In an interview with The Guardian that covered everything from Britain's future, to the ways in which he says white supremacy operates in America, Cornel West was characteristically blunt in his criticism of the Obama administration, announcing that he and "Team Obama" no longer speak because "They say I'm un-American."
Despite having campaigned for Obama, West said he'd now rather have a "white president fundamentally dedicated to eradicating poverty and enhancing the plight of working people than a black president tied to Wall Street and drones."
A few excerpts:
On institutional racism in America:
"We elected a black president and that means we are less racist now than we used to be. That's beautiful. But when you look at the prison industrial complex and the new Jim Crow: levels of massive unemployment and the decrepit unemployment system, indecent housing: white supremacy is still operating in the US, even with a brilliant black face in a high place called the White House. He is a brilliant, charismatic black brother. He's just too tied to Wall Street. And at this point he is a war criminal. You can't meet every Tuesday with a killer list and continually have drones drop bombs. You can do that once or twice and say: 'I shouldn't have done that, I've got to stop.' But when you do it month in, month out, year in, year out – that's a pattern of behaviour. I think there is a chance of a snowball in hell that he will ever be tried, but I think he should be tried and I said the same about George Bush. These are war crimes. We suffer in this age from an indifference toward criminality and a callousness to catastrophe when it comes to poor and working people."
On why he won't "cut the president some slack":
"I worked to get him elected … And I would do it again because the alternative was so much worse. But at the same time, I have to be able to tell the truth. I thought he was going to be a dyed-in-the-wool liberal rather than a weak centrist. I thought he would actually move towards healthcare with a public option. I thought he was going to try to bail out homeowners as he bailed out banks. I thought he would try to hit the issue of poverty head-on.
On why he's disappointed with President Obama:
"He talked about Martin Luther King over and over again as he ran. King died fighting not just against poverty but against carpet-bombing in Vietnam; the war crimes under Nixon and Kissinger. You can't just invoke Martin Luther King like that and not follow through on his priorities in some way. I knew he would have rightwing opposition, but he hasn't tried. When he came in, he brought in Wall Street-friendly people – Tim Geithner, Larry Summers – and made it clear he had no intention of bailing out homeowners, supporting trade unions. And he hasn't said a mumbling word about the institutions that have destroyed two generations of young black and brown youth, the new Jim Crow, the prison industrial complex. It's not about race. It is about commitment to justice. He should be able to say that in the last few years, with the shift from 300,000 inmates to 2.5 million today, there have been unjust polices and I intend to do all I can. Maybe he couldn't do that much. But at least tell the truth. I would rather have a white president fundamentally dedicated to eradicating poverty and enhancing the plight of working people than a black president tied to Wall Street and drones."
Read more at The Guardian.