Sunday, May 22, 2011

Professor West goes off-base

Yvonne Abraham at the Boston Globe takes Cornel West to task for couching his criticism of President Obama in racial terms, rather than on the merits of policy arguments or the President's personality. She raises good points, but I feel a need to address another. I offer this in sadness that West thinks that a remark he makes is truthful, and that he thinks that a statement that is so ignorant of historical relationships will be politically effective.

The sentence was this: "He [Obama] 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."

I address specifically the point about Jews. Why did he include them in his remarks?

This sentence is clearly steeped in prejudice. Can you imagine this being said about any other religious group? (Go ahead: Insert another religion in the sentence to how West's use plays on a certain stereotype.) Can you imagine the reaction on most college campuses if a professor said it about any other religious group?

What is even more sad, though, is that the Civil Rights movement in America was strongly supported by Jewish men (and women). That West has decided that it would be politically effective to decry the President's association with people of this background is a denial of that collaboration.

On the Princeton website it says: "Cornel West has a passion to communicate to a vast variety of publics in order to keep alive the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. – a legacy of telling the truth and bearing witness to love and justice." Well, not quite, apparently.


Anonymous said...

West has always been notoriously anti-semitic. This is nothing new

Jane said...

On the heels of the 50th anniversary of the freedom rides, where many Jews participated to ensure equal rights for all Americans, this is particularly appalling.

Anonymous said...

I think a legitimate question to ask is, how did this guy get to Harvard in the first place, and what is he doing at Princeton now?

"Academic freedom" notwithstanding.


clsmt said...

Congratulations. You have just experienced the "all white people are the same" phenomenon which allows people from non-Caucasian ethnic groups to group all light skinned people together in one "white" group despite the history of prejudice and in-fighting that separated members of that group along ethnic and religious lines. Because we all "look the same" and some of us have power, we are all an agglomeration - a monolithic group of power. "Asians" and "Hispanics" face similar issues wherein those terms describing them are so broadly inclusive as to be meaningless. Immigration and intermarriage also muddies the waters. Is my ethnically Chinese friend who grew up in Columbia and speaks Spanish Hispanic or Asian? Are the Korean/Mexican/American children who live down the street Asian or Hispanic or White? I wonder what West would think of the Ethiopian community in my town which has a culture utterly different from that of the African – American one. No doubt he would dismiss them as not black enough despite the fact that many of them lived in Africa for most of their lives.

tom said...

Bigotry has no boundries-how an "educated" person can feel such a comment has merit is beyond me. Perhaps his current employer should ask him "how do you see your comments as being suppportive of our educational mission? Followed by what are your plans for the future?