Viewpoint: What’s Behind Cornel West’s Attacks on Obama

When Princeton professor Cornel West called Obama a "Republican in blackface," he's speaking from a place that's too emotional and idealistic

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Hiroko Masuike / Getty Images

Barack Obama greets his supporters as scholar Cornel West stands next to him during 'A Night at the Apollo' fundraiser event at the Apollo Theater, November 29, 2007 in Harlem

It’s becoming less and less fashionable to say it, but I still love Cornel West. We’ve been friends for over 15 years and during most of that time he has been a crucial American voice. But it’s sad how he’s damaged his image as an important thinker because of a series of attacks on President Obama and on other black intellectuals who have not been as critical of Obama such as Michael Eric Dyson and Melissa Harris-Perry and Reverend Sharpton. West’s critique is draped in rhetoric so inflammatory that it almost disqualifies itself from being taken seriously and risks him sounding like a rapper enmeshed in a battle. In his latest salvo earlier this week, he called the President a “Rockefeller Republican in blackface.”

There’s nothing wrong with critiquing the President, but the reference to blackface is a verbal Molotov cocktail. And it doesn’t even make sense: if Obama’s in blackface then he’s performing a grotesque caricature of blackness that is a white fantasy of a harmless, docile black person. Is that what he’s doing? Is Obama not the opposite of that as a calm, dignified, intellectual alpha male? I’m not really sure why blackface was mentioned or what it’s supposed to mean unless it’s a way of calling Obama an Oreo—black on the outside and white on the inside. But that’s just a guess. Earlier this year, West told TruthDig that Obama is “a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats.” I’m not sure why race is even injected into that critique.

(MORE: How to Read Political Racial Code)

But I think calling Obama a Republican was intended to be the more devastating part of West’s comment, as if being a black Republican was akin to a sellout. This makes sense given the GOP‘s penchant for policies that are hostile to black and brown people (anti-affirmative action, anti-social safety nets, anti-immigration, anti-DREAM act, pro-voter ID, pro tax cuts for the wealthy). But Obama has hardly been a traditional liberal. In many ways, he’s more of a moderate or at least someone who draws from ideas on both sides of the aisle. West is correct in calling Obama’s fiscal policy conservative-friendly: he’s bailed out banks instead of prosecuting bankers, and extended the Bush tax cuts, and, in the 2011 debt ceiling talks, offered to make deep cuts to entitlements, especially Medicare. Obama’s foreign policy has also often been decidedly conservative: he supported a surge in Afghanistan, escalated drone attacks which have resulted in considerable collateral damage, and ordered the extrajudicial killings of Americans who were at war with America. These are all decisions that would have the left howling if made by President Bush.

But to say that Obama’s a Republican ignores a tremendous amount of data and makes a simplistic assessment of a nuanced situation. Obama achieved the decades old liberal dream of universal health care (albeit with a conservative concept, the individual mandate, at its core, rather than the liberal single-payer concept). He lowered taxes on the poorest fifth of Americans by 80%. He used the Justice Department to defend affirmative action to the Supreme Court. He signed an executive order blocking deportations of undocumented young immigrants (albeit after deporting well over a million Hispanics, moving them out at a faster rate than Bush.) He ended Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and publicly supported marriage equality. And perhaps most importantly he nominated two Supreme Court justices who will defend a woman’s right to choose. With that sort of record Obama would get trounced in a Republican primary.

West’s central critique is that Obama is not doing enough to impact poverty, that Obama doesn’t even say the word poverty. This is true though it’s hard during a Presidential campaign to inject a discussion of poverty when your opponents are wrongly tarring you as “the food stamp president” and someone who’s removing the work requirement from welfare. Within that framework, discussing poverty would have been electorally dangerous. Still, it’s true Obama as president has failed to combat poverty and now we are in a world where 28% of black Americans are poor, compared to 10% of whites, over 13% of blacks are unemployed, and black household wealth is at its lowest point in decades. But these are not Obama’s fault: these are all structural problems that are bigger than Obama and existed before he was in office.

(MORE: Viewpoint by Touré: Why Obama Will Win the Election)

West, currently a professor at Union Theological Seminary, seems to be speaking from a place of idealism rather than realism, which is his wont as a philosopher, but that does not make him a serious Obama critic. West speaks of presidents needing someone to push them to greatness, but does the inflammatory nature of his attacks make him eligible for that position? Many wonder if there is a tinge of jealousy fueling West’s perspective. A New York Magazine profile of West noted his relationship with Obama changed when West, who had campaigned for Obama during the 2008 election, was unable to secure tickets for the inauguration. The story notes that when West talks about Obama, he “uses the language of a jilted lover.” West told New York, “One of the reasons I was personally upset is that I did not get a phone call, ever, after 65 events. It just struck me that it was not decent.”

I still believe that West can and should be a critical American public intellectual. I wish that he would return from whatever emotional place he’s gone that has led to his critique of Obama being so venomous and thus inconsequential. West is more valuable when his critique is more sober, and America is better when West is a prophetic voice pushing us to be our best. I miss the West I love.

64 comments
megapril
megapril

You lost credibility the moment you labeled Sharpton as an "intellectual".

NickHentoff
NickHentoff

I can understand how keeping your promises can be electorally dangerous, but how do you explain the fact that the percentage of Blacks in Federal prison has risen during Obama's first term, while the general state prison population has declined?  How do you explain Obama squandering  stimulus money in bogus grants to his rich cronies while  Black unemployment has exploded over the past four years.  How do you explain the fact that Obama only visited his home town of Chicago once or twice during his entire first term and never seriously addressed the problems of gun violence in poor Black communities.  It took the slaughter of middle class white children to get Obama even moderately interested in solving the problem of gun violence.  Barack Professor West is only speaking the truth when he accuses Obama of betraying the interests of the Black community. The sooner that people like Touré, Sharpton and Harris-Perry realize that their emperor isn't wearing any clothes, the sooner pressure can brought to bear on George W. Obama to do the right thing.

rjmustard70
rjmustard70

Slaves without united tribal histories and identities experimented and moved on. Frightened slaves huddled together for safety. Degrees of difference rooted in slavery “field vs. house slaves, “Northern vs. country,” “light skinned vs. dark-skinned” were once necessary for advancement, now they breed distrust. Relationship to race and degrees of blackness are irrelevant to our success, yes, even in politics. I, the descendant of black slaves and blacks that were not slaves knows first-hand how these groups think and act differently and each is valuable and necessary for us all. We’re not still chained together so; use of blackness to create personal value or trading blackness to be white continues slavery. Judging a person by how they work on behalf of their race continues slavery and mirrors the thinking of slave overseers, Herman Cain and Justice Thomas. We damage to opportunities for unity and trust by adding this additional hurdle.  They have lost power and can only sell themselves out. Obama side-stepped cautions to, “watch out for the sellouts” “watch out for white folks”.  Thank God.  He would not have forged the relationships he needed to achieve the presidency. We, in kind, should side-step the demand that he bear our scars of slavery. Honestly, his relationships with other races helped catapult him to the presidency. Judge him as effective or ineffective and criticize him the same way. We have historically moved forward individually. Have the courage to fight your own battles. You will find as Obama has; that when your work comes before racial identity ultimately helps your race. We no longer need a race leader. Race does not and cannot define class aspirations in any race. We experiment and move on.  Thanks for the starting the dialogue Cornell.

mejohnsonsr
mejohnsonsr

Doctor West is Right, If President Obama was White all of us (Blacks) would be on the same Train, but because he is not, most of us the sheepish Negros that we are, are comfortable giving him a pass. The Truth be told, most of us don't want to here or see the Truth because it really does hurt. Being visibly afraid or side stepping the acknowledgement of the crucial and long standing issues particularly against Black People, does not make them untrue or disappear. When the dust settles and we are men and women enough to stand up and be counted with out fear of what "MASSIR" might say or think, we will understand and appreciate his [West] direct point of view.  He is man enough to say out loud what most of us think and or know is True.  Thank God for Men Like Dr. Cornell West and Tavis Smiley for not Fearing being Real Men In America

DennisC.Latham
DennisC.Latham

cornel west has become more and more like Steven (Samuel L Jackson) in the movie DJango . Blacks are so lost - and he knows it - and he's only dividing them more and more each time he speaks .....

EricWattree
EricWattree

Many of the people who go around talking about Obama hasn't done anything for the poor and middle class generally break down into two categories - self-serving demagogues who are out to mislead the people for their own gain, and the victims of those demagogues who are basing their opinion on what they've been told, since most of them obviously haven't read anything beyond the sports page in twenty years..While the former group are disgusting for trying to mislead the people for personal gain, at least they’re trying to better their condition. The latter, on the other hand, are not only disgusting, but sad. These people are obviously too lazy-minded to, at the very least, keep themselves informed enough to protect their own families..What's so sad is, many of these people or highly educated - or at least, spent a lot of years sitting in various classrooms - and others can tell you the name and birthdate of the bat boy who cleaned the bat that was used to scored the winning run in the 1936 World Series. Yet, these very same people can't, or won't, spare a couple of minutes to gather the necessary information to make sure their families aren't victimized by demagogues..They don't seem to understand that corporate fascists are poised to take away everything we've worked all of our lives to acquire. The GOP has rigged the system to allow international corporations to pour unlimited amounts of money into buying the very people who are suppose to protect us, they've mounted a brutal assault on our educational system to render us too uninformed to understand what's going on around us, they've organized a campaign to obstruct our right to vote, they're trying to abolish the Fair Labor Standards Act in an attempt to destroy our labor unions, and finally, they've mounted a campaign to abolish Social Security and Medicare. In short, the Republican Party is leaving no stone unturned to undermine our lives from cradle to grave. Yet, all these so-called "defenders of the poor" can focus on is attacking Obama, and implying on sites like "BlackBlueDog.com" (The term "Blue Dog Democrat" is credited to Texas Democratic Rep. Pete Geren - who later joined the Bush Administration) that Black people are intellectually challenged for feeling obliged to vote Democratic. Really!!!? Are these people idiots, or do they think we are?.There's something terribly wrong with that picture, and it's something that the American people should take a close look at - and since many of these so-called intellectuals profess to be Black "scholars," the Black community should be especially curious about what's going on..But then, maybe these people aren't malevolent at all. Maybe they're just not as bright as their hype has led us to believe. Maybe they're simply wannabes who, while supposedly being educated, were actually being indoctrinated out of their connection with reality. That used to happen so routinely that the old folks had a name for such people - "educated fools." And such people were so toxic that the old folks were always on the look out for them..When I went to college, my grandparents were very proud of me. Nevertheless, the first thing my grandmother said was, "Eric, don't let them educate the common sense out of you." I promised that I wouldn't, but it has indeed been a struggle. But nonsense, and the worship of talking dead folks are so pervasive in our educational system that the propensity for independent thought has been all but abandoned. That's clearly what's happen to Cornel West and many of his followers - they've come to believe that since West is a product of Harvard and Princeton - and thus, privy to the thoughts of dead White folks - that his water is wetter than our own. Well, it's not. Dr. West is just as capable of being a damn fool as anyone else - and in this case, I'm afraid he is..So perhaps it would be more effective if instead of trying to reeducate these people into understanding that corporate fascists are trying to enslave our families, we should simply tell them that the fascists are poised to abolish ESPN and the Soul Train Awards. Then, perhaps they'd have an incentive to become the true political scholars that they profess to be. I mean, they don’t have to be brilliant to recapture reality; all they have to do is look it up on Google under "Wake up, fool!".So what has Obama done for the Poor, you ask? He's done the following - and this is just the short list:1). He stopped the nation from hemorrhaging 800,000 jobs A MONTH under Bush. I'd say that helped the poor and middle class.2). He stopped the nation from going into a second Great Depression. I would think, that also helped the poor and middle class.3). He saved the American auto industry. I’m pretty sure that also qualifies as helping the poor and middle class.4). He was the first president to successfully passed healthcare reform in 70 years. That not only helped, but will save the lives of many of the poor and middle class.5). He created more jobs in 27 months than Bush did in 7 years. That definitely helped the poor and middle class.6). While he was doing all of the things above, he also managed to get Osama Bin Laden in his spare time - and if you remember, Bush spent 7 years, upward of a TRILLION dollars, and killed or maimed thousands of American troops in that effort. But Obama managed to pull it off with two helicopters and a handful of men..Bush and Cheney’s incompetence and greed in this matter destroyed and/or disrupted thousands of poor and middle class families, while the rich had to look at their ever-swelling war profits just to know that the nation was involved in conflict. The war had no impact on them at all, because the rich no longer send their kids to die for this country - that's a job for poor folks - and now they want us to pay for the war as well..Thus, Bush and Cheney's mismanagement of both the economy, and the war in Iraq, played a major role in what got us in this economic quagmire in the first place. Yet, we didn’t hear a word from critics like Tavis Smiley and Cornel West during George W. Bush’s fiasco. Where were these two defenders of the poor and middle class then?.But Obama didn’t complain about that at all - he didn’t have time to complain, and he didn't have time to respond to the ridiculous charges of envious Black-on-Black racists. The president is an adult, with adult concerns, so he was, and is, much too busy cleaning up the mess left behind by the relative ear-splitting silence during the Bush administration of those who have suddenly discovered a newfound concern for "the least of these.".So while others were plotting, fighting for attention, and whining, President Obama was busy doing following . . . MORE

http://wattree.blogspot.com/2012/11/what-has-obama-done-for-poor-and-middle.html

rzrbl369
rzrbl369

Cornel West is an example that a mind is truly a terrible thing to waste. Doesn't he and many others know that Barack Obama is walking a very thin line and the only way he can help any African American is by helping all Americans? The fact that he bailed out the banks was for the people on Mainstreet not Wallstreet. The fact that unemployment is 7.9% it would be 25%-30% if the banks were not bailed out. And the charge that he is not helping African Americans in their struggle is a bunch of crap. Saving the auto industry kept many Americans, including blacks employed, he extended unemployment benefits for those struggling to find a job, for all Americans, including black Americans, the Affordable Health Care law is not to insure just white Americans it is to insure Black Americans that do not have insurance also. Aid has been made available for those who lose their homes to foreclosure for all Americans, including blacks. He efforts to pass the jobs bill would have helped all American's find work, not just white Americans. Understand he is the president for ALL Americans not just BLACK Americans. There are 3 million jobs right now unfilled...why are the unemployed African Americans applying for those jobs. Or do you want Obama to fill out 

the application for us? We are always looking to blame someone else for our plight, except ourselves. We are not slaves anymore. Our survival begins not with Obama but the person you see in the mirror every morning. I don't see Hispanics complaining about not finding work. Why because they will take what is available.  I don't know when Cornel West or Tavis appointed themselves the spokesperson for black people.

CharlesReed
CharlesReed

So Obama cannot be blamed for the plight of black but he and he alone has been the President these last 4 years? So some are saying that Obama cannot do anything about anything for blacks and black need to do this and black need to do that. Young black man are catching cases and cannot live in public housing and so on.

Here one thing I know because I am from the hood, is that if young black men had a better handle on a crime family they could push further along the black cause like like other that have come to this country and are now powerful player in the US. Where is the Jewish Mob at now, and how are there children living and having a brighter future than when their grandparent with the Italian Mob & Irish Mob.

Obama went through a period of illegal drug and did not get caught snorting coke or carrying all the weed he said he uses to smoke. We don't know how to managed being high all day long and then one day raising to the office of the Presidency, but that right he needed us to get elected but you cannot need him to better our lives.

Obama in the last 4 year has been the number one cause of keeping black in a worst condition than under Bush because he has refused to prosecute those guilty of Fair Housing Act and now illegal foreclosure by white men that cannot even prove they own loans they are claiming the purchase but they don't have any evidence of a $200,000 transaction. The Notes are burned by the lenders why? Part of the reason can be seen in the short fall over at the FHA of $16 billion, and it called the Federal Government in Ginnie Mae has been involved in the crime of stealing your HOMES.

 Black are so stupid that they would rather see their mama in a shelter or a park, rather than legally have her home returned to her because it the legal thing to do, but a begger b***h with her handout and pocket full of food stamp is the imagine your children are witnessing when she was actual the victim of a crime, but that does not fit in Obama campaigning to the 34 million whites he needed to win.

I should have snorted so coke in high school & college, and all these years I wonder what was holding me back!   

WarrenGetchell
WarrenGetchell

Peppered throughout a typical critique of the POTUS by Dr. West are the words 4th Amendment, rule of law, Bill of Rights and constitution and I notice all of them are absent in yours, Toure. Like you, many Americans have lost their desire for justice and with that comes the inevitable acceptance of unfairness and lawbreaking -- torture, LIBOR scandal, continual war, income inequality, corrupt politicians and media, plus the surveillance state. How much of a leader would it take to address any of these issues headon? The answer is not much and not much is what President Obama has given. Soon we all will have abandoned the belief that the law is important and necessary to hold the country together.

Kachina888
Kachina888

I Love the Truth and those who have the Guts to speak it! BRAVO!

redleg
redleg

"important thinker"?? hilarious.

CharlesReed
CharlesReed

I believe West is correct in his assessment of Obama and he has to use the language he does because black are now in the stage that Obama is Jesus and bring the same pride Hitler did to the German people after WWI. However blacks are refusing to understand that Obama is more white than black in his up bring and I believe he is more White than black in the ways he conduct himself and the is why more qualified more actual what we know as a black person that is generation removed from white relatives where not elected of consider for President.

Black want to have it both way with this President race and like to ignore the because influence in his life where two white women, in his mother & grandmother where were very flawed but strong in their way. Now for black to admit it was a white family that created Obama without black family influence, because Daddy was a rolling stone like in a majority of black families, did now come in and try to think that Obama represent the average black because he does not.

Part of White America has accepted Obama, and in my opinion Hispanic are having it both ways siding with blacks to further there cause with immigration while having an advantage in employment because they are preferred by White employer over black workers. So Black have no choice but to get behind Obama policies that keep them employed to keep Obama in office when it is clearly a disadvantage to black. Black and Hispanic don't even get along and if put in neighborhoods side by side would kill each other.

Black women are the poster supporter for Gay Rights as 1 million young black male are in prison where there are exposed in many case by force to partake in homosexual activities and creates a life long down low culture that take from the available black males that black women are losing the battle with white women for marriage of eligible heterosexual black males.

So as it is a proven fact that a white woman can and has in combo raised the most successful Black male in the modern history of the world, at what cost do you take because of the purity that black women protest about, that black males continue a failed strategy of having a black woman raise your child in a 72.5% white Nation, white the black male is not a part of that culture and is not privy to the inter working of what it take to succeed.

How does having Obama in office another 4 years help blacks as within two weeks of him being reelected and not a D things changed for black America but instead of Obama in Detroit helping to solve black issues he in Asia and has still yet to address black issues. Obama problem for us as black people is that he is a part time black person and we have been full time blacks from day one 24/7. Here is a dude who after years of relationships with whites at the age of 29 meet a black women with a Harvard law degree, which is something Obama did not have and surely did not hurt having sister girl not long ago graduating from the same school he trying to graduate from, where before you did not have great grade in High School, Occidental or Columbia.

Funny how you cannot criticize a situation that you know sound very strange as to how you get from point A to B and if you question it your either a racist or a Uncle Tom because something does not pass the smell test. Because Obama not full black or white he neither for or against anything black, in my opinion and it show in the results. 

Let me give you the great example of the great failure this administration has had "800,000" foreclosed homes under the "President's Making Home Affordable" that has been determined that they should have received modifications but did not, yet this is Obama's program and these are Government insured loans that I informed the government about over 2 years ago. Yet it took the OCC, Federal Reserve Bank with academia that uncovered the 800,000 after my constant complaining to the both of them, that Ginnie Mae was running a Fraud as they were not in title to be able to foreclose on the properties that lenders were claiming.

How does the FHA take in on the average loan $1,000 per year, per loan of the roughly 6.5 million loans = $6.5 billion in premiums and yet it is now $16 billion short and people today still have jobs and are recommending a increase in Mortgage Insurance Premiums (MIP) plus new loans that amount is being increased to $1,750 per year for folks already having problem paying the payment. They are not talking about what caused all the default of 700,000 loans but to squeeze out of the other monies to keep paying illegal claims by lenders and illegally purchase property to keep Ginnie Mae afloat.

The US taxpayer need to understand that the $70 billion in loans losses is actual $210 billion coming back to the government (including treble damage) because its all part of the Ponzi scheme by Ginnie Mae that employs the lender to falsely claim ownership and FHA like VA purchases these home from the wrong parties which defrauds the not only the borrowers but we the taxpayers.

Here is Obama flaw and that is that I am only this high school barely graduated ex-half way good jock who just so happen to be America's only black bank Prime/Government loan officer in America (let not get it twisted about all the black subprime loan officers) I am not of the elk to uncover this masses fraud committed against the Federal Government so 4 years have passed under this President where millions of families have suffer because of this situation, plus the FHFA Assistant Director DeMarco not allowing up to as many as 20 million home owners who have not missed a single mortgage loan payment and have good credit, but are underwater due to no fault of their own, but due to the fact that lender under no pressure, created and sold bad loans to their customer which started the economy on this downward spiral, and to what I have added above the fix program in the President Making Home Affordable (HAMP) is dysfunctional at best, when 20% of the applications are involved in a Fraud.

Obama does not see the crime in what has taken place and see the actions a boys acting badly but no criminal activity here folks just move along. Bad ethical but nothing criminal folks because the US Attorney General uses to represent these guys, so there just no way they could be found guilty (wink wink). 

So our question to ask ourselves is, do we want the ever growing claims I have submitted that at this point is based on 800,000 legal government loan foreclosed at $10,000 per loan and $100,000 property illegally seized which all is subject to treble damages. So were at $240 BILLION and raising with the Ponzi scheme that occurred, that we can say it was our neighbor's flaw and allow banks to keep out money or we can simply demand our monies back. What was Wells Fargo or other banks of similar sizes profit last Quarter? Wells Fargo's Net Income was $4.9 billion, as my secretary pays more in a tax rate then I do Warren Buffett just purchase more Wells Fargo stock, as he is Obama's go to guy, but have not offered any solution to Wells Fargo Bank committing crimes against the Nation!   

EmpressLenoireLeNoire
EmpressLenoireLeNoire

Cornell West, just like Tavis Smiley, is a jealous man angry with the President because he expected but did not receive special treatment because of the color of his skin. African American's have been in trouble for decades. Long before Obama and long after him if we continue to expect someone to save us instead of relying on ourselves for salvation. We should have been empowered enough as a people when people who looked like us moved into the White House, but we were not. Instead, we sat back and still sit waiting for someone else to do something for us. We are more likely to be impoverished, low income, under educated, under employed and over incarcerated. We did not need a president of color to realize that. West has known our plight for years. Perhaps, West would be credible if he had been more vocal about his concerns and as liberal with his criticisms in all years past. President Obama is president of the United States of American not SuperSaviorHeroMyBrotha for black folks.

JohnH.
JohnH.

Toure, do yourself a favor, go back to writing about rap artist and hip hop moguls. The reason I complain is because your article sounded terrible. I normally don't read your garbage, but your name doesn't appear on the front page.    I hold Barack Obama in high regard because he seems like he did the impossible, by being elected the first black President of the United States. Our country has a solid history of racial prejudice so; in being elected Obama is truly a historical figure.But President Obama deserves criticism for not understanding or ignoring the fact that Black people are still in worst shape as a whole than before he became President. The economic hardship that white people were felling because of the Great Recession has abated, but blacks and Hispanics are still in horrible financial shape.Perhaps Cornell West’s criticism is too harsh, but Obama and his surrogate mom in the White House need to stop the b-s about he shouldn’t so anything special for Blacks. He is doing special things for Hispanics, Jewish people, and women. He told the Illegal Immigrants that his “biggest failure” was that should’ve done more special things for them.What’s so wrong in trying to help your own, Mr. President Barack Obama? Bill Clinton didn’t mind helping out Black people as a special case. It’s immoral that the unemployment rate, and poverty rates are so high in the Black community under a black President.

mwilling12
mwilling12

Each group has its own issues that need to be address by our president and his administration:

republicans - less gov't

latinos - immigration

jews - israel

gays - marriage equality

progressives - grow gov't - protect the little guy from the greedy 1%

tea party - debt reduction (not too clear on deficit)

seniors - medicare & social security

AFRICAN AMERICANS - DON'T TALK ABOUT MY PRESIDENT.

president obama has listened and addressed every group while campaigning as senator (term 1) and president (term 2). can you guess the one group obama has ignored and will continue to ignore in his 2nd term.

take your time - the decision is difficult.

ibtlius
ibtlius

The author has no clue on what an 'alpha male' is. Obama is a product of a single mother's up-bringing. He has never shown the traits of an alpha male...EVER. Calling him an 'Alpha male' is an insult to ones who truly are alphas (by the way did Michelle Obama approve of this?). Lucky for us, that there arent anymore foreign kings to bow down to.

Obama is the first "BI-RACIAL' president not a 'Black' or 'African-Amercian' president and most importantly raise by 'WHITE' mother and grandparents. If he was truly an 'African-American' or 'Black-American', he would have NEVER had a shot at becoming the POTUS. He was elected on account of the upper-middle 'White' traits in him and an attractive face which was universally appealing to the majority of Americans, especially to female voters. Our elections are no different from an American idol contest.

Cornel West and his entire community didnt grasp that and it comes as no surprise that they are disappointed with Obama.

Obama is not going to radically change anything in his second term. He is a centrist and a narcissist (like Bill Clinton though not that overtly) and a politician to the core with a tough skin (to adapt and change colors to suit his crowd) to 'hang-in' there. He never was a true 'leader' (sorry people who voted for him) leave alone a 'revolutionary politician' (sorry lefties).

sidw0501
sidw0501

Although I am brown, I don't agree with the author on most of his views. He likens all the Republican policies to racism, anti-colored(Read anti black) people. There is no doubt people should be more responsible of their own economy, and government cannot solve their finances. The major problem I see in Republicans is their fiery rhetoric on abortion and immigration.  

jamespdonahue
jamespdonahue

I would be angry, too, if I attended 65 events supporting Obama's candidacy in 2008 but was then brushed aside on inauguration day. That's not about ego or being "emotional." West is a public figure who convinced many to vote for Obama. Face it, Toure, you're a conservative like Obama. I know many people like you who became conservatives but call themselves "progressives." Get over it. You're allowed to be a conservative. Stop referring to Obama as a "progressive" or "liberal." He's nothing of the kind. You are corporate Democrats. Enjoy!

Soulful1
Soulful1

Nicely done Toure' and watching your growth is wonderful. One thing, unblock me on twitter so I can continue to be a critic of you, one that bases my critique on a policy basis rather than ad hominem attack. Again, nicely done as I agree it is more personal than anything else. peace and continued success. I am @Soulful1

SKChgo
SKChgo

The one issue I have with this article is why  do we have to be so careful about what we say about the President, regardless of which President we are talking about, we should and are able to speak however we see fit. I know that might be subjective but when you have statistics that are showing the rate of poverty, unemployment and most important incarceration. The numbers of African-Americans are beyond disturbing and Cornel West has every right to criticize however way he sees fit and whatever way it will get people to paying attention. 

I am sorry but President Obama has FAILED when it comes to the black community, out right, failed. There have been plenty of times for President Obama to help the community and he did not do so. Especially in his first term, within the first two years when you had a democratic majority in both houses. 

I love it how we praise the President on his accomplishments but at the same time put parentheses around what he's done to diminish those same accomplishments --- such as the rate of deportation being faster than Bush. 

Then you have the affordable healthcare act, yes it was an accomplishment but damn it was a Republican idea and a public option was off the table, immediately off the table in fact, they knew they couldn't get it done because the two groups who would capitalize on this were the insurance and pharma industry. 

Cornel West has every right to criticize President Obama for his lack of leadership with his own people.  What we forget is how much the lives of some impact the lives of the rest - and helping your own people doesn't make you less of a President, it makes you more of one. It establishes a dialogue that the African-American community is dying and it needs the governments help. If you look at the ways this has occurred too, it is not an accident either. 

No conspiracy theories here, look at the establishment of the federal housing act, the rise in crack vs cocaine, the purpose of affirmative action, brown vs board of edu, voting rights act. These things were happening and had to happen for a reason  specifically for the African-American community and indirectly helping other ethnicities and races to help make things equal for all. 

I say bravo to Cornel West, he and Tavis Smiley are on the front lines visiting cities across the country talking to people of all colors about what they are going through while living in poverty. They have every right to be angry at the President, even if he is black. 

theokproject1
theokproject1

@Toure Just read your piece in Time. It is obvious that you have very little experience growing up in black communities by your writing. We are in crisis, look no further than Obama's home town of Chicago for examples. I appreciate your position Mr. Tour'e but I respectfully disagree, race does matter in America! It does matter that our President is black and ignores the black community. Mr West is just saying what is REALLY being said in the churches, street corners, and barber shops. Lets fact check the statistics in his argument in the national spotlight as well rather than attempting to kill the message, just a thought..Take care!

AuthorDetricQadiriyyahGoss
AuthorDetricQadiriyyahGoss

I recently had the opportunity to sit and listen to Dr. West at an Occupy the Hood event. He remains one of the most brilliant minds of our time and now because he doesn't fall in line with everyone else and wishes for us to hold our President accountable- he's jeopardizing his good standing in the eyes of Americans- especially black Americans??? Excuse me while I chuckle at bit. What about Stop and Frisk- yes, more black men in NYC have been stopped and frisked than their are black men in NYC!!! Why is no one shedding a little light on what affects our communities. All black people who are poor aren't on welfare-- 65 events and not even a thanks for your support- please some of you get pissy if a person doesn't say thank you after a God bless you of a sneeze. He couldn't get an invite but Jay-z and Beyonce were front a center????? And I'm a huge fan of both but come on now- its the principle of it.

I don't think he's bitter- I think we want to convince ourselves that we live in the beautiful world and their is harmony and love for all-- it you didn't know racism was real in these great United States- Bill O'Reilly just did a call to arms --

I love out President and his wife and how they asthetically paint a beautiful picture of the black family- like the Cosbys did when I was a kid-- but this term- He better do some shit!

EricWattree
EricWattree

Tavis, West, and Malcolm

While browsing the web this morning I came across an article written by Dr. Boyce Watkins blaring, "Cornel West Says that Sharpton, Dyson are “Up for Sale”: Let’s Talk about That One, Shall We?" My first reaction was, "Hmmmm, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson must have gotten a new job.".The reason that's the first thing that came to mind was because Cornel West is rapidly building a reputation for attacking anyone in the Black community who tends to overshadow him. This tendency, and the reckless and petty way in which he pursues it, has become so pronounced in West that it's beginning to betray his primary agenda as a whole. He's not interested in the Black community at all. All Cornel West is interested in is keeping Cornel West in the media spotlight..Look at the facts. First he attacks Barack Obama. He was fine with Barack at first - as long as he could look upon him as subordinate. But once Obama began to get widespread public attention, West started to cool towards him. But when it became clear that Obama could actually become the President of the United States, and he had the audacity to refuse to dance to Tavis and West's music, West went into wild-eyed opposition to everything he represented - only cooling off long enough to become certain that he wasn't going to enjoy the notoriety of a prominent role in an Obama administration, and he wasn't going to be able to strut around with the president on speed dial. Only then, did he see fit to publicly declare that the president was a puppet to plutocrats and afraid of "free Black men." I don't recall him ever being that disrespectful to George W. Bush..Then, he came out against Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry. But just like with Obama, West was fine with Dr. Perry at first. He recruited her to come to Princeton and they were colleauges. Once it became clear, however, that Dr. Perry had a mind of her own and that she wasn't prone to hero worship, he began to undermine her at Princeton, so she quiet left. But once West found out that she had been given a show on MSNBC, all hell broke loose. Instead of this good brother - who only lives to serve his people - being happy over the prospect that another intelligent Black voice had gained access to the mass media, he saw fit to publicly proclaim that this very impressive Black woman was "a liar and a fraud.".So again, it seems that Cornel West is always prepared to preach a much better sermon on black love and respect than he's willing to live. His comments were extremely disrespectful toward both Black women, and the Black community as a whole. A true brother - a true man - wouldn't even speak to a lady like that in private, much less, badmouth her like that publicly..Whatever happen to the concept of cherishing our women? No one should have to teach Cornel about that. As a so-called Black intellectual, that's exactly what he should be teaching our young people - that it's impossible for them to have any respect for themselves, if they don't respect the very womb of their culture. How can anyone profess to be an intellectual and fail to understand that very fundamental concept? West also betrayed his elitist sense of entitlement, and his disdain for the poor and working class when he complained about a mere baggage handler getting tickets to the Presidential Inauguration while he couldn't..And it doesn't end there. West has also seen fit to go after Jay-Z. Obviously Jay-Z was getting a little too much publicity over his part ownership of the Brooklyn Nets and the Barclay Center. So West took it upon himself to set the record straight. In essence, he said, "Wait a minute, world! That pickaninny don't own nothing. The White man owns it! So you see, I'm still the man!" Okay West, but what does fronting off Jay-Z have to do with moving Black people forward? . . . MORE

http://wattree.blogspot.com/2012/11/tavis-west-and-malcolm.html

CharlesReed
CharlesReed

@rzrbl369 Bank first got $700 billion that was suppose to go to buying the bad loan, next the got $16 trillion (that a lot of money for black folks) in zero to ,5% interest loans. Now I do understand Negro being happy with trinkets and beads and blankets for the sale of New York but that cool? Right or Wrong?

Now the reason Black America's unemployment is 14.3% is the same reason whites unemployment rate is 7% for white and 11% for Hispanic. Black are the worst in schooling and crime and having babies out of wedlock and 50% are on food stamp, so we need Obama why? What Obama going to do for us as he wanted our for him to have a 2nd term?

I don't need a black man that does nothing or create some BS program that he lets bank who committed the crime run the damn thing and now we find out that of 4.4 million foreclosure from 2009-2010 that 800,000 of them FHA & VA loans were illegally done and allow just found out because of me reporting it.

Now we bragging on health system that continue to rise as Obama did not really address the cost as he cut a backroom deal with drug companies, but employers are cutting back employees hours to 29 a week so that they don't have to provide health care under Obamacare. So now you got less hours of work and no healthcare and no freaking house because you cannot afford to pay the mortgage at 29 hours a week pay. Yes you got per-existing condition covered if you can pay the freaking premiums.

Here is a fact that was just on TV and that is blacks unemployment in 14.3% and after 4 years under Obama its 14.3%. After four year under Obama more black people are on welfare that any other period in the country. Now here is what going to happen if Obama does not step in and do something and that is we are going to kill each other because most have nothing and poverty bring about higher crime levels!   

Usertime
Usertime

@CharlesReed Your comment is entirely too long - longer than the article. Please be considerate and spare us, will you?

buddhafullone
buddhafullone

@Empress, ITA I simply do no understand why so many Blacks blame  Pres Obama for their plight. He cannot propose enough legislation  to overcome the prevasive low self esteem in urban communities. The president cannot prevent young men in urban America from  dropping out of high school, being seducted by illegal activity, catching a case (which often leads to becoming a convicted felon), making babies without an education, a job or maturity. Think about it, becoming a felon alone just about renders you a non  person. You cannot recieve many government loans,  vote in many states, gain many types of employment. You can not travel to many foreign countries. Even if you wanted to one cannot live in federally funded public housing as a convicted felon.  It's as though folks want one some body to scoop them up and save them from their own accumulated bad choices.

 If West wants to target someone he needs to look closer to the environment in which impoverished folks dwell. What are their views about themselves? How do they make choices?  He needs to empower the people to lift themselves.  To suggest:, "I cannot because (they) President Obama has not) is ridiculous and defeating.

Blaming others just negates your own  power. If the West and Smiley duo continues to view impoverished Blacks as docile children,, five years from now they will be singing the same refrain.

Usertime
Usertime

@JohnH. You think he would have won a 2nd term if he promised special treatment for Blacks? You, Tavis and Cornel know the reality. Give the man a break!

Why dont the rest of us, middle class Blacks, do something to help our communities, instead of expecting one person to solve all the problems that have been around for years and years.

daena.vassar
daena.vassar

@JohnH. "Helping your own" is absolutely the worst way of looking at the situation, when this country has made its history about integrating disparate people.  Why can't we just look at Barack Obama as President instead of expecting him to be more black centered because of the color of his skin?  

Barack Obama got elected by non-Black folk specifically because he connects with them too.

Why not look at the issue as "this economic segment of the population needs to have more job options" instead of "Blacks, Hispanics, Browns.

Does anyone you get a job- any job just because of the color of your skin?  No.  You get it or don't because you do or don't have the capabilities for the job.

So WHY make it about the color of the skin?

So again: why not look at the issue as "this economic segment of the population needs to have more job options"?

Usertime
Usertime

@mwilling12 Offensive that you think American Jews are only concerned about Israel. You have a funny way of reducing different groups to labels. You are not an open-minded person and that's putting it mildly.

buddhafullone
buddhafullone

Statistically, most young Black males are being raised by single mothers. Black Americans  have created a new norm for themselves.As one current male Black tv celebrity put it, "Growing up, I, nor none  of my friends had fathers. A father was just Bill Cosby that we watched on tv". One can only hope that yet alpha males can emerge from this generation of  having had no dad at home. Hopefully, they can achieve as much education and stature as President Obama in their chosen fields. 

President Obama did not make his childhood status generational. He has become a  responsible father to his children and a loving  husband for his wife.

redleg
redleg

@ibtlius really? because an "alpha male" wouldn't be so easily offended.  how embarrassing . . . for you

CharlesReed
CharlesReed

@SKChgo Black in America are not like  the group you stated in little China, Korea, Vietnam or etc because we are a combination of something we don't know as in English, Ethiopian, German or Kenyan. We for to long have denied the white or Native America in us and have only said we are black when from high yellow to jet black we are set in the project to make sense of the rest of the world around is almost impossible.

Even as you say your Aunt live in the project still and your now an adult seems not to make much sense as I am sure there is room in your home for her, so that she not harmed by the activity that happen in the hood. Is she packing when she goes to the store or church?

We are connected as black by stupid thing like a Tyler Perry play then turned into a movie about how bad brother are, which is true but it not getting black women to marry them as they are marrying women that look like and also have education like Obama mother.

What needed now because we don't have time is Obama needs to bring his half white butt down to the hood everyday if needed to help blacks understand what white do to be successful in a 72.5% white America. We already know what goes on in the hood as black males and that is that the changes are great if you stay there your either going to prison or the grave.

But the secret is how do you educate black males for success and have them come back and marry a regular girl from the hood who not got a Harvard Law degree instead of Stanley Ann who capable of producing and little Barack. Obama, Colin Powell, Eric Holder, Susan Rice or Ben Jealous all combine together are so close in color to white, it could be argued that only the mixing of races is a reason for these folks success.

Just taking a Colin Powell who only had a 2.0 GPA from NYC but is somehow promoted over 4.0 GPA West Point grads when at a time of getting promoted for General there was nothing more special about his record as some great combat leader. Powell whitewash the My Lai Massacra but is later rewarded in life above other soldiers.....Why? I say skin color. Obama president because his is half white not half black, but he has a duty to black to make life better, and if he cannot create jobs why does he keep taking credit for creating 5 million jobs since he took office? 

TravisHarrison
TravisHarrison

@SKChgo Well excuse the POTUS for running a country with some 312 million people, and not being a black 'Moses" or something..I'm sorry but my people are sounding really, REALLY salty right now..Poverty and getting a job is the issue right??  Please tell me how the POTUS directly effects you being eligible and capable for a job??  And to be totally honest those 28% of us who are still in poverty, I bet half of them aren't even trying to get off their butts to find a job...It's a mentality of us as a people have to change..I grew up in Alabama and one of my aunts that raised me and bros lives in the projects, and she's still does..Not because she has to or can't but because the projects is all she knows..The projects she lives in looks like a car show every night, with some of the nicest cars I've ever seen...

The biggest thing I've seen in this recession is that many people who have management positions or own business, are really just looking out for their own and hiring family and friends..What we when need to do as a Black Community is become more united and get our own businesses instead of blaming somebody waaayyy on top of the food chain...Everywhere you go, the Asian's of the community has their own little china town ran by Asians; Hispanics have the businesses that they own and so forth but its only our people who don't get it quite yet..many of us (not all of us) would rather cry "woe's t me" and milk government aid for every penny we can get

PEOPLE look at your State governments..people forget that, essentially, states are like mini countries and pretty much govern themselves for the most part..your governor has much more to do with you then the POTUS..I have no idea where people learned in the 5th and 6th grade where the POTUS was like a emperor who could grant like any wish..Checks and Balances people and THEN states have a say whether what laws they implement or not and so forth, the only super power in my opinion that the President has is the power to give pardon to somebody. WAKE UP PEOPLE

sheikwil4
sheikwil4

@SKChgo Where was this out cry when George Bush, his father, Bill Clinton were in the White House, why would you expect more from a president simply because he is the same skin color as you. There should have been this same pissed off out cry with any President who was not dealing with poverty in the AA community way before Obama got there, you people are hypocrits.

C4CFED
C4CFED

@SKChgo Well stated.  We must hold our public officials, leaders, etc accountable regardless of shared race and/or color.  Presidents are "elected" not "birthed into office.  The problem of poverty is not one that President Obama should have to shoulder alone.  Nor should activists like Brother West or Smiley be condemned for "lifting their voices" to ask for accountability.  President Obama is the head of government.  He has inherited a boat load of injustice that impact our people.  As President, it is needful for our President to address issues releveant to African-Americans just as he pointedly addresses the "specific concerns"of other American populations.  He is the President of "All People" inclusive of  African-Americans..We should not be shy in our aasertion but rather forthcoming in our quest to find resolution.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MqyDPh3OHpk

buddhafullone
buddhafullone

If they are speaking this in churches,street corners and barber shops why stop at complaining? Why isn't a question also being asked ; "But if he never does ONE thing to help us..what can WE do to help OURselves?"

The energy needs to be focused within..

 We are too accustomed to waiting on a savior, ONE somebody who going to lead us, save us.

We have to shift our focus,  harness our vision, efforts and talk to advance ourselves.

CharlesReed
CharlesReed

@Usertime @CharlesReed maybe I should be a black that voted for hoping he make life better for black but not expecting him to do anything special but business as usual. However all the other 42 presidents something special was being ask of the current presidents even as with stopping slavery when it was the right of the southern states to have slaves at the state of the Union.

So now we get a president with some black in him, and we have a housing crisis where it known that most people sold a subprime loan who were black qualified for prime, FHA or VA loans but were sold these higher rates and costing loan that would adjust up causing the borrowers to not be able to make the payments. 54% of all black during the were sold a subprime loan.

Most blacks wealth was in there home however now as foreclosure will take over half the blacks homes and the other blacks home values at 50% of what it was, because of the high concentration of foreclosure in black communities. What happening is that as the property values have decrease means a tax short fall plus all these foreclose properties are not paying property taxes which effect how many teacher the district can hire.

On top of the subprime mess there is a situation with the next larges source of loan product black used was government loans FHA & VA but something funny is occurring over at FHA that it needed an independent auditor who discovered a $16 billion shortfall and Obama been in office for 58 months of a 60 month term, so we cannot blame this on Bush, so why the shortfall on $16 billion? It called Fraud, as they have not been modifying the government loan because they have actually stealing them from black people and everyone else.

So not even special stuff is needed from Obama, but just fair stuff like prosecuting or giving people back their property and damage like the 1% enjoy under his term.

Jewish Americans are concerned about Israel and Obama was force to tell what he would do if Israel is attacked as if they were Texas been invaded by Mexico. Now we got folks get killed in Israel and it all over the news but the same of more black in Chicago are being killed yet nothing out of Obama on that front. Now for other than religion reason of Christians do we have this pack with this small country with 7 million people that has no oil and is surrounded by 400 million Arabs that don't like Israel and most of them have oil. America got only 2% of the population that is Jewish yet 45% of the America billionaire are Jewish, and 12.6% of the population is black with only 1 black billionaire and not a African country with a relationship like Israel has, and in fact the African Nation with the Arab leader who just so happen to be the rich man on the planet was assassinated by the first America President of first generation African descent. Sound like that gang violence Al Capone type Sh.....but I am talking bout Shaft...can you dig it?   

CharlesReed
CharlesReed

@Usertime @CharlesReed my comments are about the $250 billion we tax payers are do from banks, and the 800,000 American legally foreclosed on that just been discovered plus the FHA been audit last week and the short fall of $16 billion dollar they need to be bailed out on top of the $190 billion bailout of Fannie & Freddie by the Federal government but blacks are being help how? Sorry I did not write something short as to how I wish there were more Gay Marriages in Black churches is all we need to be a great part of America.

mwilling12
mwilling12

@sheikwil4 @SKChgo

if you think for one second that cornel just became critical of (our) gov't or president(s) since obama got in office, then you don't know his history. cornel has always been vocal, but was not given the television time he's given now. he was very critical of bush's policies/war, but you know (public) figures who criticized bush were banded from television - bill maher is on hbo for a reason. he was critical of bill clinton's 3 strikes, war, etc. cornel was mostly on (black) radio voicing his concerns about bush (both presidents) and bill clinton - but has been banned from black radio since he has been vocal about obama ignoring african american community / issues. now (white) television / radio welcome him with open arms....the irony.