Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Crisis of the Negro Public Intellectual: Cornel West

Cornel West 

From The Boston Globe, "A lesson for Cornel West," by Derrick Z. Jackson a Globe Columnist, on 28 May 2011

IT WAS not enough for Cornel West to ridicule the first African-American president as a “black mascot.’’ The loquacious professor also fired his blunderbuss at Michelle Obama. In the process, he splattered a generation of black people freeing itself from narrow identities and stereotypes.

The Princeton African-American studies professor belittled the First Lady’s causes of child obesity and assisting military families, by scornfully asking on the website Truthdig: “Why doesn’t she visit a prison? Why doesn’t she spend some time in the hood?’’


The down-with-the-people professor clearly has spent too much time in the ivory tower to see the many ways to be “in the hood.’’ It escapes him that 42 percent of African-American women are now obese, putting them on the leading edge of a crisis that is shortening the lifespan of US citizens.

West’s dismissal of Ms. Obama’s work with military families is even more peculiar. In a nation 13 percent black, African-Americans comprise 20 percent of the active-duty Army. More than a third of Army women are black. Retired Brigadier General Wilma Vaught, president of the national foundation that recognizes women’s military service, said Michelle Obama “is following in the footsteps of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt’s World War II fame.’’


The backstory for West’s attack is that he supported the Obama campaign hoping for a progressive White House but has since felt politically betrayed and personally snubbed. While criticizing Obama’s policies is fair game, it is despairing to see an Ivy League professor of rare privilege himself succumb to a jealous attempt to humiliate fellow achievers.

West’s attempt to claw the Obamas down into his crab barrel of authenticity contradicts his own writings. In 2007, he wrote how remarkable it was that descendants of slaves “now excel in the broad range of American life.’’ West complained that we spend too much time debating the woes of black people to “discuss the factors that led to the successes of millions of African-Americans,’’ and that we should ponder more optimistically why “a country so flawed in its founding nonetheless produces such an accomplished population?’’


Those accomplishments are growing, both domestically and globally. But West would prefer to launch missives that by extension would block the vision of today’s generation of African-Americans. Their accomplishments are not restricted to any specific “hood,’’ but to the world stage. For example, my two adult sons speak fluent German. One of my teenage goddaughters speaks fluent Japanese; another has written musical compositions performed by adults. The daughter of one of my mentors, an editor who co-founded the nation’s largest black journalist organization, speaks fluent Mandarin and taught English as a second language in China.


It has not occurred to any of us that these unscripted lives, young lives unimagined by ancestors in shackles, make them any less black. W.E.B. DuBois once said a black person just wants to be “both a Negro and an American, without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of opportunity closed roughly in his face.’’ West has no business spitting out racial curses that serve to close those doors of opportunity. (source: The Boston Globe)

12 comments:

  1. Well stated. Shared on FB with a comment about the photo of West wearing gold cuff links. Very telling, imo. Of course, more important are his remarks, which are self-serving, petty and which do nothing to contribute to the hopes and well-being of African Americans or society as a whole.

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  2. Derrick Z. Jackson's article is just stupid. Millions of Blacks all over the world speak German, French, Mandarin, etc. and have done so for centuries. It's disingenuous of him to let Obama off on the lame excuse that his neglect of the most basic needs of Black Americans for a fair justice system and economic help is just jealousy and crab barrel authenticity thinking. Obama and Black "successes" such as Mr. Jackson feel they are so
    wonderful that they are entitled to the loyalty of the Black population without doing anything to deserve it. What is the difference between MLK and BHO? King risked his life to challenge racism. Obama uses racism to tell Blacks that he can't do anything for them, he can't be seen as the Black President. Obama has no qualms pandering to a very long list of special interest groups. Obama's mode of governance ( taking the Black vote for granted) has a long tradition in American politics.

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    1. I couldn't disagree with you more. Most black Americans DO NOT speak a second language -- not German, French, Spanish, Mandarin -- nothing but English. Heck, most Americans don't speak a second language fluently. Speaking foreign languages used to be a requirement for a college degree, but now even that is optional. I'm sure there are millions of blacks born in former colonies of Spain who speak Spanish, as is with French, Portuguese, Dutch and German. That would still mean that those languages were their FIRST language and English would be a SECOND language. There is only one country that impresses me, with respect to language fluency, and that is Senegal.

      If I ask any random Senegalese how many languages they are literate in (read, speak and write) they'll usually say 5-8 different languages.

      We've been in this country since 1619, a little shy of 400 years. At least 256 years of government sponsored enslavement and 100 years of Jim Crow Apartheid. Heck, blacks just became "full citizens" in 1965 -- and you're going to blame President Obama's 4 years of heading ONE BRANCH of Government on 400 years of oppression. GET REAL!

      Cornel West is goofy, petty, and irrelevant. His wittle feeling got hurt, so he's going to hand the government over to the freaken Neo-Confederates in the Republican Party. We've seen this trick bag before, remember the Democratic Convention in 1968 that ushered in the Southern Strategy and Law and Order with Nixon, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Reagan, George H.W. Bush. Are we perpetual victims of history? Can't we learn a freaken thing. President Johnson didn't do everything the Left-Wing wanted him to do -- so what! He wasn't Richard Nixon!

      --Ron Edwards, US Slave Blog

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  3. Ron,Ron, As the old creep Ronald Reagan used to say, there you go again. BHO gave his Wall Street buddies trillions of Dollars after they criminally looted the economy, but he can only sneer at poor Black Americans by telling them they don't have the moral fiber to pull themselves out of poverty. He didn't even have the decency to get out of Bush's stupid wars. He spent more billions on the "surge" in Afghanistan. Your hero has done nothing but pander to the right wing that you think will do much worse if we don't all go out and vote for Obama. What a joke! You go on about Black Americans not speaking a second language. My comment referred to Blacks not Black Americans. Please tell me that I'm wrong about Obama taking the Black vote for granted. In 1912 Blacks, the talented tenth anyway, went all out for Woodrow Wilson. I'll leave it up to you to find out how that worked out for them. Your claim that the left wing should make no demands is absurd. You may disagree with their demands but you don't have the right to tell them to be eunuchs for your pleasure. Anti-Black political backlashes are as American as apple pie, they occurred after the Civil War, the 1912 election, the Civil Rights movement and other social upheavals I can't recall because that is the nature of American society.

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    1. You are certainly amusing.

      Now, let's talk FACTS, not CONJECTURE.

      First you stated "BHO gave his Wall Street buddies trillions of Dollars after they criminally looted the economy ... "

      FACT: TARP was signed by REPUBLICAN President Bush, Senator Obama was just ONE vote among 50 Senators. He had the same exact voting power as Senator John McCain and Senator Hillary Clinton.

      Now, that we've opened-up that bailout can of worms, let's dig deeper into the historical FACTS of bailouts from 1970:

      1970 -- Republican Nixon -- Penn Central Rail
      1971 -- Republican Nixon -- Lockheed
      1974 -- Republican Ford -- Franklin National Bank
      1975 -- Republican Ford -- New York City

      1980 -- Democrat Carter -- Chrysler
      1984 -- Republican Reagan -- Continental Illinois Bank and Trust
      1989 -- Republican Bush -- Savings and Loans
      2001 -- Republican W. Bush -- Airline Industry
      2008 -- Republican w. Bush -- AIG, Bear Stearns, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, Banking Industry
      2009 -- Democrat Obama -- Chrysler and General Motors

      (http://www.miamiherald.com/2008/09/23/698360/government-bailouts.html)

      #2 -- You said "He didn't even have the decency to get out of Bush's stupid wars. He spent more billions on the "surge" in Afghanistan."

      Hey, I can't argue with you about the stupid war in Afghanistan, but I guess you didn't notice that President pulled out the troops in Iraq LAST YEAR.

      #3 You said, "You go on about Black Americans not speaking a second language. My comment referred to Blacks not Black Americans. "

      Perhaps you should re-read the post. I started out by stating that black Americans for the most part only speak English. I did clarify that Europeans have colonized most of the world, and certainly after the Treaty of Berlin 80% of Africa, 100% of Australia and South America (more Africans were sold in South America less that 10% were sold in the USA), so naturally blacks would speak the language of the conquers.

      #4. You said, "Please tell me that I'm wrong about Obama taking the Black vote for granted. "

      Okay. You're wrong.

      #5. You said: "In 1912 Blacks, the talented tenth anyway, went all out for Woodrow Wilson."

      I know you're not even comparing President Obama with that racist SOB called Woodrow Wilson.

      But, as you well know, and I have posted about it plenty of times, the US Constitution DID NOT APPLY TO BLACK CITIZENS in 1912. In 1870, Thaddeus Stevenson made sure to pass the Negro Suffrage Amendment, called the 15th Amendment, to ensure the franchise of black males (since the 19th Amendment for women's suffrage wasn't law until 1919). After the Republican Compromise of 1876, ALL of the former CONFEDERATE STATES of AMERICA circumvented the law and disenfranchised the entire black race until 1965.

      Woodrow Wilson segregated Washington, DC, but the ENTIRE nation was segregated after 1896. And in many parts of the USA it is STILL just as segregated as it was.

      Since there is a limit on the length of the comments, I'm going to answer the rest of your assertions on the next post.

      --Ron Edwards, US Slave Blog

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    2. #6. You said: "Your claim that the left wing should make no demands is absurd."

      Everybody has the right to be wrong. Cornel West and his sidekick Tavis Smiley are politicizing their personal greivances -- and that is wrong. There is a time, place, and space to petition your government. To publically hurl spitballs at President Obama out of the windows of their Poverty-pimp Bus is just assinine.

      #7 You said, "You may disagree with their demands but you don't have the right to tell them to be eunuchs for your pleasure."

      Eunuchs? Really? This is a SLAVE BLOG. As such, "eunuchs" is a fully loaded term. Although I have never posted on this practice, mostly from the Arab slave trade in northern and eastern Africa (although I do have a couple of posts on Zanzibar, I dont't get too deep in the sex trade and Harems -- heck, my advertisers have already jumped ship due to the objectionable content and graphic images). I can't enven engage with the "eunuch" term. Not only does it genderize it, it completely devalues a wicked practice of castration and enslavement.

      #7. You said: "Anti-Black political backlashes are as American as apple pie, they occurred after the Civil War, the 1912 election, the Civil Rights movement and other social upheavals I can't recall because that is the nature of American society."

      If you click around a bit on the sidebars and browse this blog a bit, you'll certainly find that I am well aware of the blackbacklash phenomon in the USA. Black people are America's builtin scapegoat to blame for whatever. If you can't go to college blame the black, your case will go all the way to the Supreme Court and they'll make sure that Affirmative Action thing just disappears (isn't it ironic that Affirmative Action benefits WHITE WOMEN more than black people. But it's easier to demonize Shaquana than MaryBeth). The white woman, Susan Smith killed her babies, no problem, blame a nigger. If drugs are a trillion dollar a year industry (Afghanastan supplies 94% of the world's heroin), blame a black man and incarcerate them by the mega-millions. Bank failure? of course it's the black folks buying houses they can't afford. Defunct public schools? It must be because of those black kids. There is always money for prisons, but never enough money for schools. And whose fault is it, black people. It sounds a bit cynical, but after researching American history from the Colonial Period to Modern Times it seems to be the national narrative to scapegoat blacks. You can see it play itself out with lynchings, sundowntowns, anti-integration protests, white-flight, mass incarceration, anti-Affirmative Action, anti-busing, etc.

      --Ron Edwards, US Slave Blog

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  4. Thank you Ron for agreeing with my main claim: Blacks have always been taken for granted by the powers that be. How is Obama different? Our disagreement on Obama is a minor one. W.E.B. Dubois thought the world of Wilson when the latter ran for President only to have him reveal himself a rabid racist. The only sane comparison I can make between Wilson and Obama is that they were both the idols of the talented tenth of their time. Please substantiate your poverty pimp jibe at West and Smiley. I pray that a concern for the victims of bad housing, schooling and racist policing isn't your main claim for being a poverty pimp, because that would be intelectually bankrupt. The fate of Blacks in the U.S.A isn't determined by the electoral success or failure of Obama or any other politician. West and others have a right to publicly denounce Obama when they disagree with the man. Whether they make their criticism sotto voce or loudly should be up to them as free men.

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    1. “Thank you Ron for agreeing with my main claim: Blacks have always been taken for granted by the powers that be.”

      “Taken for granted” would be a mild outcome. That term implies that black people are ignored or patronized; but, black people are demonized, dehumanized, and weaponized. This aggressive political strategy of negrophobia just goes on and on and on, like an endless loop.

      “ How is Obama different? Our disagreement on Obama is a minor one.”

      You and I can agree to disagree on President Obama. However, the historical record does not substantiate your claim. In that 12 presidents OWNED slaves: Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, James Polk, Zachary Taylor, Andrew Johnson, and Ulysses Grant. President Teddy Roosevelt's Panama Canal project with black laborers paid in silver and whites paid in gold. FDR's New Deal Social Security that EXCLUDED farm and domestic labor (the employment of most black folks in the USA). The WWII G.I. Bill that discriminated against black servicemen in housing, education and compensation. Widespread lynching that was tolerated by each and every administration. The Mississippi Plan crafted by President Andrew Johnson. The Compromise of 1877 that Republican President Rutherford B. Hayes withdrew federal troops from the Former Confederate States of America, to leave the freed slaves in the loving arms of the reconstituted Confederate Army (KKK, White League, White Camilla, Red Shirts). Ronald Reagan's welfare queens, George H.W. Bush's Willie Horton. I could go on and on and on, but I'm sure you get my point.

      You said, “W.E.B. Dubois thought the world of Wilson when the latter ran for President only to have him reveal himself a rabid racist. The only sane comparison I can make between Wilson and Obama is that they were both the idols of the talented tenth of their time.”

      Oh man, W.E.B. Dubois gave-up on America he renounced his citizenship, left the country and became a card-carrying member of the Communist Party. And that was a problem. It wasn't until a few years ago, when the University of Massachusetts received the W.E.B. Du Bois papers they were left to Herbert Aptheker. The Aptheker Estate finally released the papers, but his Communism ties have been problematic. Dubois lost faith in politicians. The Progressive Era's rhetoric seemed to be aligned with the concerns of blacks, however ALL of the politicians – Woodrow Wilson, Pitchfork Ben Tillman, Tom Watson – weaponized their negrophobia under the guise of Populism. It is unfortunate, but true the Fusion Parties and the Populist Parties could have had a long stint in America, but the degeneration nature of rabid racism becomes untenable over time. The unleashing of the Hell Hounds of Hate curses both the haters and the hated.

      --Ron Edwards, US Slave Blog

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    2. You said, “Please substantiate your poverty pimp jibe at West and Smiley. I pray that a concern for the victims of bad housing, schooling and racist policing isn't your main claim for being a poverty pimp, because that would be intelectually bankrupt.”

      This will take-up too much bandwidth to unpack in the comment section, I'll have to craft a separate blog post. But, let's take a quick look at your points on bad housing,schooling and policing:

      Housing. Is it a shelter or an asset? Why not both.
      If one were SERIOUS about addressing housing, instead of Poverty-pimping, then there are ways of addressing the housing situation. First in each and every city in the USA there are HUD houses for sale for $1.00. But, if you don't want to play with the government bureaucracy then, Cornel West could get one of his buddies like JayZ or his wife Beyonce or MosDef, or Prince to have a concert for “seed money” to purchase distressed ghetto houses in cities where the property values are severely undervalued like Detroit, East St. Louis, Harvey, Illinois, Gary, Indiana, Camden, New Jersey, or Jackson, Mississippi.
      Do a 10 by 10 plan. Buy 10 distressed houses, train 10 ex-offenders in carpentry, masonry, roofing, plumbing, etc. FIX UP the properties so they are habitable. The benefits, 10 ex-offenders are off the street, learn a productive and transferable skill, and they help clean-up the ghetto blight. They would pay a nominal “rent” for a set number of years to offset material costs and property taxes. After that set number of years (I thinking 7-10 years) they OWN the DEED to the housing. Win, win, win. They have an asset, they have a skill, they are brought back into the social fold, they are STAKE HOLDERS.

      Cornel West and Tavis Smiley just want to do some goofy dramatic street theater that is neither sustainable nor scalable.


      EDUCATION is easy. It's just a matter of reading, writing, calculating and thinking critically. Any 4 year old can learn how to read. Writing is a craft that needs man-hours of practice, but what else are kids doing. The only materials that are needed are a pen and paper—it's really low tech. Calculating. There are only 10 numbers (0-9), four functions (adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing) all math is based on those four functions. Critically thinking. Now, this you might need instructions for; but even that is simple – Question EVERYTHING, Deconstruct EVERTHING, Query FACTS, Apply LOGIC. Cornel West is an educator, he could do online programs like “Schoolhouse Rock” to teach. Or write a book. Why doesn't he do that? Oh yes, it's not very sexy. You can't wear gold cufflinks when you have to roll-up your sleeves

      I'm NOT IMPRESSED with Tavis Smiley or Cornel West. They just talk the talk, but they are unwilling to walk the walk.

      You said, “The fate of Blacks in the U.S.A isn't determined by the electoral success or failure of Obama or any other politician.”

      I absolutely DISAGREE! Please revisit the above discussion on the past presidents.

      You said, “West and others have a right to publicly denounce Obama when they disagree with the man. Whether they make their criticism sotto voce or loudly should be up to them as free men.”

      I think I have already stated that EVERYBODY has the right to be wrong.

      --Ron Edwards, US Slave Blog

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  5. Having failed to substantiate your poverty pimp jibe, instead of admitting it you put forward a warmed over Booker T. Washington/ Black Muslim self-help program. How quaint! I insist on thanking you for the following(I'm even a bit jealous for not having put it as well as you):"black people are demonized, dehumanized, and weaponized." Was it you who wrote the following? "Heck, blacks just became "full citizens" in 1965 -- and you're going to blame President Obama's 4 years of heading ONE BRANCH of Government on 400 years of oppression. GET REAL!" If you are how can you also write that you disagree that the fate of Blacks in the U.S.A does not depend on the success or failure of any politician. Will Romney nationalize Oprah's Billions? I think not. As a typical Obama agonist when you are asked why your hero hasn't done more for his most loyal constituents you use the get real argument when someone says your hero isn't as important as you think you come out with the Neo-Confederate argument. Let's say you get your wish of 4 more years of Obama What happens in 2016? I'm not sure what to make of your comment on Dubois's communism. Let me assure you that he was nothing of the sort in 1912.

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    1. A Poverty Bus is STU-PID! What does a Poverty Bus accomplish? N-O-T-H-I-N-G! Absolutely nothing. If they are serious about poverty, and the jury is still out on that count, then why don't they do something that actually works.

      Perhaps it sounds like a warmed over Booker T or Black Muslim thang, but maybe those guys had a point. I have had an ongoing Hate-Hate-Love-Hate-Hate-Hate-Love-Hate relationship with Mr. Booker T. for a long time. But, crops grows in dirt and poop. If I can disregard all of the Hate-Hate-Hate I have for Mr. Booker T., then his "Cast Down Your Bucket" speech or as Dubois coined it "The Atlanta Compromise" was really pretty good. Also the founding of Tuskegee Institute.

      Tavis Smiley and Cornel West just seem opportunistic and petty. They think selfishly small. All of that stupid jive talk ... "with love" "in love" ... Really, perhaps the dude with a Ph.D. in Theology (Cornel West) should revisit the Bible:

      1 Corinthians 13:4-8 from the New International Version (NIV)

      4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

      8 Love never fails.

      If you put the biblical text in the hopper and compare it with the actions of the Professor of Religion with a Doctorate Degree in Theology, then the right good doctor falls short of his own discipline.

      If Mary McCleod Bethune can start a school in a brokedown storefront, if Booker T. can build a school with student labor, if the Fisk Jubilee Singers can fund a school with their voices, if a poor sharecropper named Fannie Lou Hammer can change the Democratic Party, if three women can organize the Montgomery Bus Boycott (yes, they did it, King just gets the historical credit) .... then you can't tell me that two dudes armed to the teeth with social, political and economical capital can't do any better than big-pimpin on the Poverty Bus.

      You call it what you want, I'll call it a big disappointment.

      --Ron Edwards, US Slave Blog

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    2. You said, "I'm not sure what to make of your comment on Dubois's communism. Let me assure you that he was nothing of the sort in 1912."

      Please click on the "home" link and you can read about W.E.B. Dubois and the Commies. or you can simply past this link: http://usslave.blogspot.com/2012/10/dr-we-b-du-bois-joins-communist-party.html

      Yes, it's true and he was a Commie BEFORE working on the Wilson campaign.

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