Dr. Cornel West spoke virtually Oct. 15 with Dr. Christopher Hunt, Rev. Dr. Stephany Rose Spaulding and Dr. Jeffrey Scholes about the social and political issues facing the United States of America this election year.
West is a professor of the Practice of Public Philosophy at Harvard University and Professor Emeritus at Princeton University. He frequently appears on CNN, Democracy Now and talk shows, and says he follows in the footsteps of Martin Luther King Jr. The Oct. 15 conversation was hosted by Colorado College and the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.
Below are a few highlights from the conversation.
West said he doesn’t support Biden but will be voting for him because “Biden can stop the march toward neo-fascism.”
West said it is important not to “fetishize” Trump. “He happens to be a sign and symbol of a profound spiritual decay and moral decrepitude,” West said. He said Trump is driven by a lust and greed for attention.
“On the vanilla side of town, people are looking for some pied piper to come to terms with their pain and they chose to scapegoat the most vulnerable,” rather than confront the most powerful, he said.
Back when Trump was hanging out with Mike Tyson, West said that he was “a wannabe gangsta.” West went on to describe the president as “a neo-fascist gangsta wannabe.”
“That’s what fascists do, they beat the populace down, they undermine rule of law, but they’re tied to big money and big military. And in America any fascism will have white supremacy as its public face, and will have strong toxic masculinity, patriarchal public face.” West emphasized this applies not just to Trump, but the people behind him.
On Evangelical Christianity:
West argued that the main cause for the evangelical community’s support of Trump is their stance on abortion and same-sex marriage. “You want to abolish abortion, but you don’t want to abolish poverty with the same energy,” he said. But for Christians or nonreligious people engaging in intellectual conversations about social justice, talk isn’t enough to West. “Don’t tell me about social justice if you’re not showing care and concern for folk.” He continued, “care and concern is much deeper than abstract talk about social justice.”
West said he gets it, and that it’s understandable that it is growing. “What I am against is an unearned pessimism that projects into the eternal future,” he said. West cited Marcus Garvey who spoke with pessimism about Black Americans’ future in the U.S. but saw a future moving back to Africa. “I tell young folk all the time keep fighting, keep seeing, keep feeling more, and keep acting courageously. And if in fact you reach Garvey’s conclusion as long as you keep acting on the international stage, that’s fine,” he said.
On Amy Coney Barrett:
West said the Supreme Court nominee can’t see broad or deep enough with her views. “We have to be very explicit about the integrity and solidarity we are actually talking about because all identities can be weaponized and deployed in very dominating ways,” West said, noting that this is not limited to white women. “And that’s why we need to be accountable to each other.”
On wishing ill on Trump:
“Praying for Trump to drop dead is enforcing more of the hatred and revenge,” he said. “Anytime you’re in a battle, the process of how you fight is inseparable from how you end up.”
On a post-racial America:
West wants to see a humanistic America, not a post-racial America. “A lot of people who want to operate a post-racial America. They really want to avoid just how difficult the struggle is to work through white supremacy.”
On truth and justice:
“If truth and justice and knowledge strikes one as being anti-American then maybe your conception of America is too narrow,” he said. “None of us have a monopoly on truth though, so we must learn from each other.”