Abby Martin Speaks To Cornel West About Black Radical Tradition

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Above Photo: From TheBlackRadicalTradition.org.

Abby Martin explores the legacy of the Black radical tradition today in the latest episode of teleSUR’s The Empire Files.
Prominent radical social critic Cornel West said that Black History Month honors an anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist, internationalist tradition that fights for a truth that “is always to allow the suffering to speak no matter who is suffering.”

West joined other radical Black leaders like Angela Davis and Mumia Abu-jamal at the “Black Radical Tradition In Our Time” conference in Philadelphia last month to discuss “challenging white supremacy and capitalism in anticipating the next stage of the Black liberation movement.” In a series of interviews on the conference, Abby Martin asked in teleSUR’s Empire Files about the application of the radical Black tradition today.

IN DEPTH: Black History Month: Looking to the Past for a Future Free of Oppression

“It’s easy to sort of convince Black people to focus solely on the domestic situation and not to view themselves as citizens of the world,” West said on the show, connecting civilian deaths in the Middle East from U.S. drones to the deaths of Black youth in South Side Chicago.

He pointed out that “seductive” American exceptionalism covers up hypocritical domestic and foreign policy and touched on the role and obligation of white allies.

The show also features several speeches at the conference, including renowned political prisoner Mumia Abu-jamal, a former Black Panther. He connected the slave patrols protecting white property to armed policemen today and declared over phone that, “It’s movement time again.” Margaret Stevens, a veteran and history professor, challenged the white male retelling of Black history, telling Martin that “all people are emptied of any substantive analysis of history under capitalism.” She said that attempts to retell history by both revisionists and radicals tend to pit “Malcolm versus Martin,” but that both intertwine and must be understood within their limitations at the time they lived.

  • DHFabian

    At the proverbial end of the day, it’s about survival — whether people have the means to obtain the most basic human needs of food and shelter. The US has a poverty crisis as a result of policies chosen since the 1980s. We have a deregulated capitalist system that works quite poorly. It exists to increase the wealth and power of the chosen few. Workers have been made entirely dispensable, easily replaced, merely dumped when not of current use.

    Of course people focus on domestic issues. We can’t do much when it comes to international policies and conditions. We could do a great deal to reduce suffering here in the US, but we chose to increase suffering. Our treatment of the poor defines what we are as country, a people, and has a great deal to do with our chances of surviving as a nation.

    No legitimate discussions about “equality” and “justice” can exclude our treatment of the poor. But if mentioned at all, the discussion is limited to the black community. Black people are disproportionately poor, the black population in the US is a little over 13%, and the great majority of poor are white. They have simply been disappeared from the discussion.

    The pointed exclusion of poor white people for years has only more deeply divided and subdivided us when unity is needed to push back against “the corporate state.” It has virtually been open season on the homeless poor for years, as they’ve been beaten, even killed, by police and citizens alike. When this happens, there are no marches for justice, no shouts of liberal outrage.

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