J. Pharoah Doss: Cornel West and “lies that hide”


Independent presidential candidate Cornel West chose fellow academic Melina Abdullah as his running mate. Abdullah teaches pan-African studies at California State University, Los Angeles, and serves on the board of directors for Black Lives Matter Grassroots.

West and Abdullah’s progressive politics distinguish them from the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, but what sets them apart from the Democratic incumbents? West went on to say, “Biden and Harris are tied to vicious lies that are hiding crimes.” West cited the recent police shooting of Dexter Reed in Chicago and the Hamas-Israeli war as clear examples.

The Reed shooting occurred after plainclothes tactical police officers in unmarked cars pulled him over for not wearing a seatbelt. Reed refused to follow the officer’s directives. Reed then discharged his revolver, injuring one officer. The other police returned nearly 100 shots in under 50 seconds, killing Reed.

Police reform advocates and community activists feel the number of rounds fired at Reed was a criminal act of excessive force. West protested that the Chicago police said that the officers did not violate the law. “No, that’s a lie; it hides a crime,” West insisted. Because the White House did not officially condemn the police officers who shot Reed, West accuses Biden and Harris of covering up the officers’ excessive force.

Regarding the Hamas-Israel war, West argued that Biden’s Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, stated that there was no evidence that Israel was committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. West reiterated, “That’s a lie. We’re tired of lies. And we’re tired of crimes.”

West and Abdullah recently had their first joint interview with CNN’s Abby Phillip.

In 2015, Abdullah said that the KKK, police, and government officials were all the same. Phillip wanted to know if Abdullah had changed her mind since then, or if she remained by her remark.

Abdullah justified her statement by saying that American policing originated with slave patrols that apprehended runaways.

Most historians state that Boston founded the first American police force in 1838. These historians defined “police force” as a publicly sponsored entity with full-time officers. Some historians argue that the first slave patrol in the Carolina colonies in 1704 signaled the start of American policing, but that would only be true if slaves weren’t chattel. Slaves were non-human entities, akin to livestock. If a slave fled, it was no different than if a horse escaped a barn. The slave patrol is more similar to modern-day animal control than police departments.

Abdullah is aware of these historical realities, so why is she promoting the slave patrol account? The answer is in her 2020 statement about what “defunding the police” actually meant.

Abdullah stated, “Defund was our way of getting away with saying we’re abolitionists. Police, jails, and prisons are not reformable. They are irredeemable systems.” In other words, American police are irredeemable, much like chattel slavery. To persuade the public that abolishing the police was necessary, these modern-day abolitionists insist that American policing began with slave patrols.

Phillip reminded Abdullah that after Hamas’ October 7 attack, Black Lives Matter Grassroot had issued a statement defining Hamas’ actions as “a desperate act of self-defense.” Phillip wanted to know if Abdullah still stood by that statement. 

Abdullah responded, “Absolutely.”

Calling Hamas’ attack “self-defense” was Abdullah’s “way of getting away with saying” Hamas’ actions were legal. International law recognizes the right of people subjected to foreign dominance to resist using all available methods, including armed struggle.

However, the right to resist has restrictions under international law.

Noura Erakat, a Palestinian-American legal scholar, outlined how the principles of distinction govern the right to armed conflict. “Distinction” refers to the distinction between occupying combatants and civilians. As a result, armed resistance fighters must target occupation forces and infrastructure, but never civilians.

On October 7, Hamas terrorists killed more Israeli civilians than Israeli security personnel.

An Amnesty International report titled Unlawful and Deadly: Rockets and mortar attacks by Palestinian armed groups during the 2014 Gaza/Israel conflict stated, “UN experts and human rights groups have argued that the indiscriminate firing of rockets by Palestinian militant groups in Gaza is unlawful and may constitute a war crime, as the rockets cannot be accurately directed at a military target and therefore cannot distinguish between military objects and civilians.”

On October 7, Hamas launched thousands of rockets into Israel.

The following day, professor Michael J. Armstrong stated in The Conversation, a nonprofit, independent news organization, “Militants in Gaza have been firing rockets at Israel every year since 2005. I’ve been studying rocket defenses and missile combat for years, but the intensity of the Hamas attack, this time was astounding. Israel counted more than 2,200 incoming missiles on Saturday morning alone, the total exceeding 2,500 by the conclusion of the day. That’s nearly quadruple the previous single-day record of 670 rockets.”

Hamas did not launch the rockets in self-defense.

When Abdullah says that American policing began with slave patrols and that Hamas acted in self-defense, this is simply her way of “getting away with saying” one thing while meaning another.

If Cornel West is tired of “lies that hide,” why did he choose Abdullah as his running mate?




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