Floyd, an African American man from Minnesota, died earlier this week in police custody after a white police officer pinned Floyd to the ground and knelt on his neck. Since then, protests have erupted in dozens of major American cities.
“What we’re seeing here is the ways in which the vicious legacy of white supremacy manifests in organized hatred, greed and corruption,” West told anchor Chris Wallace, adding that the events shined a light on a deep-rooted crisis in the U.S.
“We’re witnessing the collapse of the legitimacy of leadership, the political class, the economic class, the professional class, that’s the deeper crisis.”
West said that it was “beautiful” to see citizens take to the streets in protest of police brutality, but added that “the problem is we have a system that’s not responding and seems to be unable to respond.”
Some of the protests have been violent. In multiple American cities, rioters clashed with police, while vandals and looters ransacked businesses and damaged property. Multiple local and state governments responded by deploying the National Guard.
On Saturday night, the reserve forces were deployed in Texas, California, Nevada, Tennessee, Missouri, Utah, Washington, and Colorado,
West said that the vast majority of protesters was peacefully marching for justice, but he also noted that other forms of “looting” are more dangerous.
“Looting is wrong, [but] legalized looting is wrong too,” the Harvard Divinity School professor stated.
West added that Americans should be more concerned about poverty, unemployment, and other major issues than property damage, predicting that similar protests could take place again unless these systemic disparities and issues are addressed.
Wallace also asked West whether he feels like progress has been made on racial issues. The anchor noted that the U.S. elected its first African American president 12 years ago. West conceded that there has indeed been progress in this regard, but he responded to Wallace with a famous quote from Malcolm X.
“If you stick a knife in my back nine inches and pull it out six inches, there’s no progress,” the philosopher said.
West explained that he does not measure progress “in terms of black elites,” saying that he is more concerned about ordinary people, like Dr. Martin Luther King was.
"We are witnessing America as a failed social experiment," says Dr. @CornelWest. "…Its capitalist economy could not… deliver, in such a way that people could live lives of decency. The nation state, it's criminal justice system…could not generate protection of rights." pic.twitter.com/WZ9QO6QXJW— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) May 30, 2020
Some members of Congress apparently agree with West’s assessment that leaders have failed the people. In an interview on Sunday, Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar said that Americans have to “look to one another” for leadership.