Cornel West Quotes

Cornel_West_2QUOTES FROM CORNEL WEST, talk, New York Catholic Worker, 8 November 2013, “The Legacy of Dorothy Day,” Catholic Agitator, February 2014

When you think of Dorothy Day, you think of love overflowing.

It takes courage to be a nonconformist, to be willing to be a witness to something grander than one’s self.

In the end, love will have the last word for Dorothy Day, because she was, in fact, a woman not just of faith, but a sister of what we in the black Baptist tradition call “thick faith.” We have many folk in the pew that have faith, but I am talking about the ones that have that thick faith, the ones that go all the way down.

We can love our enemies. It does not matter what our enemies are doing at the moment. Their deeds do not fully define their humanity; they can change in the same way you have changed in your own lives. You do not want to be frozen in any particular moment that definitely defines you. I know I was a gangster before I met Jesus, and the best I will ever be is a redeemed sinner with gangster proclivities and gangster memories, hence the need for grace to fall back on something that can sustain me.

Why is it we have a criminal justice system that cannot manage to put one Wall Street executive in jail after massive criminality, insider trading, market manipulation, fraudulent accounting across the board. And why is it when they are caught they are asked, “Hey JP Morgan, what do you want? Thirteen billion [dollars]?” They get huge tax write offs and no one taking personal responsibility. And yet, this is the same ruling class, with major ideologues representing its interests, saying to poor people, “When you make bad choices you must have personal responsibility; pull yourself up by your own boot-straps.” They do not believe in bailouts for the poor, yet when they [i.e., the financiers] get in trouble, its $767 billion with $85 billion [more] every month for over two and a half years…. And we wonder why it is that we are wrestling with such cultural decay, especially for our young people. [slightly modified]

The heroes are usually holy fools, the question is, can we be holy fools against worldly indifference and callousness? To be a holy fool is to be on fire with a love committed to justice. In any historical moment, when there are enough holy fools on fire, that fire can spread like a prairie fire and affect others, become contagious, shatter their sleepwalking, wake them up, and let them straighten their backs and stand up for justice.



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