Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Cornel West Goes Hard on the President: I think my dear brother Barack Obama has a certain fear of free black men...


Hat tip to Ta-Nahesi Coates for this one.

It would seem that Cornel West is none to pleased with Barack Obama. I have nothing but love for Brother Cornel and count him as a family and personal friend. But the portrait he paints of Obama--and unintentionally of himself--in this piece by Chris Hedges is devastating, just damning, for lack of a better word.

“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.

“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..."

Dr. West is pissed and personally hurt by what he perceives as disrespect by the President, a man he advised, campaigned for, and of whom he was an early supporter. President Obama and his retinue are upset that Dr. West is being a bit impolitic and calling him out personally. Thus the tragedy of the base--one that is especially great for those Progressives who elected Obama into office.

He cannot be what you want him to be. This was predictable. That reality does not make it right. But in a country where "left,""liberal," and "progressive" are still dirty words, and democracy has been replaced by a corporatocracy, no true radical will ever likely don the cape and crown of the Presidency. Sorry.

Some of what Brother Cornel sons Obama for echoes the conversations that we have had here on We Are Respectable Negroes. Funny, when your own criticisms of Obama's attitude, blackness, and identity are mirrored by a 3rd party it sort of feels unseemly.

Consequently, I think I am going to take a moment of "critical self-reflection" and meditate on what is out of bounds, and perhaps not even accurate, regarding how we triangulate blackness (and a commitment to black America) with President Obama and his policy decisions.

Am I alone, or do you all get where I am coming from?

33 comments:

The New Black Woman said...

Hm...let me ponder this for a minute and I'll be back...

The New Black Woman said...

I think part of the problem is many folks, including a lot of progressive black folks, felt like Barack Obama will be the president they hoped Bill Clinton would have been: someone who did not cave to Republican pressure and maintained his left-of-center platform and beliefs. Progressives and those on the left have been yearning for a politician like Sen. Ted Kennedy who never compromised his beliefs just for political gain. What these progressives need to realize that any political belief left-of-center is vilified as resembling socialism. Progressive and leftist politicians just aren't able to succeed at the national level because of the unfortunate campaign by Republicans and those on the right to paint those on the left as those who are out to dismantle the American capitalist, democratic system.

I will go out on a limb to say Cornel West's criticism is part of a feeling among older black politicians and activists who view themselves as paving the way for Obama of not being appreciated and respected. Also, a lot of black folks have the mindset that blacks who made it are obliged to reach back and help those who are struggling. It seems like West felt Obama was required to reach back and help those struggling (those same folks who supported him in his community organizing and his subsequent runs for office). Since Obama has proven himself to be just another politician, West felt the need to incite emotional outrage by implicating Obama as an Uncle Tom who's "threatened" by black men who refuse to play the white man's game.

It's really unfortunate that Cornel West would stoop to this level and rely on emotional baggage to make his claim. I would like to ask him how much he charges universities and nonprofit organizations to come and speak to their audiences. I'm sure he's not asking for pennies on the dollar here.

Thrasher said...

I have very little respect for intellectual cowards like Coates( he bans Black folks like me who dare to argue against his Black liberal apologist routine at Atlantic)...He has mastered pandering and appeasement to whites who worship him at Atlantic.

Now to the issue at hand..I doubt if Ms. Perry had the courage or integrity to confront West her rants are full of envy..
She reminds me of Coathes, Serwer the NIMBY Black folk cult..

West as usual was right on the money not only about Oabama's lack of negritude but his fear of Black men ..I have always been troubled by his lack of Black men in his inner orbit ..West was on target as well about white jewish males also..

Truth is none of West Black liberal Obama apologist have any depth or legacy that West has..All of them are lacking..

Thank You Cornel for this public service maybe Obama will now wake the Black side of his up!!!

Thrasher said...

CD,

There is nothing progressive about not being progressive..I have more respect for CWest than ever before..It pains me to observe Black pundits play the good negro role as they attack Cwest for daring to question the lack of Blackness ( yep I went there) present in an Obama white house..

Obama always leverages Black folks he goes over the top with it from his campaign patronizing beatdowns of Black fathers to ass kissin of Gates and the cop saga in the white house..The list is full of these Biracial Obama moments..

Obama will no doubt during his relection stint have a Clinton 'sista soulja" moment to appease and pander to the white electorate..WTF

Thrasher said...

One parting comment on the issue of "She/He Black Enough"

I am so tired of the chatter class of Black punditry and others who seek to discredit this legacy of Black Identity litmus check..

This cultural device was all the community had for centuries is was our tool to get accountibility and a Black agenda from Black folks who were selected by the white ruling class as our agent..They represented as the young g's state..

Absent any formal political interest groups this cultural device Black folks use actually still have currency and value..

I hope Black America will not abandoned our cultural tools just to appease others and become noble good coloreds in the eyes of others..

It is tragic how we unarmed ourselves and how we self police our culture to pander and appease tem...

I never will..

40 said...

Is it that time of year for questioning blackness? Its funny how the sports world dealt with this last week when Bernard "The Executioner" Hopkins called out Donovan McNabb for not being "black enough". Which I find a rather ignorant statement, for questioning blackness is something that seems to happen out of general malaise and boredom. How can there be the utopian ideal of "Black Unity" when the definition itself is subjectively amorphous? However its easy to dismiss BHop as a cantankerous ex-con who was a guest of the state, when such quips are made. Coming from someone like Cornel West is it so easily dismissive?

To many of the Negroe masses Cornel West's "blackness" can be called in to question due to his abuse of five-dollar words, ubiquitous neck warmer, and untamed mop that would have him labeled "Acting White" in several circumstances. I've never been overly Obama-philic or suspended my critiques of him based on tribal affiliation, but Dr. West attacks from a position of comfort where he'll never be in the completely version territory BO is in.

What does he want from Barack? Obviously inviting a rapper to the White House is problematic to a segment of the population. BBQ's on the White House lawn? Presdential pardons for Jeff Fort & Larry Hoover (I'd actually like to see that one), how does one define one's blackness in a place where its never existed? Cornel West as the comfort of academia to espouse his rhetoric and critque (which HAS merit) where BO has bigger things to worry about at the moment then Cornel West.

40 said...

PS - I'm over simplifying to prove a point. I know there's more to being black than that... But for the point of discussion can we get a "Baseline of Blackness"?

Oh Crap said...

But for the point of discussion can we get a "Baseline of Blackness"?

Good luck with that, since there's never really been one.

Litmus tests are for 8th graders in science class. Adults secure in their own identities don't need to wield them, or need to jump through third party hoops to try and pass them.

I agree with New Black Woman on this latest use of that old dog-eared Uncle Tom card; some of it is definitely generational. When Nader was dumb enough to play it, he rightly got his ass trounced. When Jesse said he wanted to chop Obama's balls off, people rightly frowned. Lol now we've got a Black Ivy Leaguer trotting out that old authenticity saw against another. Give me a break.

Personally, I think West's main personal grievance is really about his own public tiffs with Larry Summers, whom I can't stand, either. But alas, Obama took Larry's side, tut-tut.

Oh Crap said...

I hope Black America will not abandoned our cultural tools just to appease others and become noble good coloreds in the eyes of others..

[rollseyes]

When I first read Hedges' piece I was somewhat surprised that West let himself be used by yet another white prog as a bat to beat Obama.

Playing Black Authenticity on the internet is easy, and fun. Any dork with a computer can do it!

CNu said...

If the discussion turns to policy, to questions of West's "politics of solidarity" cast as working class and racial rights, anti-materialism, and anti-militarism - then CWest makes perfect sense.

Double-O has clearly abandoned working class and poor Americans and providing black mimetic cover to war in Africa (Libya), political assassination, accelerated and evolving militarism, and sustained profiteering by the fractional reserve bankster elites.

Which part of those policy characterizations is even remotely controversial?

Thrasher said...

Given the legacy of Black life in America the notion by some people who hide behind an alias and post from their compueter that Black indentity is a 8th grade litmus test reads like a person with Black Indentity issues..Give me a break

West has a track record of confronting Obama's weak and shallow focus on Black folks chat types like Hedge always run to iconic people like West..

West was dead on about his comments from the lack of Black men in Obama's orbit to his thoughts about Obama's love of Wall Street over Main Street..

Obama taking Summers side is not a newsflash he always will appease white liberals at the expense of Black folks in part because he seeks re-election and a kinder nice negro was his mantra for winning the white house not to forget he is bi-racial ( please note my previous comments on this issue CD noted in his post)

Obama robots never go away even on this site never go away it appears..lol,lol,lol

Thrasher said...

Oh Crap,

I forgot to add instead of 'rolling my eyes' I was 'shaking my booty' at your comments....

CNu said...

Consequently, I think I am going to take a moment of "critical self-reflection" and meditate on what is out of bounds, and perhaps not even accurate, regarding how we triangulate blackness (and a commitment to black America) with President Obama and his policy decisions.

CD, unless you have objectives and an agenda that Double-O is measurably and effectively executing - why would any criticism be deemed "out of bounds"?

The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd line inheritors of the civil rights movement - have an agenda, have specific interests, etc.., - that Double-O is clearly not beholden to.

Double-O was elected president largely without recourse to the political and social capital of this kneegrow establishment. As if the lack of results they've achieved in office was not enough - take the Chair of the CBC, Rev.Mayor.Rep Emmanual Cleaver as an example - he initially supported Hellury Clinton - there is no more abject political failure in all of American politics AFAIC in terms of constituent services rendered than Cleaver. He is a blight not only on the local body politic, the man is an incompetent and an utter blight on the national political scene, as well.

These old, useless, and failed oxygen thieves are simply beginning to feel the painful bite of their own irrelevance and clearly demonstrated impotence. It is looooooooong overdue time for these old fools to go sit down somewhere...,

Thrasher said...

CNu,

Great post..I am refused to accept the premise that Black folks should just sit down and now have an opinion nor push Obama to address our agenda..

http://theprintedblog.com/pastissues/ThePrintedBlogVol1No2.pdf

CNu said...

Great post..I am refused to accept the premise that Black folks should just sit down and now have an opinion nor push Obama to address our agenda..

The error is identifying these self-serving geriatric failures with "Black folks".

The CBC - afrodemic public intellectual - "activist" ocracy - has had its day.

The world has passed them by and they are now a plainly obsolete and increasingly irrelevant class of political opportunists in need of swift and permanent retirement.

Double-O is a crystal clear message fired directly across the bow of these oxygen thieves. Had they done better by their constituents, had they done better in developing a genuine grassroots base - perhaps things would be otherwise.

As things presently stand, the only reason this tiresome but familiar cast of geriatric regulars continues to swirl around the bottom of the American political bowl - is because the mainstream hasn't identified and selected a critical mass of newcomer replacements.

The writing on the wall is plain enough to see, and these crusty critters are now faced with a series of collective resume updating events...,

Lady Zora, Chauncey DeVega, and Gordon Gartrelle said...

@NewBlack. Is all this upset about a fear of obsolescence? Or that Obama is messing up because the Old Guard still has much to offer and Obama is not kissing the ring--at least in public--enough?

@Thrasher. Cornel is Cornel. He is a Rolls Royce driving Socialist, but I love him for that. I am just nervous about the blackness police is all. I know Blackness when I see its absence. Obama has shown time and time again he is a "brother." Now, does this mean he is not a corporatist or center rightist or a bit too pragmatic for his own good? Those are the questions I want to explore and see this blackness debate as chaff and a detour.

@40. Cornel is in the fields struggling every day from Princeton and the lecture circuit ;) Be nice.

@Oh Crap. Seconded. I am also uncomfortable about the white gaze and spectatorship of all this. There is a lot of smiling and voyeurism going on in respect to the debate about the President's blackness.

Cnu. Seem my above point. I am all for criticizing policy. But trying to make this about authenticity gets me a bit nervous.

Daniel Goldberg said...

Question: where does the Jewishness of the white man Obama is allegedly more comfortable with come in?

(Reason for asking apropos of the discussions of whiteness here: Jews of Ashkenazi descent are usually if not exclusively white, but one has to be very careful not to homogenize whiteness. The powerful social privilege white men have by virtue of being white men ought not blind one to the very real stigmas and prejudices that can and do shape the lives of various subgroups of whites).

Thrasher said...

Daniel,

In America the majority of jews are white and many have expressed their pride of this this reality to me in various encounters....

Many( not all) enjoy the privledge of being white in America even during the jim crow era as well as during the aparthied era in South Africa..

With regard to your great question it is quite apparent to me that Obama's has no problem embracing white men and white jewish men in his inner circle..The absence of Black men and Black jewish men and other males of color in his inner circle leaves me with pause

I have posted many times on this site Obama's parenting was a white cultural infuence and paradigm. This white socialization lacked the critical life altering influence of Black males etc ( the salient point CWest has made many times)..

Given in america the majority of jewish people are white I would reason this reality addresses your query..

Of course I am not white nor am I a part of Obama's inner circle my thoughts are cleary my opinions..

Thrasher said...

Lady Zora, CD, GG,

I acknowledge your talking points but I have reservations as well..

I don't understand the disconnect I get often from Black intellectuals and the Black academic set regarding the Blackness police issue..

Black folks have been dehumanize in America as a sole result of our Blackness from the invention of the 'one drop rule to the inherent color index ranking and of course the old saw of Black Identity and Authenticity ..It has always been in play fom the house nigger to the field nigger ..How would it not be.. More inportantly as I posted earlier such a device often was a productive and functional cultural utility for the Black community it provided us with street accountibility and vetted out Uncle Toms,Race Apologists etc..

CWest is a anchor for a Black Community that has surrendered, retreated and under assault in all manner of living from unemployment to HIV nitemare currently on fire in our venues..

CWest needs our help ..It is in deed 'perilous times' we finally get a person of color in a white house yet what has it brought us.. I am of the opinion Obama is just the first of many we do get better with time as our wine....

Vesuvian Woman said...

Consider the train of thought that allows anyone to place qualifiers on 'Black-ness'. Is it our skin color or our heritage that makes a race, a nation?

Semantics, splitting hairs-- have you found humanity, yet. It's in there, heart-broken because each side, everyone, everywhere is singing the same hit song: Look at me, I'm the one who's worthy of a following.

God bless.

Oh Crap said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Oh Crap said...

@CD

I am also uncomfortable about the white gaze and spectatorship of all this.

Well yeah, it's the white gaze and a whole lot of other gazes, too, with many others being every bit as ignorant about us as the typical white.

Must say, though, I'm less about that than white progs like Hedges trotting out West as a device. Afaic, it's just another form of "some of my best friends are" and no different from the dumb leftybagger who voted for Obama to prove to the world how non-racist they are. I'm surprised CW fell for it; I would think if even a big dummy like me can see through that game, certainly he could.

Oh Crap said...

Question: where does the Jewishness of the white man Obama is allegedly more comfortable with come in?

Depends on who you ask. Among the litmus test set, some believe it's their place to judge the authenticity of others using the flimsy, irrelevant measure of how much you hate "Jews" (or conversely, how many "Jews" they think you have as friends or relatives.)

Or, far more importantly, how many times you go out of your way to be seen bellyaching about "Jews". Like all forms of grandstanding, it often has very little to do with any actual Jewish people and more to do with caricatures of "Jews", and general control freakery.

The Jewish community does self-identify as so-called "white", though. That's their own burden to bear and I don't envy it, especially given that so many of their white Christian bretheren detest their being Jewish as much as some of these Blacker-Than-Thou types.

So while your question is fair, it's equally fair to ask it on Jewish-oriented subject blogs. Have you done that? If so, what were the results?

Oh Crap said...

@Thrasher

CWest needs our help ..It is in deed 'perilous times' we finally get a person of color in a white house yet what has it brought us.. I am of the opinion Obama is just the first of many we do get better with time as our wine....

I would definitely agree with your last comment, though not the first. CWest is set: between his IL appointments, television bookings, speakers fees and his whole body of work, he's got one of the strongest legacies of any modern American thinker, let alone a Black thinker. Ok so he got his feelings hurt because he didn't get an engraved invitation to the inauguration, and that jerk Larry Summers has a cabinet position. Understandable. But why would he need help from me?

What kind of help could we possibly give him that he does not already have?

Daniel Goldberg said...

Thanks for the thoughtful responses, Thrasher and Oh Crap. In answer to the latter's question, the question of Jewishness and its relationship both to privilege and to oppression is something I have discussed on occasion with Jewish peers and family members, as well as colleagues. But not blogs . . .

Thrasher said...

@ Oh Crap,

From my vantage point I would offer him many things including affirmation and support of his talking points... Unlike you I am not interest in his material well being...

Oh Crap said...

@Thrasher,


From my vantage point I would offer him many things including affirmation and support of his talking points... Unlike you I am not interest in his material well being...


I'm not sure where you got the idea I have some interest in his material well being. Money, status, and things don't impress me. One of the things to admire about West is that unlike grandstanding, boorish, new money Roland Martin types, West doesn't feel the need to show off.

I would say the same goes for his body of intellectual work. I think our kids should emulate him in this.

The question was, why would someone with his legacy and body of work need any kind of validation from us, especially as re: this week's television/showbiz talking points?

Oh, and do only the self-proclaimed authentics get to provide this support? Wouldn't it be counterintuitive to have we litmus fails supporting his talking points? lol

Oh Crap said...

@Daniel Goldberg

In answer to the latter's question, the question of Jewishness and its relationship both to privilege and to oppression is something I have discussed on occasion with Jewish peers and family members, as well as colleagues. But not blogs . . .

Yeah, it's a question for the ages. In the non-J world, many a ridiculous -- and deadly -- conspiracy theory hinges on it. Scapegoating 101: their entire identity hinges on it. Without their invented scapegoat, which has zero bearing on the actual group of people, they wouldn't be able to convince themselves they know who they "truly" are.

Anti-Black bigots do the same exact thing with us. It goes without saying, the crossover between anti-Black and anti-Jewish/antisemitic scapegoating.

I'm not a regular on any Jewish blogs, but I do wonder if any subsequent mention of West will turn into the same annoying shorthand as "Jesse Jackson = H#mietown" has become, as if 25+ years later, that's the only thing J Jackson ever said. Or maybe it's only news in the Black blogosphere, and other people don't really care about it.

Every group has their contingent of jackasses and bigots. On a personal level, I don't accept, as anti-Black bigots do, that Black people have a higher per-capita than anyone else. I also don't accept, as anti-Jewish/antisemites do, that Jews have more aholes per-capita than anyone else, either.

The people who cling to that bullshit are better off getting in their time machine and going back to 1928 Europe, where that level of crankage was the norm, along with the same old anti-Black crankage also promoted as the truth.

Thrasher said...

Oh Crap,

With regard to West's need of my affirmation I never have a problem informing another Black person I admire them, I value them and what they do inspires me..

Sorry but I am not the cynic you appear to be;-) ( I think you are pretend bravo as well but I enjoy and value your intellect like I do West)

So the question remains Why not affirm and admire and give support to FREE BLACK MEN AND
For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf....

BTW I like being authentic I have spent an entire life making it possible in this place called America

Oh Crap said...

@Thrasher

BTW I like being authentic I have spent an entire life making it possible in this place called America

I hope you don't think you are alone in that. There are multiple modes of authenticity and creating the same conditions for others at the same time. We are masters at multitasking....have been doing it on this continent since we reached these shores.

Why not affirm and admire and give support to FREE BLACK MEN AND
For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf....


So long as it doesn't lapse into mindless lockstepping, and as long as said men and girls are rallying for the ralliers, no one should have a problem with it. I'll defend West against any dumb bigot, I don't care who they vote for or the letters behind their name. But support and affirmation does not mean reflexive agreement with everything that comes out of their mouths. If that's true for Obama, it's definitely true for West.

Thrasher said...

Oh Crap,

I don't recall ever affirming nor endorsing mindless lockstepping etc. I respect and admire West and I offer you nor anyone any apology for this affirmation of West.

I just had the misfortune of reading the Peoples View and a bevy of your comments..I found some of your posts reflective of mindless lockstepping, reflective of the host spandan who for the record agreed to published my commentaries but because of my affirmation of Professor West he has now reneged
Is this your company of people you support??
( shaking my booty and rolling my eyes)

Oh Crap said...

@Thrasher,

For the litmus test mechanism to work, the testee has to give a damn about the results.

I believe I told you many moons ago, I'm going to fail every one of your predictable, cartoon-character measures of Blackness levels.

The day I start posting on the internet in anticipation of winning your personal approval, I'll be sure to let you know, first. My advice: don't hold your breath.

Thrasher said...

Oh Crap,

So in other words I have impacted you, made you react to me and now you have confirmed it for me..

You are part of the chatter class your level of Blackness is as shallow as your chatter class depth ..Everytime I discuss the cultural and social utility of Blackness you get all emotional and defensive very guilty always distancing yourself..lol,lol,lol it is quite apparent others besides my self have checked your chatter class Blackness..

In a nutshell 'YOU DOTH PROTEST TO MUCH".. Oh yeah I never hold my breath around a woman I watch them exhale over me... Like you whenever I confront your chatter class arse..

I am glad I outted your hollow ass on the people view site..Revealing and confirming..

Peace & Love..lol,lol,lol