West vs. Obama: "Blacks Airing Dirty Laundry"?
Obama is handling it just like he handled Donald Trump - instead of preaching us a sermon, heâ€™s living us one. Every person in America should take great pride in the way that young brother represented this nation during his recent trip to Europe.
[Beneath The Spin]
There are some in the Black community who feel that the controversy ignited after Dr. Cornel West called President Obama “a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats,” and that he felt threatened by “free Black men,” counterproductive.
They say it’s nothing more than an exercise in Black, intellectual elitists contemplating their navels, and thereby, publically airing the Black community’s dirty laundry. Dr. Nsenga Burton takes the following position in her article,“Cornel West: The Fallout Continues Over Obama Comments,” that appeared in TheRoot: “Isn't it interesting that black male commentators are using stereotypes ascribed to black males to critique West, and diminishing his intellectual contributions in the process? Instead of a 'bloody lip,' in the game of dozens when one goes too far, West's virtual 'bloody lip' is the result of blogosphere gone awry.”
While admittedly, I feel an innate visceral attachment to this argument, my commitment to logical thought forces me to reject it. First, every debate is a source of knowledge, so to say that any source of knowledge has “gone awry” is counterintuitive on its face. Secondly, I reject the entire concept of fixating on Black stereotyping. It’s a gross waste of intellectual energy, and nothing more than a senseless exercise in concerning ourselves more with what others think of the Black community than of what we think of ourselves.
Instead of becoming obsessed with how others portray us, our energies should be directed toward living above any kind of negative stereotyping. That’s one of the things that Obama does so well, and it’s the primary reason why he’s hated so intensely by his enemies - both Black and White. To my knowledge, Obama hasn’t said a word in response to Dr. West’s tirade. He’s handling it just like he handled Donald Trump - instead of preaching us a sermon, he’s living us one. Every person in America should take great pride in the way that young brother represented this nation during his recent trip to Europe.
But even if we do take stereotyping into consideration, I don’t see what calling an idiotic statement idiotic has to do with Black people, and just by saying that it does suggests that Black people corner the market on idiocy, a position that I vigorously reject.
Dr. Burton’s position also seems to suggest that the ongoing debate occupies intellectual terrain that is somehow remote from the average Black person’s frame of reference. Such a position is not only condescending to the Black community, but it also betrays an intellectual elitism that grossly underestimates the intelligence of the Black community.
She quotes me in The Black Star News as saying,
"The fact is, anyone who considers West's remarks toward President Obama merely an objective and scholarly critique of the political environment needs to go back and take a refresher course in both freshman English and forensics. The comments directed at President Obama by Cornel West was nothing short of a racist and petty personal tirade by a woefully presumptuous and undisciplined mind. His comments were not only less than constructive and nonspecific, but they were also saturated with unsubstantiated personal attacks against the president. They were, indeed, Palinesque in both nature and intent."
I stand by every syllable unequivocally, and I challenge anyone to show me where I was in error. Yet, Dr. Burton says the following regarding my comments and the comments of others attendant to this controversy:
“But we do hope that this plantation narrative that is spiraling out of control in the new-media space will right itself and become a discussion about something meaningful - explicit policies to protect the poor - as opposed to an abundance of attacks on a brother, even West, who admittedly was dead wrong. Bashing West the same way that he bashed Obama is hypocritical and is not moving the discussion, the intellectual community or this country forward.”
I find Dr. Burton’s position quite curious. Why is that every other group in America can debate and criticize one another ad nauseam, yet the minute we point out that Cornel West made a damn fool of himself it becomes “plantation” mentality? If we are ever to move forward in the Black community, we must be just as free as every other segment of the population to call a hat a hat, and a fool a fool. If we embrace that as a tradition, maybe the next Cornel West will be much more circumspect before making a foolish, and self-serving idiot of himself.
Thus, instead of refraining from criticizing fellow Blacks, we should do it much more often. If we’d spoken out more aggressively against Clarence Thomas we probably wouldn’t be suffering from his ignorance today. And frankly, I don’t see a discernable difference - a demagogue is a demagogue, regardless of political persuasion. If Obama would have embraced West, believe me, he would have undoubtedly been Obama's most enthusiastic cheerleader. He's clearly demonstrated his character.
So the fact is, with the benefit of hindsight, I wish I’d been even more critical. Because if West is indeed as concerned about the Black community as he claims, he needs to either resign from the rarified environment of Princeton and come teach third grade in the hood, or shut up and write a book; that way we'll have a choice as to whether or not we want to listen to him.
And by the way, I am far from an Obama cheerleader: http://wattree.blogspot.com/2011/01/obama-supporters-vs-cheerleaders.html. The only reason I have to point that out is because Tavis Smiley and West have muddied the waters so badly that now, when we speak out, we have to convince one another that we’re not lackeys for either one side or the other. That’s a gross disservice to both the Black community, and America.
For more articles by columnist Eric L. Wattree please see http://wattree.blogspot.com/
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