality."
"I certainly agree with him that we ought to fight Stand Your Ground laws, but we've got to keep in mind Stand Your Ground laws are part of the legacy of the slave patrol, which is to say it's primarily white brothers and sisters armed to keep black people under control," West explains.
"I remember when the Black Panther Party walked into the [California] Capitol with their guns. Now, you noticed at that moment, all of a sudden people were very much for gun control, even the right wing. Why? Because the Panthers were saying, "Well, let's just arm all the black folk to make sure they stand their ground." Oh, Lord. That's such a challenge. Now, see, you know, as a Christian and trying to be part of the legacy of Martin, you see, I don't want people armed across the board. I do believe in self-defense, just like I believe in self-respect and self-determination, but I don't want people armed. So it's very clear there's a class and a racial bias in these laws, and therefore we ought to fight these laws. There's no doubt about it. But we have to be very honest and candid about the hypocrisy operating when we talk about these things."
Civil rights groups are gearing up for next month's commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech to one of the largest political gatherings in U.S. history. Dr. West shares what he would say to the anniversary gathering if he had been invited to speak. "I would say we must never tame Martin Luther King Jr. or Fannie Lou Hamer or Ella Baker or Stokely Carmichael," Dr. West. "We are going to focus on poor people, working people across the board."
Dr. West continues: "[Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.] would not be invited to the very march in his name, because he would talk about drones, he'd talk about Wall Street criminality, he would talk about working class being pushed to the margins as profits went up for corporate executives and their compensation, he would talk about the legacies of white supremacy. Do you think anyone at that march would talk about drones, and the drone president? Or do you think anyone at that march would talk about the connection to Wall Street?"
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