President Obama’s recent inauguration has incited the mind of one of philosophy’s recent stars, Cornel West. If listeners remember, PEL covered West in the Philosophy and Race episode. Cornel West has been one of the most outspoken of all political philosophers in the category of race and with prior writings on MLK Jr.s legacy, he didn’t back down when he found out Obama would be sworn in using MLK’s bible. The true question that West raises, which also falls along the lines of PEL’s discussion of the Federalist Papers, is what has changed and where do the people stand in accordance to the president’s image of change?
The issue has long been debated, but West’s recent stance has stirred up debate once again. As West states, “Now, when I got the news that my dear brother Barack Obama, President Obama, was going to put his precious hand on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Bible, I got upset. And I got upset because you don’t play with Martin Luther King, Jr. and you don’t play with his people. And by his people, what I mean is people of good conscience, fundamentally committed to peace, and truth and justice.” This statement not only presents issues of race and politics, but essential questions of ethics and being. What does the image of MLK’s bible symbolize? How have things changed since the civil rights movements of the 60’s? What is a proper interpretation of truth and justice?
West’s display of anger and utter dissatisfaction with the president’s choice to use MLK’s bible reaches far deeper than just symbolic antagonism. The issues that remain prevalent are brought up within this speech: children remaining in poverty, blood still being spilled in the name of race. Obama’s inauguration provokes many more philosophical debates, stemming back to equality and the issues of government brought up in the very origins of the American government. His speech delivers fast jabs at the very heart of the Constitution, the People’s rights and the image of America vs. what lies beyond the superficial realm of political media.Beyond the significance of race politics and political science, the ultimate question of justice reigns supreme.