Dr. Jorge J Rodríguez V Profile picture
Dec 17, 2017 17 tweets 6 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
Some thoughts on the debate between Coates and Cornel West, as someone who had the privilege to study with the latter.
I think a lot of folks misunderstand Dr. West’s position because they don’t put themselves in his way of seeing the world. Because for years Dr. West has been very consistent with his critiques of #Obama, #neoliberalism, and #internationalism
West sees the world through an #internationalist matrix of power. That means that, for him, understanding #WhiteSupremacy, for example, isn’t just about understanding individual #racist encounters in the US but understanding *policies* that disenfranchise non-white folk.
In this way, West’s challenge of #Obama has always been that even though he is a *Black man* in power, the system of #WhiteSupremacy is such that even a black man can perpetuate white supremacist policies domestically and internationally
As a result, West’s critiques of #Obama have always been, at once, a challenge to a brother in the struggle, *and* at once a critique of the system that co-opts the brothers who enter positions of power
*And* the frame from which Dr. West has made this critique has always been internationalist in scope.
For Dr. West, the measure of one’s love for the poor rests in how one treats the poor in #Detroit, in #PuertoRico, in #Palestine. #Neoliberalism gives lip service to Detroit while pushing austerity in Puerto Rico and *first* making invisible and *then* bombing Palestine.
And Dr. West is not alone, he comes from a tradition he cites which includes Kelley, Davis, and others. And other folks on here including @KhaledBeydoun and @YasminYonis and many others have written about Dr. West’s epistemology
Which is why Dr. West’s critique of Coates is consistent with the position he has advanced for some time now.
Now, where I would challenge Dr. West is by saying *that’s not Coates project.* Coates is interested in understanding *the Dream,* that ideology or perhaps imaginary that enlaces people into succumbing to whiteness or following Obama—that even enlaces Obama
And I think Dr. West could do more to situate Coates’ project and intellectual trajectory. There’s a thread between the “Case for Reparations” and “Eight Years”: what spirit drives this contradictory nation that at once elects a black president while ignoring black people?
Now, to Dr. West’s point, there are people *in the black freedom tradition* who have asked this very question and still retained a more explicitly internationalist and systemic critique: the example par excellence being brother James Baldwin.
But I still think Dr. West in some of his challenges could do more to situate Coates within his own self identified project. That does not deny the critique that Coates has been co-opted by #neoliberalism. But it helps illuminate how and why.
Many have dismissed Cornel West because he challenged Obama/Hillary/Coates. But I don’t think those same folks have truly wrestled with the substance of his critique. Because in dismissing him without engaging him you prove his point: neoliberalism views people as disposable.
Post-thought: I want to emphasize that West is not alone in his thinking. West walks in the tradition of Angela Davis, Assata Shakur, bell hooks, Robin Kelley, @esglaude all of whom have critiqued him and challenged him as well! But they haven’t dismissed him, that’s important.
Post-Post Thought: Some folk interpret West challenging Coates as West *dismissing* Coates. But I don’t think that’s what’s happening. West is pushing him and (I think) expects to be pushed. West *trashed* the Democratic Party and still showed up to the policy meeting
Because I think some folk interpret any critique as dismissing someone. But you challenge folks to push one another. Would I, personally, have done it on the Guardian—naw... But my statement stands.

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More from @JJRodV

Sep 20, 2017
One thing I’m worried about—in addition to my family’s safety—re: #Maria in #PuertoRico is how #colonialism capitalizes on #NaturalDisaster
In the early 1900s US #businesses were able to monopolize #PuertoRican farm land after Hurricane San Ciriaco (1899) devastated the #island
#Farmers who were never able to rebuild after the #hurricane were forced to either give up their #land or enter unjust agreements
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