Black America's preeminent scholar came to Atlanta in celebration of the 81st birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this past week. During his trip, he made a pit stop at the Barnes and Noble store in East Point, Georgia for a profound discussion on “Sweet Tea Ethics” with his brother, Clifton West, and Atlanta writer, Edward Garnes, Jr.
Based on an essay written by Garnes, the founder of www.afrostoshelltoes.com, the discussion which planned to discuss family ties, Black love, and Hip-Hop became more of an impromptu barbershop discussion on all things Black and how our people can learn how to love one another again.
One of the most important topics of discussion was the evaluation of President Barack Obama. Dr. West participated in over 65 events supporting Obama during the election; however, when asked about the President after one year in office, West was clear in his disappointment.
“His economic team is an extension of Wall Street; his foreign policy team is the same old Bush team. The people around him have no history whatsoever of being concerned about poor people.”
West's comments about the 44th President weren't all negative though as he added,
“I love him. I did 67 events for him. It was a beautiful thing.” He goes on to plainly state, “Obama's victory shatters the glass ceiling at the top but folks are still in the basement.”
Going back to the campaign trail and the election of the nation's first Black President, Clifton West, the elder of the two brothers was plain in his point that if the President had been darker, it would have been harder for him to get elected.
“Black organicness is important.” Mr. Clifton West states. “The shared history slavery, of the history of Jim Crow in the United States, a person like that will never be elected President of The United States.”
The statement caused a stir in the crowd and one attendee took it as a comment on color discrimination within the Black community. However, the commentators went on to point out that Obama had stated in an early speech that, “America is a magical place.”
Dr. West laughed at the comment, and reiterated his conversation he previously had with then Sen. Obama.
“Now you know that ain't true,” he repeats, “America ain't no magical place, it has a history of slavery and disenfranchisement. You sound like a 2nd generation immigrant.”
“But, we've been here for a while, Brother,” he stated to the Senator regarding Blacks in America who are the descendants of slaves. “I acknowledge your brilliance, but you are in a quest for power, and I am involved in a quest for truth.”
On the political note, there was little more for Dr. Cornel West to say. He pointed out that the health care policy that the President is working so hard for “favors the strong.”
A self-proclaimed “non-Marxist Socialist” and the Honorary Chair of the Democratic Socialists of America, West has spoken against the war in Iraq and against the “gangsterization” of America, wherein the strong terrorize the weak.
“Slave holders were gangsters, Nazi's were gangsters, Jim Crow-gangsterism. These days the gangsters are on Wall Street. Look at them, they are looting the treasury. Who else could ask for billions of dollars to bail them out after they made billions of dollars speculating in the real estate market in the first place? No accountability. It's greed run amok. That's gangster activity,” Dr. West states earning an affirmative murmur from the standing room only crowd of nearly 200.
“The really scary part is how they have tremendous influence on the government.” Dr. West sums the point up easily,
“The only way to deal with gangster activity is to recognize it and not become a gangster yourself. “Self-confidence, self-respect, be willing to work, be willing to serve, and know that you are not The Messiah,” He affirms, “You cannot save everybody and may not save any body, but you may be able to just work hard and leave the world a better place.”