What’s more important: two academics debating each other’s relevancy or the plight of the black and poor in America?
Cornel West seems to think it’s the latter, or at least that’s how he has posited himself in the brewing war of words between himself and former friend Michael Eric Dyson.
While Dyson took to the New Republic to publish his critique of his mentor, “The Ghost of Cornel West,” Sunday night, West chose the less flashy route: a Facebook post.
“Character assassination is the refuge of those who hide and conceal these issues in order to rationalize their own allegiance to the status quo,” West posted Thursday, indirectly addressing Dyson’s claims—namely that West claims to be a “prophet”—without naming his longtime compatriot. “I am neither a saint nor prophet, but I am a Jesus-loving free Black man in a Great Tradition who intends to be faithful unto death in telling the truth and bearing witness to justice.”
Dyson, who has known West for at least 35 years and considers the academic his mentor, very publicly outlined why the two had fallen out in the New Republic story and in an interview with The Root, claiming that West’s highly personal attacks on President Barack Obama, as well as attacks on other activists and academics who have defended the president, including Dyson, had led to West’s loss of credibility in the eyes of many.
After Dyson’s story dropped, many wondered what West’s response would be to the Georgetown professor’s lengthy, often pointed, yet personal critique of the Princeton scholar. Dyson himself speculated that West would be unlikely to match his response because of West’s less-frequent written output (“He doesn’t write”).
But Facebook definitely involved some writing, albeit not 10,000 words. Here’s what West posted in full:
The escalating deaths and sufferings in Black and poor America and the marvelous new militancy in our Ferguson moment should compel us to focus on what really matters: The life and death issues of police murders, poverty, mass incarceration, drones, TPP (unjust trade policies), vast surveillance, decrepit schools, unemployment, Wall Street power, Israeli occupation of Palestinians, Dalit resistance in India, and ecological catastrophe.
Character assassination is the refuge of those who hide and conceal these issues in order to rationalize their own allegiance to the status quo. I am neither a saint nor prophet, but I am a Jesus-loving free Black man in a Great Tradition who intends to be faithful unto death in telling the truth and bearing witness to justice. I am not beholden to any administration, political party, TV channel or financial sponsor because loving suffering and struggling peoples is my point of reference. Deep integrity must trump cheap popularity. Nothing will stop or distract my work and witness, even as I learn from others and try not to hurt others.
But to pursue truth and justice is to live dangerously. In the spirit of John Coltrane’s LOVE SUPREME, let us focus on what really matters: the issues, policies, and realities that affect precious everyday people catching hell and how we can resist the lies and crimes of the status quo!