A Response To Cornell West From The Past (Updated)

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.


17 thoughts on “A Response To Cornell West From The Past (Updated)

  1. EL,
    thank you for sharing those clips. He is just priceless. I remember watching that seminar and was just amazed at how those people were during the campaign. I think our President has showed the world, he is the President for all the US Citizens. I thank God everyday that I have the places like yours, BWD, Chipsticks, Carpenter’s to go to and alot others. keeps my sanity going.
    Thanks again.
    I had a good laugh.

  2. To characterize the piece as “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” is rabidly unfair and frankly just inaccurate.

    Professor West is candid (and honest) about his feelings at all levels, personal, academic, and political: (i) he makes clear attempt to not be petty but to use his experience to evaluate the character of Obama the man based on his personal interactions and (ii) the far greater charge charge here is:

    “Can you imagine if Barack Obama had taken office and deliberately educated and taught the American people about the nature of the financial catastrophe and what greed was really taking place?” West asks. “If he had told us what kind of mechanisms of accountability needed to be in place, if he had focused on homeowners rather than investment banks for bailouts and engaged in massive job creation he could have nipped in the bud the right-wing populism of the tea party folk. The tea party folk are right when they say the government is corrupt. It is corrupt. Big business and banks have taken over government and corrupted it in deep ways.

  3. I can’t bear to even read anything about this. First of all, I cannot stand Cornel West – he is a know-it-all blowhard who is totally full of himself. OTOH – I do like Dick Gregory. Cornel West, as always, is just generating publicity – for himself. He KNOWS that what he’s saying is bullshit, but he can get the white media to latch on and claim truth since this crap fell out of the mouth of a black man.

  4. What’s your proof for that assertion staci? I take it you either know the man personally, or you have read most of his scholarship, have seen most of his public appearances, and are reasonably familiar with his personal and professional history?

    If, as I strongly suspect, neither of those is true, then what possible other rational basis do you have your claims?

  5. Cornel has been a favorite guest on Bill Maher’s show. I get tired of his “brother” BS when he is sliming the person he calls “brother”! His remarks about Obama being raised by white grandparents smacks of reverse racism.

  6. of course it’s petty.

    he didn’t get a call back, he didn’t get tickets. gimme a break. Perry exposed him and laid the smackdown.

  7. there’s no such thing as reverse racism, just racism.

    anyways, what he was doing was questioning his blackness, basically calling him soft, something easily identifiable to any black person. this coming from somebody who benefits from his popularity with white folks.

    his ass wouldn’t make it to tv if he wasn’t an ivy league prof., his ass wouldn’t be quoted with any importance in the mainstream if he only toured and lectured at HBCU’s.

    this screed is disgusting on many levels. ‘brother’ west should be ashamed

  8. I just did a search of Tavis Smiley speaking fees, it is from 30,000 to 50,000, I don’t think Tavis can command that price now. That is why he is pissed at the president.

  9. West slamming Obama for being raised by white grandparents, growing up mainly in “white” culture is ridiculous as these were all choices the CHILD Obama didn’t make. If Barack was trying to pass as white man, then why did he marry a full African American woman, a descendent of slaves?

    Racism is racism, but more definitively, reverse racism is usually attributed to a person from a minority race who makes racist remarks, holds racist attitudes towards the majority race/culture. What about a black person who condemns an employer or school for bringing in whites over blacks based solely on skin color, but then turns around and demands blacks be given preference over whites based solely on skin color? Thanks to mostly white politicians over the years passing laws like affirmative action, EOC, Fair Housing, etc., this has become far less of a problem.

    How about if one gets upset if called the “N” word but then turns around and derides “whitey” “crackers” “honkies” “rednecks” with as much acrimony, even hatred? Gets upset if whites don’t include blacks in beauty pageants, award shows, and TV in general then supports exclusively all-black events, even a BET TV network. We have Miss Black America pageants but a Miss White America Pageant would be deemed racist.

  10. again, there is no such thing as reverse racism, just racism. if you want to call what West said racism, then call it racism not reverse racism. just because people came up with an inaccurate term, doesn’t mean you have to use it.

    by the way, your examples are full of shit. BET, all black? jeebus. why not bitch about black history month as well. smh.

  11. So you are telling me WHAT to say? How democratic (small “d”) of you. And I am full of shit? I never said that BET was all black but the Black Entertainment Network does mostly features black entertainers and guests. For sure, there could never be a White Entertainment Network.

    I was marching in civil rights demonstrations in the early 60’s before you were probably even a glint in your parent’s eyes. I got man-handled by Alabama State Police when I got too near Gov. George Wallace with my homemade placard which said, “States Rights Don’t Sanction Civil Wrongs!”

    I was one of the first white teachers to teach in an all-black Houston school in the late 1960’s and was called a racist by my students before I had even opened my mouth and started a class. I have heard racist remarks made by blacks as well as racist remarks from whites. I used to purposely drink from “black only” water fountains getting taunts from whites nearby. Probably this was not a wise thing for a teenager to do as I may have offended some blacks as much as some whites. But I’ve always been a bit rebellious, especially when I feel injustice is being performed.

    And yeah, IMO, Cornell West revealed a racist vein.

  12. Because there’s no more ‘reply’ options:

    Grant in Texas, i could care less about your past or your deeds. i gave you a simple truth, there’s no such thing as reverse racism, just racism. period, end of.

    if you choose to use examples straight out of the trademarked ‘white grievance’ that someone in a freeper forum or yahoo comment section, then you will be called out. if you can’t recognize why, too bad for you.

  13. Sorry, but I don’t go to Freeperville, etc. No use arguing with someone whose moniker here if from the Book of Revelations. And I don’t have the power to elevate you for beatification or sainthood.

  14. lol, i could care less about religion or a book written by men, but feel free to get more meaning out of this chosen net name.

  15. Keep bashing Obama!!!!! Keep it up. When we have a republican house,senate, and president, I don’t want to hear a word from Mr. West or any of the other black racist out there. If the words coming out of Mr.West mouth would have been uttered by a white person everyone would be up in arms. You can disagree with the policies without attempting to destroy the person. Mr. West is an educated idiot!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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