Harvard philosophy professor Dr. Cornel West weighed in on the state of race in America as riots across the country have erupted in reaction to the death of George Floyd. West said on “Fox News Sunday” that the “violence spillover” is a result of the fact that “we’re living in a system that seems to be unable to reform itself.”
Nationwide protests were sparked by the death of 46-year-old Floyd, a black man who died Monday after a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeled on his neck for several minutes as he was being arrested on suspicion of forgery.
Video footage that went viral after the arrest showed Floyd telling the police officer “I can’t breathe” as passersby begged the officers to get off him. Moments later, Floyd became nonresponsive and was pronounced dead at a local hospital.
Chauvin was arrested Friday and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. The other three officers involved with the arrest have been fired amid calls for their arrest.
On Sunday host Chris Wallace asked West, “Do you think that we’re seeing in the streets, riots, violence, looting in African American neighborhoods, do you think that’s doing any good for African-Americans?”
“No,” West said in response.
He added that “most of my fellow citizens” who are “in the streets” are “peaceful.”
“And when it does spill over into violence, looting is wrong, but legalized looting is wrong too,” West continued. “Murder is wrong, legalized murder is wrong too.”
He then said that he looks “at the wickedness at high places first.”
West explained that the “concern” is that “we all have individual responsibility, but we’re living in a system that seems to be unable to reform itself and when you have such a moment, you get violence spillover.”
West then noted that “if we’re more concerned about the property and spillover than the poverty, decrepit school system, dilapidated housing, massive unemployment and under-employment, we’re going to be doing this every five, every 10, every 20 years.”
“We got to make sure we don’t pass it on to our younger generation,” he added.
Wallace also brought up Ahmaud Arbery, a black man who was shot dead in February while out jogging in Georgia, and an incident in New York’s Central Park involving a white woman walking her dog who called police to report she was being threatened by “an African-American man” after he asked her to put her dog on a leash.
Wallace then asked West, “What’s going on?”
“I think what we’re seeing here is the ways in which the vicious legacy of white supremacy manifests in organized hatred, greed and corruption,” West said in response.
He added that “the sad thing about this moment” is “that we are witnessing the collapse of the legitimacy of leadership; the political class, the economic class, the professional class. That’s the deeper crisis.”
West went on to say that “the beautiful thing is we’re seeing citizens who are caring and concerned, they’re hitting the streets.”
He pointed out that “we’re seeing black, white, red, yellow, especially young people, coming together” and added that “many decades ago that wasn’t the case.”
West then stressed that the “problem is” that “we have a system that’s not responding and seems to be unable to respond.”
Fox News’ Joseph Wulfsohn contributed to this report.