C-SPAN aired a panel discussion hosted by Tavis Smiley this week which included Cornel West, Arianna Huffington, David Frum, Dana Milbank, David Brody, John Chen, Maria Teresa Kumar and Maria Bartiromo. I didn't get to watch all of it but enjoyed the part I did catch because of moments like this one from Cornel West.
WEST: Black people's struggle has been the leaven in the democratic loaf. We look at the catastrophe and like the Blues, we responded with a smile, not revenge but justice, not hatred, but compassion. That's what Martin King's about. That's what Curtis Mayfield is about. You know what I mean? That's what John Coltrane is about. That's our tradition at our best.
But what happened during the Reagan years was the black freedom movement was confined to just another special interest group. Neo-liberal and neo-conservatives, intellectuals tried to reduce our movement to be just our self interests as if the black struggle was just for Negroes. That has never been the case. Never.
We start with Negroes, we start with black people and it relates to every citizen, poor working class, gay, lesbian and so forth, at our best. That's the legacy of Martin King. But what we get now, especially in the media is any time you talk about “the black experience” they view it as just a special interest group. You see what I mean?
It's like the corporate agenda. Is that just for corporations? Well see, in a democracy, once those labels begin to ossify; now here I agree with brother David on the end, that once they ossify then we can never communicate. That's where we've been for the last twenty five years. We can't even communicate.
So then brother Rush Limbaugh will say well, civility just wants to police me, so I can't express myself. No brother Rush, you can say what you want. We just want you to be truthful, don't be cruel and vicious and try not to lie. That's all. That's all.
But things are so polarized, they're so polarized that it's difficult for us to proceed and in a democracy you don't have high quality communications when it relates to public interests, you gonna' end up with private interests reigning and private interests have to do with might and power. Whoever has the power will define what's right. And no society can survive based on that kind of empty, empty orientation.
Here's the entire segment if anyone wants to watch more of the panel. Warning, it's three hours long if you want to watch all of it.