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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Was Cornel West left behind?

Outlandish statements are often the college professors stock in trade to get students' attention (remember Silber Shockers?). But Princeton's Cornel West has made John Silber seem polite with racial and anti-Semitic jabs aimed at Barack Obama.

There is clearly a disappointment over Obama in some corners of the left (people who seem to have forgotten the damage caused by George Bush and that threatened by Paul Ryan). Yes, we are still in Afghanistan and the the financial reforms are too weak.

But unlike Bush, who took a tainted victory and turned it into a right-wing mandate with massive tax cuts and two credit card wars, Obama has tried to govern as president of all the United States, not just who voted for him.

Apparently not good enough for brother West, who sounded an awful lot like Glenn Beck in declaring:
“I think my dear brother Barack Obama has a certain fear of free black men,” West says. “It’s understandable. As a young brother who grows up in a white context, brilliant African father, he’s always had to fear being a white man with black skin. All he has known culturally is white. He is just as human as I am, but that is his cultural formation.
"When he meets an independent black brother, it is frightening. And that’s true for a white brother. When you get a white brother who meets a free, independent black man, they got to be mature to really embrace fully what the brother is saying to them. It’s a tension, given the history. It can be overcome. Obama, coming out of Kansas influence, white, loving grandparents, coming out of Hawaii and Indonesia, when he meets these independent black folk who have a history of slavery, Jim Crow, Jane Crow and so on, he is very apprehensive. He has a certain rootlessness, a deracination. It is understandable."
But not content to leave it there, West reprises the battle that had him uproot from Cambridge and head to Princeton:
“He feels most comfortable with upper middle-class white and Jewish men who consider themselves very smart, very savvy and very effective in getting what they want,” he says. “He’s got two homes. He has got his family and whatever challenges go on there, and this other home. Larry Summers blows his mind because he’s so smart. He’s got Establishment connections. He’s embracing me. It is this smartness, this truncated brilliance, that titillates and stimulates brother Barack and makes him feel at home. That is very sad for me."
Sad for all of us that West appears to be using charged language to lash out over the fact "brother Barack" chose Summers for a Washington position while failing to return his phone calls.

It was left to the Rev. Al Sharpton, who played a similar role to West in a generation earlier, to ask the obvious:
My question to Dr. West: Is this personal or it is political? Where has the president’s politics changed since when [West] endorsed and supported him for president?’’
Ultimately the Globe's Yvonne Abraham sums it up best:
This is absolute buffoonery, especially since it comes from a man cosseted in the Ivy League for decades. It would all be laughably over the top, except for the fact that West’s darts reach way beyond his frenemy-in-chief, and right into our neighborhoods.
West, like Silber before him, must learn that shockers are best used on sleep undergraduates at 8 a.m. lecture courses. There is honest dialogue and there is over-the-top demagoguery. Brother West has gone way over the top.

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