Sunday, May 09, 2021

“Of Course America Is Racist”

Here’s a good follow-up to my recent post on systemic racism in the U.S. . . .

It’s philosopher, intellectual, and activist Dr. Cornel West being interviewed by Charles Blow on how leading Democrats, including President Biden and Vice-president Harris, are falling over themselves to agree with members of the now neo-fascist Republican party in insisting that “America is not a racist country.”

Cornel West, however, is having none of this nonsense. “Of course America is a racist country,” he tells Charles Blow, before clearly explaining why. He also takes to task Democratic strategist James Carville, who recently declared that the Democratic party has a “'wokeness' problem.” West’s response and his clear defining of what “wokeness” actually means, is spot-on.

I get it that for many white people West’s statement is both confrontational and uncomfortable. After all, that’s how truth often first strikes us – as confrontational and uncomfortable. Yet we shouldn’t allow this truth – or the reactions it can generate – to polarize and paralyze us. Instead, I think we should allow it to motivate us. After all, it’s only when we acknowledge our shortcomings and failures as a society that we can begin the corrective work of justice and healing; begin to create a world where all are valued and all can thrive.

The sad thing is that if [Biden had said that America was a racist country] then the same [Democrats now siding with Republicans] would go with Biden because they’re not fundamentally committed to truth; they’re concerned about the camaraderie within the party. . . . We have to say unequivocally that we’re here to tell the truth, [and] the condition of truth is to allow the suffering to speak. Of course America is a racist country. Of course, after 244 years of white supremacist barbaric slavery and another 100 years of neo-slavery and American apartheid, would we be surprised if America were not a racist country? The point is that we’re less racist [now] . . . But we [still] have to tell the truth.

. . . By “wokeness” all we mean is the sensitivity to the suffering of those people who have been terrorized, traumatized, and hated – that’s Indigenous peoples, Black peoples, Brown peoples, poor peoples, and so forth. And so in that sense, wokeness is just a positive step in trying to keep track with people’s suffering. Now I don’t believe in just staying woke, because if we stay woke we’re going to suffer from insomnia. I believe in being fortified so that wokeness is a moment in our attempt to fortify ourselves to be love-warriors, to be wounded-healers, to be freedom-fighters – all three at the same time. Now for me it’s tied to Jesus running the money-changers out of the Temple, and it’s tied to Shiloh Baptist Church. That’s where I’m coming from. . . . My wokeness is tied to being fortified, because I’m in this for the long run.

Cornel West
May 3, 2021

Related Off-site Links:
Was Tim Scott Right When He Said “America Is Not a Racist Country”? An Investigation – Michael Harriot (The Root, April 29, 2021).
Ibram X. Kendi: “Being Antiracist Is a Journey, Not a Destination” – Lauren O'Neil (The Cavalier Daily, April 25, 2021).
President Biden: “I Don’t Think the American People Are Racist” – Brian Naylor (NPR News, April 30, 2021). President Biden Says U.S. Needs to Work to End Systemic Racism – Ken Thomas (The Wall Street Journal, April 20, 2021).
Vice President Kamala Harris Says the United States Is Not a “Racist Country” But That We Must “Speak Truth” About History of Racism – Ben Gittleson (ABC News, April 29, 2021).
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham Denies Systemic Racism Exists in U.S. and Says “America's Not a Racist Country” – Devan Cole (CNN Politics, April 25, 2021).
Philosopher Cornel West Calls Honesty and Integrity “Countercultural” – Cathy Locke (The Sacramento Bee, September 29, 2016).
True West – Hillary Louise Johnson (Sactown Magazine, October-November 2019).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Two Comments on Racism in America . . . and a Perspective on White Solidarity
“Two of the Most Dedicated and Enlightened Heroes of Present Day America”
Cornel West: Quote of the Day – December 3, 2020
The Problem Is Ultimately Bigger Than Individuals. It’s Systemic
Reacting to the Effects, Not the Cause, of What Ails Us
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz: “We Need to Make Systemic Changes”
“And Still and All, It Continues”
“Let This Be a Turning Point”
“An Abolitionist Demand”: Progressive Perspectives on Transforming Policing in the U.S.
Remembering Philando Castile and Demanding Abolition of the System That Targets and Kills People of Color
“This Doesn't Happen to White People”
Quote of the Day – March 31, 2016
Something to Think About – December 29, 2015
Quote of the Day – November 25, 2015
Helpful Rebuttals to Racist Talking Points

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