Cornel West: Obama Shouldn't Have Been Sworn In On MLK's Bible


At least one black activist is disappointed that President Obama was signed in on civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Bible: socialist firebrand and radical Dr. Cornel West.

“You don’t play with Martin Luther King, Jr. and you don’t play with his people,” West commented. “By his people, I mean people of good conscience, fundamentally good people committed to peace and truth and justice, especially the black tradition that produced it.”

Claiming that it was inappropriate to use MLK’s “prophetic fire for a moment of presidential pageantry without understanding the challenge he represents to all of those in power regardless of what color they are,” Dr. West went on to argue that MLK stood against three things: Jim Crow-style racism, carpet bombing in Vietnam, and poverty of all colors – drawing clear parallels to the existence of similar problems in America today.

Given that these problems remain, it is intolerable to Dr. West that Obama was sworn in on MLK’s bible.

Unlike a regular Bible, “when you put it on Martin’s Bible, I said ‘this is personal for me,’ because this is the tradition that I come out of.”

Dr. West has a point. Racism is clearly alive and well in America today; in May, he was arrested protesting the New York City Police Department’s stop-and-frisk program, which disproportionately targets minority residents of the city. In December, he claimed that the president did not care when black or minority citizens were killed: “not a peep not a mumblin’ word when the black people getting’ shot!

The economic destitution King denounced clearly exists today: over 15% of the country is defined as impoverished. In 2010, 27.4% of all black persons lived in poverty.

And carpet bombing in Vietnam? We have regular relations with that country today, but we still bomb mostly non-white people we don’t like. In May, West criticized the drone program, saying that “the Obama administration is involved in some very ugly killing of innocent people.”

“The drones with the bombs killing innocent civilians needs to be taken very very seriously,” West continued. “You can't hide and conceal that. So when I think of foreign policy, I connect the drones on the one hand to the corruption and incompetence and inefficiency of the Karzai regime.”

Dr. West has other problems with the White House. He recently objected to President Obama’s sanctioning of the National Defense Authorization Act, which he argued could be used to lock away MLK without “due process or judicial process,” pointing out thatMLK had well-known connections to a man then commonly called a terrorist and now generally recognized as a heroic freedom fighter, anti-apartheid activist and African National Congress head Nelson Mandela.

See Dr. West's comments on Obama and MLK's bible below: