Cornel West Calls President Obama’s Policies “Racist,” Endorses Leftist 3d-Party Challenge — by NormanB (“Deviations from the Norm”)
Friday Civil Rights activist Cornel West told Democracy Now!‘s Juan Gonzalez that, like President Bush before him, President Obama’s policies discriminate against African-Americans. West said the President’s neglect of the poor and of poverty programs has enormous racist effect, in that they disproportionately hurt Blacks, who are more likely to be more impoverished than Whites.
Gonzalez had asked Prof. West to comment on Kanye West’s assertion that “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people;” but the professor diverted into criticism of the current Administration. He said he thinks neither Bush nor Obama acts out of “racist motivation and intention,” but that both Administrations inflict(ed) “racist effect and consequence” on people of color, and that their policies have “generated levels of misery among Black people, Brown people, Red people, but especially among the working class poor.”
Cornel West echoed Kanye West in rebuking Obama: “… He doesn’t care about the Black poor: The evidence is overwhelming! … His policies [a]re racist in effect and consequence and especially classist in terms of generating misery among poor people, disproportionately Black and Brown. … The Obama Administration seems to have very little concern about poor people and their social misery: Look at the policies vis-a-vis Wall Street – downplaying Main Street; look at the policies of Black Farmers – a settlement already in place but they don’t want to execute it because they don’t want to be associated with Black folk too explicitly; look at the policies of dilapidated housing; we can go right across the board – look at the policies of the new Jim Crow – the Prison-Industrial Complex.”
Within hours, as if on cue, the Senate (which turns all-White again in 42 days) approved a settlement swindling Black farmers – though as Dr. West pointed out, the farmers have been broke for a long time and though the funds offered are woefully insufficient, they need the tiny pittance of money offered now. The farmers were cheated by the US Agriculture Department between 1993 and 2004. They will be paid less than 6% of their claim. The bill also appropriates $11,000 settlements for 300,000 Native Americans as “payment” from Oil companies and others for exploiting fossil fuels and other minerals rightfully belonging to First Nations. Another provision settles water rights for three Indian tribes. In one of those that I checked out, each human being is alotted 1,000 gallons of water per year. By contrast, regular White people use 300,000 gallons apiece annually.
The bill was pushed by Arizona Republican Senator John Kyl of Arizona, the last state without a Martin Luther King Day, the state that passed its hate law against Mexicans with popular support. It is John Kyl’s Filibuster that is blocking the START treaty with Russia that would reduce our respective nuclear arsenals and reestablish inspections. The Senate’s Filibuster rule expires in 42 days. One has to wonder: Will Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate President Biden, the Democratic-controlled Senate, and President Obama push and pass the treaty on that day (Jan. 3, 2011)? Or will they take part in the Bribery and corruption dance mentioned above, and instead reinstate the Filibuster Scam?
The President claims he wants it passed, and the Democrats (on paper) take control of the Senate when the Filibuster rule ends on January 3. If Reid and Biden [and Obama] actually don’t want the treaty to pass, they need only continue allowing Filibusters. That move would maintain Republican control of the Senate, though they’ll remain in the minority, 47 to 51. Of the other two Senators, Socialist Bernie Sanders can be counted on to vote with Democrats on most issues, but Democrat-turned-Independent Joe Lieberman can’t. Neither can Right-wing Democrats like Max Baucus. Ceding those two to the Republicans still leaves the Democrats 51 votes, and they only need 50, with the tie-breaking vote, Vice President Biden, presumed to favor Democrats, since he is one.
Prof. West said the system the President endorses “is tilted against poor people, against working people, disproportionately Black and Brown and Red … There’s simply no mention of poor people’s plight. Look for example of juvenile justice … the Juvenile Justice-Juvenile Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974 needs to be re-authorized. It’s been two years now, no re-authorization from either the Obama Administration or the public bureaucracy. Even our dear brother Eric Holder doesn’t seem to want to move on it.
“Meaning what? Low priority for those young people, disproportionately poor Black and Brown and Red who are getting locked into a system that leads them toward the Prison-Industrial Complex. Why is that so? Why is it such a low priority?! It’s very clear [from] the people that are around Pres. Obama, the economic team: Pro-Wall Street, pro-olicarchy, pro-plutocracy in terms of preoccupation with investment bankers, very little concern about jobs for everyday people, very little concern about homes for everyday people, about transforming the conditions that deal with some of this crime out here, with all of this terrorism taking place between poor people and other poor people: Young folk being killed every day in Chicago, Los Angeles and so forth: It is a national emergency! It’s a matter of national security as much as Afghanistan, but very little talk about it.
“So we’re talking not just about individuals, we’re talking about a particular arrangement of privilege, of plutocracy and oligarchy that downplay poor people and working people, and those of us who love poor people and working people will not put up with it!” Proudly defiant Baptist theologian and Socialist philosopher Prof. West told Amy Goodman “Charles Rangel is my brother. I pray for his wellbeing. At the same time, we know that Congress has become very much a kind of sight of legalized Bribery and normalized corruption.
“So any time you enter Congress there are the seductions of that corruption and that Bribery, and many do fall prey to it … and it seems in this particular case that we have another example, unfortunately – because I do have a deep love for my brother Charles Rangel – he’s been there for (what?) forty years now (in some ways one could argue that he stayed even too long) – but the level of Bribery and corruption in Congress cuts across the board. It’s just not Charles Rangel. It’s just not primarily Black congressmen and -women. It’s White and Red and others, and unfortunately it’s a sign of the degree to which our political system is so broken, the degree to which the banks and corporations have got such a stranglehold on Congress. It’s no accident that so many fellow citizens have very little confidence in the ability of Congress to do the people’s work. It’s a sad moment …”
“… Citizens are so disgusted with the system in which we find ourselves … In the last election, 53% of the voters had no confidence in the Democratic Party and 52% of the voters had no confidence in the Republican Party. … We’re seeing the slow demise of a two-party system. The Tea Party movement on the Right is going to end up just as disappointed with the Republican establishment as progressives like myself are disappointed with the Obama Administration. You’re beginning to see possibilities of new kinds of motion, momentum, maybe even movements against the Two-Party system, because the two Parties themselves are so corrupt: Mean-spirited cold-hearted Republicans and spineless milquetoast Democrats. What about poor people?! What about working people?! They deserve better. We deserve better.”
Dr. West is Professor of African-American studies and Religion at Princeton University.