Legendary Professor Dr. Cornel West doesn’t make idle threats. The renowned scholar left Harvard University after being denied consideration for tenure, which he had during his previous term at the school. He is not mincing words in his descriptions of it and other predominately white institutions.
In an interview with George Yancy for Truthout, West talked about his then-pending departure and how Harvard’s “disrespect” was a part of a larger system of white supremacy across the world that mistreats Black and brown people.
“When Harvard treats me in this way, that’s a sign of its spiritual and intellectual bankruptcy. Now, it could bounce back, but you have to call it for what it is. You have to acknowledge that there’s new styles of Jim Crow in the life of the mind and the country. It’s just a fact,” West told Truthout.
He used the example of “The New York Review of Books” to further demonstrate his statements.
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“You look at The New York Review of Books. Thank God there are brilliant essays by brother Brandon Terry, but other than Darryl Pinkney and Anthony Appiah, it has basically been a case of Jim Crow,” West continued. “How many of your books, how many of John Hope Franklin’s books, how many of Houston Baker’s books, how many of Hortense Spillers’ books have been reviewed? Intellectual work that’s taken place in the last 40 years has been rendered invisible because of the Jim Crow quality of the ways in which they review books. And that’s just one example.”
West said without the African and African American Studies department at Harvard, it’s very white.
“And, in fact, if you subtract the number of Black people in the Department of African and African American Studies at Harvard and only include Black folk in other departments, Harvard looks like the National Hockey League. There’s hardly any Black folks at all,” West said, “That’s how Wall Street looks. That’s how elite formation looks. That’s how Silicon Valley looks, especially at the top. … You see, that’s still Jim Crow, new style.”
He said he would always fight for justice and equality and encouraged Black people not to “adjust to injustice then parade around as success.”
“We always have to work with what we have, and we have to use what we have in order not to sell our souls for a mess of pottage,” West said.