Cornel West: ‘Disgusting To Have A Black President Unable To Keep Track Of What’s Going On Among The Black Youth’

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WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — Political activist Cornel West slammed President Barack Obama for his “disgusting” response to the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., by a white police officer.

Speaking to BBC News, West stated that Obama doesn’t know what’s going on with African-American youth today.

“It’s disgusting to have a black president unable to keep track of what’s going on among the black youth or any poor youth,” West said.

West chided Obama for issuing a statement on Robin Williams’ death before Brown’s.

“His words reek of political calculation rather than moral conviction. Keep in mind that he put out a statement for the death of Robin Williams, who was a great comic genius, before he put out a statement on brother Michael Brown,” West told BBC News. “You say, ‘Wait a minute, what’s going on?’”

West denounced the lack of black leadership in America in the wake of the Ferguson protests, saying that the Rev. Al Sharpton and others have become apologists for the president over racial divides.

“What we need now is quality leadership on every level. We don’t need the same kind of everyday folk coming through with the market branding, with the names and photo opportunities,” West explained to BBC News. “We need local grassroots leaders who have integrity. The sad thing is we have such low quality black leadership in America, so you get a certain distance from what is actually happening on the ground in terms of not just being there, but following through. We’ve got people who have been apologists for the Obama administration, Sharpton and the others, who every event, come through over and over again.”

West added that the situation would’ve been different had Brown been white.

“There’s no doubt that once again we have to deal with the vicious legacy of white supremacy. Once again we have to raise the question, if our dear brother Michael Brown were a precious white youth killed in Newtown, Connecticut, or a precious Jewish youth killed in Westchester, New York, would the president, Congress, legal system respond in the same way with him being a precious young black brother from Ferguson? I think we know the answer,” West said. “The American system is an abysmal failure when it comes to keeping track of the humanity of the black poor and the black boy youth.”

Obama is sending Holder to Ferguson to bring the full weight of the federal government into the investigation of the death of Brown, who was unarmed when Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson shot him multiple times Aug. 9. Daily and nightly protests, sometimes marred by rioting and looting and met with tear gas and rubber-coated bullets from police, have rocked the suburban St. Louis community since.

In an open letter published late Tuesday on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch website, Holder promised a thorough investigation into the Brown shooting while calling for “an end to the acts of violence in the streets of Ferguson.”

“The Justice Department will defend the right of protesters to peacefully demonstrate and for the media to cover a story that must be told,” Holder wrote. “But violence cannot be condoned. I urge the citizens of Ferguson who have been peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights to join with law enforcement in condemning the actions of looters, vandals and others seeking to inflame tensions and sow discord.”

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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