Cornell West has been out bashing President Obama, much of it for pettiness such as not getting calls from him during the campaign and not getting a ticket to the inauguration in January of 2009. Chris Hedges at Truthdig has the story that is creating all the buzz(kill). The passage below reads to me a lot like the grumblings during the 2008 primaries that candidate Obama wasn’t black enough. Read this passage and decide for yourself.
“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.”
As I was reading that passage, it reminded me of this clip that, to me, is one of the all time greatest political clips ever. As an Obama supporter from day 1 and after suffering through some nasty tactics by Hillary and the gang, when Dick Gregory said this at the State of Black Union ’08, it was just amazing. Notice who else is on the panel.
I had the great fortune and honor to interview Dick Gregory for my last documentary, a 45 minute long interview that was mostly off the topic I was exploring, but a lot of fascinating stuff. I’ve thought about going back and doing something with that footage. Some day.
I have to give Cornell West credit for laying it all right out there for us to see, rough edges and all. I wish I could be a fly on the wall the next time Cornell and President Obama get a chance to talk. There is so much wrong with what I read in the Hedges piece, but I’ll leave that to others to dissect. But in my looking for the above Dick Gregory clip, I came across this one too. Completely off topic, but I just had to share it. He is one funny man.
UPDATE: Go read Melissa Harris-Perry’s response to Cornel West at the Nation. It’s very good.