Revolution #232, May 15, 2011
Revolution Interviews at Cornel West and Carl Dix Dialogue Comes to UCLA
What people said about why they came
On April 29, 700 people attended the dialogue between Cornel West and Carl Dix at UCLA: “In the Age of Obama… Police Terror, Incarceration, No Jobs, Mis-education: What Future for Our Youth?” The following are excerpts from interviews Revolution did with people, before and after the program.
What people said about why they came:
Black woman who is a UCLA student, majoring in parenting:
Well there's all sorts of publicity, flyers on the campus. Police brutality was on the flyer. I've been a subject of police brutality and wanted to see what these guys had to say about it.
Black man who is a UCLA student, majoring in philosophy:
Because of Cornel's involvement with trying to bring some of the issues to the forefront and he does it in a way that younger scholars, potential scholars can get involved. I like this topic particularly because the debate about communist views and how we can fix society. That's probably the main reason I came. I wanted to hear the debate and see if we can start thinking about new ways to achieve society.
White UCLA student, theater major:
What made me more interested in wanting to come to this event was when he [Cornel West] was on Bill Maher and they were talking about the Tea Party and this new movement that's happening and how there's a lot of—fear of race is really embedded in some of these ideas, like Ron Paul… one of these congressmen that was elected for Kentucky or Tennessee I'm not sure. He has these views that like a business should have the right if they don't want to serve someone based on the color of their skin, they should have that right. Just these insane ideas and it's like, these people are now running our country and it's so scary and no one knows about it so he [Cornel] was just commenting on that and had some really interesting views that I had not known before. I also have some friends at Princeton that I went to high school with that have taken his class. And I thought the other speaker, Carl Dix, he seemed very interesting too and his bio was really intriguing and made me want to come as well.
Black woman UCLA Student:
I know one of the things he's going to be talking about is the youth in the age of Obama, the economy and how the youth are faring and stuff like that, so I'm pretty interested in knowing what he's going to talk about concerning that because I really want to know not only things that are wrong but things that we should change.
Black man who came with a few other people from a town two hours away:
Dr. West is the most intelligent man in the country, probably in the world. How can we not? He's a phenom. He impacted my life many, many years ago and he's one of those brothers that keeps it real and he is an intellect. It is about time for America to embrace the intellects. We find a lot of criticism. Especially I remember during the election, they kept talking about Obama was too professorial in his responses. Well I want the president to be smarter than me. I want—the man I want to speak to, the man I want to listen to, needs to be smarter than me. I absolutely respect the words that Dr. West has put out... He doesn't compromise and he doesn't apologize for having an insightful idea about life and how we should be living it. And I think one of the profound things that he said was about loving the people. If you can't love the people, you can't lead the people. And I think that's one of the things that resonates today.
Fourth-year student in political science and Chicano Studies:
I saw flyers up. The topic is an interesting topic. It's something that needs to be talked about. This needs to be brought up, the thought of race in general, race conflicts, needs to be talked about. Cornel West, Michael Eric Dyson, Tim Wise, these guys are doing an excellent job opening up conversation about race...I love what they say, not post-racial, post racist. Not being a society that is post racial because we don't need to forget where we came from but we need to move on from the racist ideologies that exist.
We always need this dichotomy of the far left and the left and the central because without Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, it's the same thing. You have one left leaning like King himself and then you have someone far more left like X. Without both of them you wouldn't have accomplished. You need both sides to really accomplish, that's what I think. I just think to get a better grasp of race issues in the United States and open up a dialogue on campus and around the community of what's going on—what needs to be done and what these two intellectual individuals believe is the right movement for the United States and the world as a whole.
I am not so much expecting to learn anything, I am expecting to really find my place in how I feel about revolution and the youth and what they're doing in today's future. But more than anything I expect to hear knowledge and I expect an unbiased opinion from two people that have been in the game way longer than I have.
High school student:
No future..."what future for our youth" part of the title—because that's something that I've struggled with that made me become a revolutionary. The system we live under now has no future for the youth. As a high school student I can really look at that and see that. You can go on and you can become part of the system, but oppression of people will always be there unless we make revolution and get rid of it. I think we need a communist revolution in this country and a revolution that is so liberating that we don't have to worry about the oppression of women, the oppression of different races, that has a great culture.
Black electrical engineering major:
Since 2008, we've been really happy that Obama is president. But even then there have been problems. The thing that's most pressing to me is that I'm an electrical engineering major and my major doesn't quite lend itself to keeping up with politics... And as a Black person, I see no other Black people and it's really difficult to find other Black people to dialogue with about these things...To listen to their analysis of what is going on is a really good opportunity for me to really catch up with what is going on with our people and see how Obama's been doing from Cornel West's perspective; just the state of the country from their perspective.
Young Black man:
Cornel's a philosopher and he's talking about pertinent issues that are relevant to our lives such as police brutality. I've been a subject of police brutality so what he's talking about is very relevant to me. Police are racist, they racially profile young Black men in the street. I got into a motorcycle accident. After the accident, the police treated me as though I committed a crime. They denied me ambulance service even though I was bleeding and in shock. And they handcuffed me. I had to call my lawyer to come to the scene so I could get un-handcuffed. I was subjected to police brutality by UCPD [UCLA campus police]. Fuck UCPD.
From interviews done after the program:
I thought the dialogue was so inspiring and they created a spot, a living example of the type of political spaces that are all too few, where we can make [it] happen between revolutionaries and radicals and everybody, like they were saying, who wants to see a different world, to come across the aisle with love for one another, with respect, with principle, with a challenge to each other and a challenge for the new generation. I've come to a lot of political events at UCLA, I've never seen something on this level and of this quantity. And I was so proud of how many people [came]... It shows the potential. It shows things don't have to remain the way they are. Things can radically change if we get out there and do this. That's what I thought of the dialogue.
I thought it was really interesting. I feel that they backed each other up a lot. And they also brought up points where they didn't agree. But I think the attitude, the dialogue, they both brought up interesting points and they were very engaging and I think they inspired the audience to actually do something to make a change.
Woman UCLA student:
I thought it was really, really good to get the different perspectives from people that have been around for a long time and have seen the transition from the world how it was 20, 30 years ago to now and to be able to relate to the different issues, but coming from a very revolutionary standpoint. Cornel West, his words are so powerful. You can tell that he's been in a lot so to get words of wisdom from him it was really powerful. It made my experience at UCLA a really cool circle, because I'm a senior now and I'll be graduating so it kinda inspired me to make sure I'm checking my privilege and make sure I'm always thinking of others in poverty and not me, to hold up my career and make sure I'm thinking about the overall, like humanity, I guess.
Black student (not at UCLA) studying physical therapy:
I'm glad there's somebody who's not afraid to say what needs to be said no matter what society or mainstream media or politicians up in the capitol think of it. I'm glad there's somebody in [Cornel's] position, not just a small person blogging about it, that somebody in his position at the top who's not afraid to speak the truth and it's refreshing. It's the fact that we're living in quote/unquote, the greatest nation in the entire world but we're still dealing with poor people and people in the lower economic brackets not being helped the way they should be helped. We have people living in Third World conditions. I would venture to say Detroit, not to the level of some other Third World countries, but Detroit is America's Third World country... there's pretty much a police state there, where police beatings and other acts of pretty much terrorism against citizens are going uncalled and there's no consequences for them.
I think the whole socio-economic point of it is the biggest thing here and that's bigger than race, that's bigger than sexual orientation, that's bigger than religion, because in the end, in a capitalist country, your money talks and your bullshit walks. At the end of the day, I'm a Black man, not really religious, but at the end of the day people are going to look at my paycheck and that's going to be the prevailing factor of how they treat me....It's about our generation and the next generation, driving them away from the superficialism that we've been taught through watching TV and music videos, it's about getting away from trying to be like that guy on TV who's like, "I've got $50,000 on my wrist." It's about actually teaching them that getting to know what's going on in the world and letting them know and encouraging them that they are an active vessel of knowledge that they can change the world forever if they actually took an active interest in it other than the superficialism—all about the money, all about all the other BS. It's about letting them know it's bigger than what these guys—what the athletes, what the music stars and what the actors have now—they're not going to leave a mark on the world forever because you score 33 points in a game.
Like you can leave a mark forever by facilitating a paradigm shift in the thinking of people that's going to eventually lead to a better world for everybody in the world, not just people in America, not just middle and upper class people. You have to get people to care about other people because we're too self-centered—especially in this country we're too self-centered, we want what's best for us and our own, not for everybody else. That other person can be struggling, but as long as I'm fine, as long as my kids eat, I'm good, I'm doing my part, I'm doing my job and it should be everybody's job to help everybody. That's what a country is, as well as a world population, it's supposed to be all people helping other people.
Black student (not at UCLA) studying psychology:
I'm just glad that there's somebody who came out to a campus that's not usually associated with people of African-American descent, of Black history, coming on campus...where we're a vast minority. I think it's for students everywhere. The issue that struck me as extremely important is the issue of education and saying how certain things that were learned and were taught to us or that aren't taught at certain schools in certain areas are due to knowledge which is based and which is handed down based on my skin color or cultural background. We need to focus on imparting knowledge instead of testing the ability to regurgitate information given to students, so actually give students something to learn and have them retain the information as opposed to they get tested on it, they write the information down on paper and then it's out of their heads forever...
Some of the statistics that Mr. Dix was throwing out as far as these issues with police beatings, how we see one on the news, but for every one there's ten that happened that same week in the same area or 100 that happened nationwide. That's some of the things we need to definitely get a cap and get control on. Like he said there is a group that patrols the police, we need to do more stuff like that because as the majority we hold the power but we're scared of that vast minority whether it's economics or whether it's law enforcement. Even though we outnumber them, we feel just that just because they have given themselves a certain status and because we don't know any better that we have to buy into it and fall in line, instead of us doing our own thing and taking control.
Asian high school student in LA:
It was amazing. What they said about capitalism and socialism. I think it's true how in previous years, Bush the Republican failed as a president, and then we voted for a Democrat and the nation turned upside-down again and that failed and probably the citizens should take power into their hands and make a third party. In the beginning when Dix said how the cops came to a child's apartment and killed the daughter and then later on put her father down on the ground in their daughter's blood—really striking, everyday occurrences are just like that. That was surprising to me. Everything is controversial—everything that the Democrats, liberals say is controversial, about Republicans, gay marriage, and stuff like that and the whole capitalism vs. communism and socialism. And I guess I'm for those controversies because as Cornel said, “I'm a misfit.” The future for youth is very messed up because we're left with what other generations just passed down to us; the whole war between Iraq and Afghanistan has totally messed up our economy. I believe there is money laying around but they don't want to invest money on youth or more importantly they don't want to invest money on Latino, minority, Black youths and youth in poverty. I think the future for the youth is very low, but there is hope around that we could make a difference and change that around. There's a catalyst for that and people will wake up those sleep-walkers then there's definitely a potential for youths and I've seen youths taking action and I feel like there is hope. It's a phenomenon being here. It's great.
Chicana student from Mission College in LA:
Very interesting, learned a lot, a lot of stuff that a lot of people try to say but they stay quiet about. Probably one of the best things I could describe about tonight, [they were] very open-minded and they spoke about what I really wanted. We are hungry and we are ready for a change, it's just in getting to know and understand what we could do. That's a big thing.
Third-year Black UCLA student:
Amazing. The second thought is Amazing. And the third thought is Amazing as well. I'm just very deeply inspired by the tenacity of the speakers—Carl Dix and Mr. West. I think Carl did a great job of bringing a new light to the idea of communism. It's often painted as this radical thing and we're taught to be afraid of that type of revolution, but I think he did a good job of painting it not only in a positive light but positive in an objective way as well. So yeah, I loved the program. I'm very inspired. Definitely my first time ever hearing him and I'm very deeply impressed and inspired. We're taught to believe in the idea of the “American Dream” in America but the American Dream is also the capitalist dream, I think. And we don't have as many negative connotations to capitalism as we do I guess, [of] communism. So, even for people like me who don't know a whole lot about it, even if you don't know a lot about it you still think it's a bad thing and it's just I think we're kind of encultured to think that. So, definitely he brought an idea of equality and social justice that there is no room for in capitalism. So, I mean I'm not saying, “Oh my god I'm going to go switch to communism now,” but I definitely think that is a good way to show the flaws of the capitalistic society.
One of the key things for me was the police system. And I love the whole movement of policing the police because it's ironic in nature but it's come to be expected the way we are treated by the police—and by that I mean Black people or the underclass or people who are not from affluent societies—so that was definitely something that stuck out to me. I'm not against policing or anything but we need to be checked by the government on an equal level and I think what Carl Dix said tonight did a good job of exposing how much the legal system is failing and it's failing Black people very heavily, so that was one of the key issues to me. The way in which minority communities are policed and imprisoned as opposed to the country on an equal scale.
The difference between the youth of now and the youth of past generations like the 60s and 70s is the apathy is so strong, the level of indifference and apathy. Even the people who are on the receiving end of a lot of these social injustices are not just reserved but resigned—yes, resigned to the idea that's just the way it is and that's the way it's going to be. I envision a better environment for the youth, a better political and social and racial environment for the youth if we're able to mobilize and as they were saying, come together and organize ourselves and move together to fight these injustices as opposed to being the apathetic youth that we largely are, myself largely included. Our culture now is more about being comfortable and I think we're so comfortable, myself personally I'm very comfortable, and I'm definitely bothered by these issues, but we need people like Dr. West and Mr. Dix to come and plant those seeds in our minds. Because we're not taught from the education system to challenge critically our environment, so the more I listen to people talk like that, the more I feel challenged and I feel like it's going to be a challenge for me to rise up and try to make some type of difference, but I'm definitely more inspired now than ever. But at the same time there's that whole trend of comfortability, that personally I'm used to for my entire life, chilling, instead of being radical or revolutionary about the things that are plaguing our society, so it's definitely a challenge, but a do-able challenge.
I thought it was a great event and I can't wait to do something... Personally I haven't attended anything like this at UCLA and I'm glad I did. So I definitely think that there can be change if the people who were at this event rise up and try to spread the information to people who are largely apathetic and unaffected or think they are unaffected by the issues that were discussed. I think honestly it could go either way.
Black woman student:
I'm not so sure I'm on par with how to change the system, but I agree with them the system needs to be changed. In that respect I thought it was very refreshing and I hope they continue to speak out and get that point of view out there, it's really important. I guess the whole idea of revolution is maybe a little extremist, I think, which is OK, I'm not anti-extremism, so that was controversial to me. I also felt there was a lot of talk and in the question and answer time people got to ask what can we do, and I didn't feel like they gave very much input on things that can actually be done very practically. I think they tried but maybe missed the mark. I think there were a lot of young people here wanting to know—hands on, on a daily basis—what we can do to support the revolution, what we can do to make change to our current system and I don't think they gave enough of that and I think that would have been really nice.
Senior philosophy student:
I didn't come in with any specific expectations so it's hard to contrast to something. But I guess, some of the statistics about the relationship of incarceration rates and specifically race were pretty surprising. And also I was kinda surprised by I guess the big love thing coming through from Cornel West. I haven't heard him a lot, but I guess I was expecting something more academic, totally academic. I have a tendency to want to work inside systems with specific rules, that's kinda like what I do well... It felt like a personal call to me to continue to work on that aspect, of like trying not to get caught inside the system with the rules, trying to see the broader picture. It encouraged me in my already kind of nascent quest to gain a critical perspective.
Senior in Women Studies and Chicano-Chicana Studies with minors in Labor and Workplace Studies and Geography
I thought everything they said really rings true to me. I really believe that dismantling the current system is the only way to really go forward as a people. I really liked it when Cornel West mentioned indigenous and native people because I feel they are left out a lot of a lot of discourses. But I especially liked the mention of education, the prison-industrial complex, the military-industrial complex. I'm interested in those in particular and how they work together to oppress youth and everything. I liked what they said. They spoke about a lot of the same things but they had different views. I'm really interested in gaining different perspectives. And I really appreciated that they had that in mind too, gathering everyone's different standpoints and being able to come together and figure out things. I think the take home message is pretty much how everyone can do something, everyone has a part... I don't think we can just overthrow. But I think if we can all come together and all do our small part in the movement, like whatever fits our passion...mobilize, organize.
I subscribe to Revolution newspaper. We actually met up with [newspaper distributors] in Arizona last summer [at SB1070 protests] who gave us a stack of newspapers that we passed out here in Orange County, California cuz they're so conservative there. I think more people should know about this publication. A lot of people hear the word communist and get scared, but it's really for equality and for everybody. I thought Carl was a good speaker. I liked his perspective as well. They're both very different people. And its good to see that even though they have those differences, the ultimate goal is the same. It's true equality. That's how I see it. I appreciated Carl's outlook on everything and the things he was saying, to get change you really do need to make a commitment. It's not a weekend warrior thing. You need to make it part of your life, a lifestyle. That's the only way a change will come. We can't just sit around waiting for it. We have to get out there and really act. That's what I got from him. I feel that a lot of people feel that's a thing of the past—oh you know revolution, that idealistic thing. And you know, it's not at all. I think it's very much alive and I think that I admire when I see people that, yeah, you have to die to be able to get things to change too. You have to be willing to make those sacrifices. I really believe in that for sure.
Student from community college outside of LA:
You almost have a Malcom X and Martin Luther King—Malcom X is "you hit me, I'm a hit you back." Martin Luther King is "turn the other cheek." I think it was really a good dialogue. Dr. West was more focused on the poor and the working class, whereas Carl Dix was more on the revolution, how to get rid of this capitalist system... I have to think about it a little bit now. I don't agree with there's no god thing but his views were interesting. Something to think about.
Owner of real estate company:
I thought it was inspiring. It shed a lot of light on things that are not talked about in our society that need to be talked about. And I was interested to hear what Dr. West had to say about Barack Obama because I'm a supporter like he said he was. He did answer my question by saying he is in support of brother Barack Obama, but that in the right frame and the right situation and the right form you can express your criticisms. This was my first exposure to Carl, Mr. Dix and his background, I understand how that transformed him into the person that he is. Although I didn't agree with everything, I felt a lot of relation to how Cornel West feels because he expressed the same that just because he's an atheist and doesn't believe in god, I'm a Christian Jesus believer, we have a lot of commonalities and that's what we have to concentrate on and look towards in order to really do something around here. So I thought they were both good. If you can come to UCLA and do this, then you did a good job.
Grad student in social welfare program:
It was incredible. It was good to have their different perspectives on it. I really enjoyed it… wonderful, both of them.
Librarian originally from Rwanda:
[Found out about this from] Revolution bookstore. My thing is really our people have to be inspired by the two speakers. I listen to Cornel West and try to listen to NPR and it's a challenge, especially for countries like my own—how people can find the common ground, how they can go beyond the division. People ask me are you Hutu or Tutsi or anything. I tell them there are only two tribes in Africa or anywhere, in America, the have and the have-not tribes. And if you can bridge those two you will be alright. As long as the gap is between, and it's big between the have and the have-not, we're going to have trouble. We're going to have trouble in America, trouble in Libya, Rwanda and Sudan. Those two existing tribes have to find a way to negotiate and maybe live together.
Somewhere down the range two decades from now, someone's going to say, hey I remember that night we came to UCLA. It's transformative. I mean goose pimples. I mean they were talking the truth. I mean they were telling it like it is. And two very gifted speakers. And from opposites, they enhance each other, they complement each other. I think we have a very volatile, incredible pair there. It will really push the movement a lot farther. They both had a lot of good things to say and I think this team is unbeatable. This is a perfect team. They connected with all the masses. I don't think they left any stone unturned. Brother Avakian has been ahead of the curve for many, many years. And we need to keep this going. We need to transform this world. The future of humanity depends on us getting this right. Because we either come together as a species and solve these problems or we become an extinct species like millions of species who have become extinct on this planet and we're real close to that right now. We cannot continue to use things on this planet at millions of times the rate that they reproduce. We're going to end up as cannibals, eating each other. We really have to do something, humanity depends on this.
I thought it answered a lot of the questions I had.
Two youth who drove down from Berkeley:
First youth: At the beginning, all those facts they were throwing out about people that had been killed by the police, I didn't know about that. I think I was the most important part for me. One of my favorite parts was how we all have to be ready to die for the revolution. And I firmly believe that and I been believing it since I even thought about being a revolutionary. And it just resonated with me because that's what people need to know, why we're here. That's something you have to die for. It definitely gave me more confidence. What I take back is that, yeah we need to be ready for whatever, whenever, and that this isn't a game, you know what I'm saying. And for me, before I came here I was really on the fence about it, but now I really know what I really want to do… Like he said, it's a legacy. We live on an inheritance of people who fought for our rights and I feel like I'm standing on the shoulders of my ancestors and they do look down on us and ask what are you guys doing? And I can't leave this world without knowing that I changed it for my grandkids or my kids. It really moved me.
Second youth: I'm in the Bay Area Revolution Club. I think the very last part was the most moving for me because it really showed, it brought the image to people's minds like to be a revolution, to stand up for what's right, stand in solidarity with all oppressed people, with what they are and no matter who you are. I think that's too little thought about. Most people when they think about what would I be like as a revolutionary they think about preexisting stereotypes like leftists or communists or this or that. No, you can and should defy all of that and bring out the best in everyone. What I want to know is will there be somebody that will bring the celebration of revolution that happened in New York [April 11 at the Harlem Stage] to the West Coast? If you thought this was moving. If you had been there, man... I was there. It was incredible. The feeling, the whole vibe of it. They have different roles right? That was more a celebration. While this here was definitely more an intellectual kind of thing. Both things are needed.
It was real inspiring. It was great. As I say, I agree with most of the things that they were saying. It's difficult still to imagine a revolution. But it’s kind of a belief that you need to have to carry on... Yeah, it give me more hope because you see a lot of people who are involved and you see the faces, the emotions so this give you some hope, makes you actually believe that something could blossom. The connection is fantastic. There should be more events like that and it should last longer.
Third-year UCSB student in global studies:
Carl Dix is extremely concise, eloquent, very blunt. It's all this beautiful mix. I was in line outside and they told us that they wouldn't let anybody else into the hall whatsoever so hundreds of people just left because the line was still going all the way outside and down the way and around the corner when they told us that. I was by myself because I lost my group and I came in my car separately. I met another girl who was alone in front of me and two behind me and I said, I'm not giving up, you guys want to get in, we're going to get in. And they're like, “really are you serious?” and I said, yeah. So we just came up here. We were warned that there was security at the doors and we walked around and found a stairwell that had an open door and snuck in. There was a bunch of people in there already so we snuck in and we were really quiet and there was this awesome solidarity of silence so that we could take part in the program that was going on. It was awesome, and then we were able to get into the hall to watch the question and answer part.
I thought it was great, because a lot of people get put off by revolutionary dialogues because of their religiosity. I think a lot of times that dogmatic rhetoric is confused with spirituality, and I think what Dr. West was talking about is spirituality with god and his relationship with Jesus Christ and how he does not need to degrade his brother for not believing in the god of the oppressors. I thought that was a beautiful statement. Because oftentimes people are put off and oftentimes dismissed as sinful or something because it's blasphemous. And Dr. West was able to clarify those expressions and stuff. That resonated, not just with me but with other people in the stairwell as well. It was good. And then obviously their dialogue about prison systems, the military-industrial complex and all those truths that continue to be denied by the Obama administration. It was just great.
Being in a university setting, these are the kinds of things that you hope to be hearing on a regular basis but unfortunately that's not the truth. It's not what you hear and it’s not what we're reading. And I really thank UCLA and the organizers of this event for facilitating it. Because I drove [over 100 miles] to sit in a stairwell and would do it again. Absolutely. I just wish I could have brought more people. I honestly didn't anticipate to hear so much revolutionary talk. It's not something I was disappointed in hearing but I was really excited about the reactions that I was hearing to that dialogue on the other side of the door. Because often times it's hard to identify other individuals that might be of like minds. So to be able to attend an event like this, like I said was max capacity and then some, and to know that the majority of the people here share the same hope. Not how hope is regularly perceived but as defined by Dr. West this evening, I think that's a beautiful thing. It's beautiful for humanity. It's necessary. I read Revolution newspaper and I'm reading BAsics. I'm reading the Constitution [for a New Socialist Republic in North America (draft program)]. And I have read many essays. Oh and I watched the [Revolution talk] DVD. [Avakian] tells it as it is. He says what people are afraid to say. It's interesting because I was watching the DVD over several days and different people were around. The reactions are not anything that I agree with but it's like Dr. West said, people are complicitly ignorant. You have to be an example to others in order for them to realize the mistake and error in their ways.
I really enjoyed it, especially because I'm an exchange student here. I'm French. So it was really a great insight into Black American politics and an inner view of Black American issues and broader issues, of course, such as gay rights.
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