Cornel West has responded to the wave of criticism that followed the publication of his former friend Michael Eric Dyson's recent profile of him in the New Republic. In the story, which dropped earlier this week, sending shockwaves through media and academic circles, Dyson describes what he views as West's "dramatic plummet from his perch as a world-class intellectual," criticizing in particular his "preoccupations with [Barack] Obama’s perceived failures," and also his "paucity of serious and fresh intellectual work."
West's response, written in a short post on Facebook, perhaps tellingly declines to mention Dyson by name:
The escalating deaths and sufferings in Black and poor America and the marvelous new militancy in our Ferguson moment should compel us to focus on what really matters: The life and death issues of police murders, poverty, mass incarceration, drones, TPP (unjust trade policies), vast surveillance, decrepit schools, unemployment, Wall Street power, Israeli occupation of Palestinians, Dalit resistance in India, and ecological catastrophe.
Character assassination is the refuge of those who hide and conceal these issues in order to rationalize their own allegiance to the status quo. I am neither a saint nor prophet, but I am a Jesus-loving free Black man in a Great Tradition who intends to be faithful unto death in telling the truth and bearing witness to justice. I am not beholden to any administration, political party, TV channel or financial sponsor because loving suffering and struggling peoples is my point of reference. Deep integrity must trump cheap popularity. Nothing will stop or distract my work and witness, even as I learn from others and try not to hurt others.
But to pursue truth and justice is to live dangerously. In the spirit of John Coltrane’s LOVE SUPREME, let us focus on what really matters: the issues, policies, and realities that affect precious everyday people catching hell and how we can resist the lies and crimes of the status quo!