Last Thursday, Cornel West spoke about social justice and equality in the world to a packed audience of students, faculty and administrators in the Nott. The talk was free and was open to the public as well.
Amongst his various accomplishments, West is a professor of philosophy and christian practice at Union Theological Seminary and Professor Emeritus at Princeton University. He has also taught at Harvard, Yale and the University of Paris.
West graduated magna cum laude from Harvard in three years and obtained his M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy at Princeton.
Other than prominent colleges and news channels like Skidmore and the CNN, he has been interviewed and has given lectures all over the U.S. on social injustice and inequality, and has stressed the necessity of justice for everyone, irrespective of class, race and ethnicity. He also played a role in the famed Matrix trilogy a few years ago.
The Political Science department and a majority of other departments collaborated together to bring the Speaker for a talk on campus.
In the talk, West highlighted the importance of equality and Justice in today’s world. While emphasizing on its need in the U.S. he said, “Within the United States of America there are seeds of goodness, and we as its rightful citizens just need to cultivate them.”
Before the talk, West was invited to attend a meet and greet with ten students in Lamont House. One of the students, Baahh-Nazoshnnii Brown-Almaweri ’17 said, “He (west) did a great job of speaking on intersectionality and the equal value of all lives. Race, class and gender issues can be solved simultaneously because they do effect people at the same time.”
According to Naz, she first met West six years ago when he came to Oakland. “He has been a great influence for me and my family ever since. He is totally a source of wisdom and his vast knowledge just leaves me in awe,” noted Naz.
Due to the lack of Justice these days, west said, “Justice must be rescued by something deeper than justice, something like love or affection.” He also shared with the audience, his personal experiences and journey. He told, “I am who I am because somebody cared for me, somebody targeted me, and somebody inspired me to raise my voice against injustice and inequality.”
He asked the audience four important questions that basically summarized his entire talk. Amongst them he asked how integrity was supposed to face oppression. After mixed responses, he himself highlighted the importance of integrity in a leader’s character and termed it vital for communities as a whole in order to deal with oppression and atrocities. He also noted courage and determination as vital ingredients in moving forward and raising voice against discrimination and injustice. “The aim is to be successful. Integrity is a second thought for people these days. That needs to be changed,” He said.
Talking about politics, he disagreed with most of Obama’s decisions and policies. He talked about how almost 235 children have killed by drones in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Somalia and not a single word of apology has been said by anyone.
He also mentioned how Wall Street discriminated against people of color but still no executives were ever held accountable or any of them were sent to jail. He quoted President Obama as saying, “I stand between you and the pitchforks (common people), but don’t worry I stand beside you.”
Furthermore, he talked about how he supported and endorsed Bernie Sanders and not Donald Trump in the upcoming Presidential Elections. “People like Donald Trump would never benefit oppressed people. Because, when money casts a blanket of ignorance over you, seldom you care about minorities or oppressed people.”
Briefly talking about the U.S. constitution, he argued if it actually gave freedom to every racial group within America, labelling it as a “Death denying document.” Relating to his own experience, he said he suffered from not only social death and injustice, but also spiritual death.
Addressing specifically students, he talked about the importance of education. “An education is important not only because you build connections, but also you become a different human being when you walk out of college.”
Listing honest leaders and empathetic individuals in a society vital to reducing oppression and injustice, West noted, “In this age of criminality and mendacity, orientation of our souls is pivotal in our decisions.”