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Cornel West: Obama ‘Has No Backbone to Fight for Justice’

Social justice activist, scholar and philosopher Cornel West. (James Stewart / CC 2.0)

Social justice activist, scholar and philosopher Cornel West. (James Stewart / CC 2.0)

As protests against police brutality and racial injustice continue across the nation, The Guardian on Thursday published a succinct opinion piece by Cornel West, in which he explains how President Obama has failed in the fight for racial justice.

“Obama’s attitude is that of a neo-liberal,” West writes, “and they rarely have solidarity with poor and working people.”

Citing recent incidents of police killings, particularly those of Philando Castile near Minneapolis and Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La., West contends that Obama essentially ignored these racially charged acts of police violence and instead turned his attention to the slaying of five police officers in Dallas. West states:

Obama didn’t go to Baton Rouge. He didn’t go to Minneapolis. He flew over their heads to go to Dallas. You can’t do that. His fundamental concern was to speak to the police, that was his priority. When he references the Black Lives Matter movement, it’s to speak to the police. But the people who are struggling have a different perspective.

The very notion that Dallas is the paragon of policing is something that needs to be interrogated. The Dallas mayor said we have done nothing wrong, but look at your history. Ask people in southern Dallas about the police. Ask Clinton Allen, an unarmed black man fatally shot by the Dallas police in 2013. I was with his mother, Collette Flanagan, the founder of Mothers Against Police Brutality, last year. Countless people came up and told us about all the struggles black communities are having with the Dallas police.

West goes on to explain how Obama could foster change, noting that while he “has power right now to enact the recommendations made after Ferguson,” Obama “has not used executive orders to push any of these changes through.”

Obama, writes West, “thrives on being in the middle. He has no backbone to fight for justice. He likes to be above the fray.” But now is the time “to move from being spectators, to being actors,” West exhorts.

Read his entire piece here.

—Posted by Emma Niles

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