Thursday, November 6, 2008

Cornel West on Obama and Post-Racial America

Cornel West spoke yesterday to CNN's Ralitsa Vassileva about Barack Obama winning the presidency and the Princeton professor's new book Hope on a Tight Rope. West said Obama's win signifies the end of the age of Reagan, the end of the epic of conservatism, and the end of Republican Party rule. He then asked, "What will the age of Obama look like?"

Vassileva mused that Obama ran/won as a post-racial candidate and suggested, therefore, that he has no race, remarking that Obama did not even mention Martin Luther King's name in his victory speech (My note: Obama didn't mention King by name, but he did allude to King, and he also reminded listeners of African-American slavery through the history of Ann Nixon Coleman.) Here is West's response to the journalist:
The term post-racial needs to be examined in the sense in which it doesn't really exist. It means that white citizens are more likely to vote for a black candidate who has qualifications rather than be preoccupied with his pigmentation. Post-racial means less racist on behalf of white voters, and that is progress, but post-racial ought not to mean black people disappearing as though there's no such thing as black people anymore just human beings in the abstract. No, all humans beings are in body, as it were.

And so as we see the glass ceiling actually pierced at the highest level and the symbolic impact, my God! The impact on children, and I've got a precious daughter, it makes a big difference. That means the sky is the limit for them, and of course, the impact on white children as well that they understand that the sky is the limit for children across the board--that symbol. The challenge now is to move from symbol to substance. What kind of policies? (various questions) ... Symbols matter, but then we move to substance. (Cornel West on CNN)
I've got a poem about this belief that to be non-racist is to not see color, "Behind the Color Blind."

Here's the CNN video with West, who also says that he believes Obama has what it takes to be an agent of change and a good leader but that he is only as strong as the people's organizations are strong.

Apparently Dr. West has softened his stance on Obama a little since he blasted him in 2007 for not showing up at The State of Black America.

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