At a “Poverty in America” forum held last week, Princeton professor Cornel West said he was “upset” after learning that President Barack Obama would be sworn in using Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Bible.

“When I got the news that my dear brother Barack Obama—President Obama—was going to put his precious hands on Martin Luther King’s Bible I got upset,” West said.

His comments are below:

You don’t play with Martin Luther King, Jr. and you don’t play with his people. By his people, I mean people of good conscience, fundamentally good people committed to peace and truth and justice, especially the Black tradition that produced it.

All of the blood, sweat and tears that went into producing a Martin Luther King, Jr. generated a brother of such high decency and dignity that you don’t use his prophetic fire for a moment of presidential pageantry without understanding the challenge he represents to all of those in power regardless of what color they are.

The righteous indignation of a Martin Luther King, Jr. becomes a moment of political calculation. And that makes my blood boil. Why? Because Martin Luther King, Jr died…he died…for the three crimes against humanity that he was wrestling with. Jim Crow, traumatizing, terrorizing, stigmatizing Black people. Lynching, not just ‘segregation’ as the press likes to talk about.

Second: Carpet bombing in Vietnam killing innocent people, especially innocent children, those are war crimes that Martin Luther King , Jr. was willing to die for. And thirdly, was poverty of all colors, he said it is a crime against humanity for the richest nation in the world to have so many of it’s precious children of all colors living in poverty and especially on the chocolate side of the nation, and on Indian reservations and Brown barrios and yellow slices and Black ghettos — we call them hoods now, but ghettos then.

So I said to myself ain’t nothing wrong with putting your hand on the bible, even though the bible’s talking about justice, Jesus is talking about the least of these, but when you put it on Martin’s bible, I said ‘this is personal for me,’ because this is the tradition that I come out of.

West made the comments at a talk moderated by Travis Smiley at George Washington University on Jan. 17. Other speakers on the panel included Newt Gingrich and Jeffrey Sachs.

Read this online at http://colorlines.com/archives/2013/01/cornell_west_explains_why_it_bothers_him_that_obama_took_oath_with_mlks_bible.html


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