Cornel West spoke on Democracy Now recently about issues that should be remembered at the upcoming 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington that coincides with the Million Hoodies March for Justice on August 24th, 2013.
Brother Martin 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 in their compensation. He would talk about the legacies of white supremacy.
Liberal reform is too narrow, is too truncated. And, of course, the two-party system is dying, and therefore it doesn’t have the capacity to speak to these kinds of issues.
There’s no doubt that the vicious legacy of white supremacy affects the black upper classes, it affects the black middle classes. But those kinds of stories hide and conceal just how ugly and intensely vicious it is for black poor, brown poor. If that’s the case, why hasn’t the new Jim Crow been a priority in the Obama administration? Why has not the new Jim Crow been a priority for Eric Holder? If what they’re saying is something they feel deeply, if what they’re saying is that they’re—themselves and their children have the same status as Brother Jamal and Sister Latisha and Brother Ray Ray and Sister Jarell, then why has that not been a center part of what they do to ensure there’s fairness and justice?
Well, the reason is political. Well, we don’t want to identify with black folk, because a black president can’t get too close to black folk, because Fox News, with their reactionary self in so many instances, will attack them, and that becomes the point of reference? No. If they’re going to be part of the legacy of Martin King, Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker and the others, then the truth and justice stuff that you pursue, you don’t care who is coming at you. But, no, this black liberal class has proven itself to be too morally bankrupt, too hypocritical, and indifferent to criminality—Wall Street criminality, no serious talk about enforcement of torturers and wiretappers under the Bush administration. Why? Because they don’t want the subsequent administration to take them to jail. Any reference to the hunger strike of our brothers out in California and other places, dealing with torture? Sustained solitary confinement is a form of torture. And we won’t even talk about Guantánamo. Force-feeding, torture in its core—didn’t our dear brother Yasiin Bey point that out, the former Mos Def? God bless that brother.
We must never tame Martin Luther King Jr. or Fannie Lou Hamer or Ella Baker or Stokely Carmichael. They were unbossed. They were unbought. That Martin was talking about a beloved community, which meant that it subverts any plantation—Bush’s plantation, Clinton’s plantation, Obama’s plantation—and the social forces behind those plantations, which have to do with Wall Street, have to do with multinational corporations. And we’re going to focus on poor people. We’re going to focus on working people across the board. We’re going to talk about the connection between drones, which is a form of—a form of crimes against humanity outside the national borders. We’re going to talk about Wall Street criminality. We’re going to talk about how we ensure that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters have their dignity affirmed. We’re going to talk about the children.
Martin Luther King Jr. was a free black man. He was a Jesus-loving free black man. Will the connection between drones, new Jim Crow, prison-industrial complex, attacks on the working class, escalating profits at the top, be talked about and brought together during that march? I don’t hold my breath.
But Brother Martin’s spirit would want somebody to push it.
And that’s part of his connection to Malcolm X. That’s part of his connection to so many of the great freedom fighters that go all the way back to the first slave who stepped on these decrepit shores.