In a short and sobering essay entitled “Winter in Afro-America,” West describes the economic and spiritual crisis afflicting contemporary black Americans. The crisis “is an effect of the international crisis of capitalism.” (35)
Earlier today I was e-mailing an old friend I met online years ago while discussing “emerging Christianity.” I mentioned that the emerging church conversation had led me to overt liberalism, but that liberalism itself felt like a failed experiment (to echo critiques of 20th Century Marxism). For me, that’s not because the ethos of contemporary liberalism doesn’t resonate with my heart and my values. It does. But the liberal/progressive movement feels as though it’s run out of steam, even in the age of a black president.
In 2013, West said in an interview that black civil rights leaders like Al Sharpton, “have sold their souls for a mess of Obama pottage. And we invite them back to the black prophetic tradition after Obama leaves. But at the moment, they want insider access, and they want to tell those kind of lies. They want to turn their back to poor and working people.” (http://newsone.com/2705580/cornel-west-al-sharpton) Such “insider access,” the forbidden fruit of power, always undermines the liberation of all marginalized people. But how can we blame the marginalized for being tempted when finally coming within reach of the thing that has eluded and exploited them for centuries?
I don’t have the vantage or context to affirm or criticize West’s biting rebuke against President Obama and his allies. But the underlying critique of corporatism and unchecked capitalism parallels my own frustration with today’s political landscape.
Liberals and conservatives keep hurling ideological grenades at each other, stabilizing the geography of American culture while rabid capitalism goes unchecked. Those in power remain in power, regardless of the (R) or (D) following their names. Both political/social poles are dominated by the same plutocracy, but neither camp sustains a meaningful prophetic word. It’s easier to attack gays or fundamentalists, rednecks or godless bleeding hearts. And this is the outrage at the heart of the “Occupy” movement, albeit so poorly articulated, so easily mocked, and so efficiently neutered.
Where is the outrage, now? The media is on to discussing celebrity weddings and twerkings.
Until poor whites are able to recognize that the fate of poor blacks (and other minorities) is interwoven with their own – that civil rights for the marginalized undergird the rights of all people – those with political and economic power will easily continue to dominate and exploit lower economic classes.