Friday, August 26, 2011

Join the actual revolution in progress Brother West!

I see that Brother West is at it again with a column today in the New York Times titled Dr. King Weeps From His Grave.

My first thought is a reaction to the title. I find it appallingly disrespectful for those of us who are living to project how the deceased would react to events today. Dr. King lived in a particular time and space. He spoke to that moment. To assume that we know what and for whom he would weep today is the height of arrogance and demeaning to the legacy of the flesh and blood man.

Of course West cannot discuss Dr. King's legacy without talking about President Obama. And I will give him this, perhaps he learned a lesson from the last time he spoke up because he steers clear of talking about his own personal piques as well as an analysis of whether or not the President displays sufficient "blackness." I guess that's progress.

But he does spend some time on things like this:

The age of Obama has fallen tragically short of fulfilling King’s prophetic legacy. Instead of articulating a radical democratic vision and fighting for homeowners, workers and poor people in the form of mortgage relief, jobs and investment in education, infrastructure and housing, the administration gave us bailouts for banks, record profits for Wall Street and giant budget cuts on the backs of the vulnerable.

As the talk show host Tavis Smiley and I have said in our national tour against poverty, the recent budget deal is only the latest phase of a 30-year, top-down, one-sided war against the poor and working people in the name of a morally bankrupt policy of deregulating markets, lowering taxes and cutting spending for those already socially neglected and economically abandoned. Our two main political parties, each beholden to big money, offer merely alternative versions of oligarchic rule.

Of course I could list all the things this administration has done and is trying to do for homeowners, workers and poor people as well as investments in education, infrastructure and housing. But West wants to sweep all of that under the rug with this claim about there being no difference between the two parties. Really? He wants to go there right now? Seriously, I can't imagine a more ridiculous thing to say at this moment in time when the choice is so clear.

Brother West then outlines what he wants, couched in language that suggests its Dr. King's vision:

King’s response to our crisis can be put in one word: revolution. A revolution in our priorities, a re-evaluation of our values, a reinvigoration of our public life and a fundamental transformation of our way of thinking and living that promotes a transfer of power from oligarchs and plutocrats to everyday people and ordinary citizens.

In concrete terms, this means support for progressive politicians like Senator Bernard Sanders of Vermont and Mark Ridley-Thomas, a Los Angeles County supervisor; extensive community and media organizing; civil disobedience; and life and death confrontations with the powers that be. Like King, we need to put on our cemetery clothes and be coffin-ready for the next great democratic battle.

I can go along with that. But I have to wonder what West is going to do about that other than put pen to paper about it while shaking his fist at President Obama. Where is his "skin in the game" when it comes to this revolution?

Reading this made me think of all of the people I know who are living out that revolution every damn day. I have the honor of working with some of them. An example is someone I'll call Luke. He grew up on the streets of Detroit. Luke had a whole bunch of siblings. A few of them didn't survive and some of them are in prison. He made it out, got through not only college - but completed 2 Master's Degrees and spends his days going the extra mile for young people who are facing some of the same challenges. Now THAT's what I call leading a revolution!

President Obama has put himself in the line of fire from folks like West. He's out there attempting to actually get something done in a culture that's fighting him every step of the way.

When I see Brother West actually join the battle in the way that Luke and/or the President have done, I'll have a bit more respect for the revolution he's calling for.


  1. ebogan63 here.

    He does not know a got damn thing about what Dr. King would react to PBO, I am so tired of this hustler misappropriating King for his personal vendetta against the President.

    Comming from an ivory tower academic, his calls about revolution ring pretty hollow, until he starts giving up some of those $$ he charges for his speaking engagements to help the people he claims to care about, he can go to hell

  2. LAC here:

    I feel like telling that crack head looking muthaf*** to sit down, eat your pudding, and shut up! I notice he had to squeeze in a mention about that hustle - oops, I mean - poverty bus tour he and ole Tavis Slimey are on. Those two do not speak for me and I am damn sure they do not speak for Martin Luther King.

  3. Great White Father Bernie Sanders will save us! Oh, and I'll also mention some guy in LA no one's heard of, because he's black. ::headdesk::

  4. Allan


    This morning I googled to see if I could find a quote where MLK ever talked about President's Kennedy or Johnson publicly. Sure, he talked to private. But I can't recall much of anything he ever said about them in public.

    MLK knew that he had to talk to THE PEOPLE first and foremost. That's how movements for change happen.

    West has always identified himself as a socialist - not a democrat. He's in a party of one when it comes to nationally elected politicians. But even Bernie knows that he has to cooperate with democrats to get anything done. Otherwise he's nothing more than West...a voice crying in the wilderness.

  5. The age of Obama has fallen tragically short of fulfilling King’s prophetic legacy.
    "the arc of the moral universe is long but, it bends toward justice"

    Mr. West sees the Prez as an endgame rather than a significant marker on the journey. He and Mr. Smiley seem so locked into their bitterness that they can't take a step back and get some perspective. The timing of this op-ed is pretty offensive too. If the hurricane hadn't intervened, it would have been a big MLK weekend.

  6. I was doing research online on the Relief Jobs topic when I came across your blog. Very Insightful post!


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