Cornel West: ‘We’re witnessing the collapse of the legitimacy of leadership’
Harvard Divinity School professor Cornel West said Sunday that the demonstrations in response to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis are part of “the collapse of the legitimacy of leadership.”
“What we’re seeing here is the ways in which the vicious legacy of white supremacy manifests in organized hatred, greed and corruption,” West said on “Fox News Sunday.” “We’re witnessing the collapse of the legitimacy of leadership, the political class, the economic class, the professional class, that’s the deeper crisis.”
Floyd, a black man, died after a Minneapolis police officer pinned him on the pavement despite Floyd’s repeated protests that he was unable to breathe. The officer, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He and three other officers at the scene were also fired.
“The beautiful thing is we’re seeing citizens who are caring and concerned hitting the streets,” West added. “The problem is we have a system that’s not responding and seems to be unable to respond.”
Fox News’s Chris Wallace asked West if he believes the U.S. had made any progress on racial issues, noting that the country elected and reelected its first African American president.
“I’m not saying there hasn’t been progress,” West said. But he also invoked the Malcolm X quote: “If you stick a knife in my back nine inches and pull it out six inches, there’s no progress.”
“I don’t measure black progress in terms of black elites … I’m concerned about the least of these,” he added. “That’s the tradition of Martin Luther King.”
Addressing rioting and looting that has occurred in numerous cities in the wake of Floyd’s death, West said that most “of my fellow citizens are there peaceful or are there marching.”
“Looting is wrong, [but] legalized looting is wrong too … I look at the wickedness in high places first and then keep track of the least of these,” he added.
West concluded by saying that “if we’re more concerned about the property and spillover than the poverty, decrepit school systems, dilapidated housing, massive unemployment and underemployment, we’re going to be doing this every five, every 10, every 20 years.”