MLK was a Radical


PC: Underwood Archives/UIG/REX/Shutterstock

By Dr. Cornel West, for the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., originally posted in The Guardian

The major threat of Martin Luther King Jr to us is a spiritual and moral one. King’s courageous and compassionate example shatters the dominant neoliberal soul-craft of smartness, money and bombs. His grand fight against poverty, militarism, materialism and racism undercuts the superficial lip service and pretentious posturing of so-called progressives as well as the candid contempt and proud prejudices of genuine reactionaries. King was neither perfect nor pure in his prophetic witness – but he was the real thing in sharp contrast to the market-driven semblances and simulacra of our day. Continue reading

The Moral and the Ethical

CornelFrom Cornel West, in an interview last month with Salon.

Part of [the global struggle for human rights] is realizing that we are in a moment now where people’s conception of community has been degenerated into a conception of constituency. It’s that people’s conception of a cause has been degenerated into a conception of a brand. People’s conception of the public has been degenerated into PR strategies. This creates a spiritually and morally impoverished culture. And so in order to have some notion of human rights that is actually full of content and substance, one has to have some primacy of the moral and the ethical. The calculations cannot be just the Machiavellian. So much of the culture just comes down to strategies and questions such as, “How am I going to make more money? How am I going to get something out of somebody?” Continue reading

Merely Adequate

MVSFrom the Facebook page of Mark Van Steenwyk (right), executive director of The Center for Prophetic Imagination.

I’m working on giving myself permission to be merely adequate. Otherwise, I hold myself to a ridiculous standard that I don’t hold others to.

Part of being a white man is internalizing a message that dominance and excellence is a birthright. And that to not achieve these things means one is a failure. Continue reading

Liberation Feminism

ImaniFrom an interview that The Nation did with professor Imani Perry, the author of Vexy Thing.

I wanted to produce a work of feminist theory, or as I call it, liberation feminism, that would speak to the particular conditions of neoliberal capitalism and the hypermedia age—this eruption of digital media, where things that look like democratic spaces are at the same time corporate platforms.

I saw so many uses of the term “patriarchy” that didn’t actually apprehend the structure of domination. Patriarchy is a project that coincided with the transatlantic slave trade and the age of conquest. It’s not just attitudes. It’s legal relations between human beings, which lead to very different encounters with violence and suffering. The book begins with where patriarchy comes from, and then morphs into the current landscape, in which conditions are different but where that foundational structure is still present. Feminism is ultimately a way of reading the world with an eye towards reducing or eliminating unjust forms of domination, violence, and exploitation.

White Ain’t God

nick petersonAs approaches Her 5-year birthday this month, we will start posting more frequently from the archives. This classic is from the prophetic imagination of Nick Peterson, currently pursuing his PhD in Liturgics and Ethics at Emory University. 

*Originally re-posted from social media in April 2016.

As a powerful but vain imagination, white supremacy attempts to imprison God to whiteness. In a white supremacist framework – God has a white sentence without parole. While confined, God must look white, talk white, think white, affirm white, bless white, and value, above all things, “his” own image made in whiteness. White supremacy attempts to hold the very God of the universe in chains – theological, liturgical, spiritual, creedal, geographical, social, emotional, and political.  Continue reading

Blackness In and Of Itself Became Criminalized

DominiqueAn excerpt from Duke Divinity School’s interview with Dominique Gillard, the author of Rethinking Incarceration. This is his response to the question, “How did we get here? How did we get in this situation?”

I quote a criminologist in the book, Elliott Currie. She says, “Short of major wars, mass incarceration has been the most thoroughly implemented government social program of our time.”

That’s a powerful statement. But I think we got here a couple of ways.

Theologically, we’ve misunderstood God’s justice as just about divine wrath. And because God is holy, we think God cannot be connected in any way to unrighteousness. Continue reading

Conjoined Twins

ibram-kendi--credit-jeff-watts-american-universityFrom author and professor Ibram X. Kendi’s recent interview on DemocracyNow (August 13, 2019). Kendi’s new book is called How To Be An Antiracist.

I classify racism and capitalism as these conjoined twins — right? — from the same body but different personalities, different faces. And the reason why I do that is because I’m an historian. And so I track, particularly in my last book — the origins of racism cannot be separated from the origins of capitalism. The origins of capitalism cannot be separated from the origins of racism. The life of racism cannot be separated from the life of capitalism, and vice versa. Continue reading