Conflict & Justice

Was Obama's use of MLK's Bible an affront to human rights?


Princeton University Professor Dr. Cornel West criticized President Obama's choice of Martin Luther King Jr.'s bible for his inauguration during a panel on CSPAN last week. Dr. West said the move was "calculated" and accused the president of being guilty of war crimes.



A video has surfaced of a CSPAN roundtable last week during which Dr. Cornel West blasted President Obama's choice of using Martin Luther King's Bible. 

Talk show host Tavis Smiley moderated a panel with Dr. West and other political luminaries, such as Newt Gingrich and Jeffrey Sachs, at George Washington University on Jan. 17 called Poverty in America. 

Dr. West sounded off on his indignation about the president using Dr. King's memory to get a political boost. 

Noting Dr. King's devotion to the peace movement and the eradication of poverty, Dr. West called Obama's move "upsetting" and that it made his "blood boil."


The Obama administration has a history of ignoring the issues Dr. King was so focused on. While Dr. King protested against bombing Vietnam, Obama is engaged in drone wars in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen.

More from GlobalPost: Income inequality becoming a national conversation

Dr. King was an outspoken critic of Jim Crow laws and pushed for civil rights for people of all colors. Obama, says Dr. West, is complicit in perpetuating modern Jim Crow, via the prison industrial complex.

Lastly, Dr. King was devoted to anti-poverty efforts, calling for a better distribution of wealth in America. Obama, on the other hand, has not prosecuted a single Wall Street banker responsible for the economic crisis while the US has grown into a county with one of the highest economic inequality rates in the world. 

"When Barack Obama attempts to use that rich tradition of Frederick Douglas and Ida B. Wells-Barnett? Use the tradition of A. Phillip Randolph? Use the tradition of Rabbi Joshua Heschel? Use the tradition of Tom Hayden and so many others struggling to produce that voice that pushed Martin in the direction that it did? I get upset," said Dr. West. 

Here's the video. 

For more of GlobalPost's reporting on income inequality in the US and around the world, check out our Special Report "The Great Divide: Income inequality and its cost."