Cornel West's Race-Baiting, Antisemitic Slander on President Obama

When Glenn Beck said that President Obama has a deep seated hatred for White people and White culture, we on the Left - and really, all Americans of good conscience - were outraged with good reason. When Rick Sanchez displayed naked antisemitism and spread around the conspiracy theory Jewish people control the media, we weren't too happy about that either. Racism and race baiting, coming from any corner of the American political discourse, is not a welcome idea. It does remain to be seen, however, how the Professional Left responds to the equally race baiting, Jews-are-controlling-Obama type comments by Cornel West.

I am still getting my thoughts together about how to react to this blatant form of racial, cultural and religious divisiveness displayed by West, but here, Jon Chait has the comments:
“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.
See, Barack Obama is the child of a brilliant black father (read: a black man with books is obviously acting "white" unless he uses his intellect to talk only about racial issues) and a white mother (how disgusting that West has to get into a latent bias against interracial relationships between a black man and a white woman). Being a child of diversity, evidently, makes him "rootless." And since Barack Obama, a brilliant man himself, also did not spend all his time fighting and talking about racial issues, he must not count as black.

I didn't know you could be this offensive to this many people in the space of two short paragraphs, and I wouldn't have believed it had I not read Cornel's screed. Barack Obama is a "white man with black skin" - why don't you just call him an Oreo, Dr. West? I am neither black nor white, but I am wondering just who gave Cornel West the right to define what a black man is, what a white man is, and when someone can be pejoratively called an Oreo.

Oh, and, all that milk-white upbringing of Barack Obama. God forbid a child of mixed race is brought up in Kansas and Hawaii, where there are only white people (by the way, Hawaii is 18% white). And you know that all white country of Indonesia. Seriously. What is wrong with West? A man who has seen diversity of culture all his life - as even West's screed inadvertently admits - is apprehensive about independent black men?

What is this about Barack Obama not knowing the black culture? If this is anything other than a pathetic attempt at making Barack Obama the "other" to the African American community, I don't know what it is. What West is really doing is no better - and perhaps worse - than what the birthers, Fox News, and the far Right does: telling people (in West's case, telling African Americans specifically) that Barack Obama is not "one of you."

If West is good at his race baiting, he didn't leave antisemitism too far behind, either. Oh, Obama talks to Jews! Everyone knows all Jewish people are white, upper middle class. And also, Jewish Americans have never faced any discrimination, as they control our government and the media. I mean Jewish people are so synonymous with White, that...
As Jews become more integrated into the overall American society, growing numbers of African Americans, Asians, Latinos and mixed-race individuals are becoming part of the Jewish community. However, this growth augments a diverse Jewish population that has existed in America for hundreds of years. The first American Jews were Sephardic and African, before Ashkenazi Jews came to the New World.

Ironically, Jews, as a group, were defined by the American majority as non-white well into the 1950s and early 1960s. Jews were considered by others to be “black” or “Oriental.” It is no coincidence that racially-restrictive covenants and housing laws in America, prior to the late 1940s, targeted African Americans, Asians, and Jews, all considered to be foreign, non-white racial groups.
I am tired of this divisiveness, racism, religious intolerance and every other form of tearing us apart - no matter whether it is employed by Glenn Beck's fringe Right or Cornel West's fringe Left. I am not the only one. Princeton University professor of politics and African American studies Melissa Harris Perry took West to the cleaners for this offensive diatribe.
Professor Cornel West is President Obama’s silenced, disregarded, disrespected moral conscience, according to Chris Hedges’s recent column, “The Obama Deception: Why Cornel West went Ballistic.” In a self-aggrandizing, victimology sermon deceptively wrapped in the discourse of prophetic witness, Professor West offers thin criticism of President Obama and stunning insight into the delicate ego of the self-appointed black leadership class that has been largely supplanted in recent years.
I really could not have said it any better. Professor Harris-Perry also exposes West's screed for what it is: a jealousy-filled, disgruntled screed from someone who was rejected by the Obama campaign. Then she goes on to demolish West's gripes as nothing more than hypocritical, jealousy-filled personal vendetta:
West’s sense of betrayal is clearly more personal than ideological. In Hedges's article West claims that a true progressive would always put love of the people above concern with the elite and privileged. Then he complains, “I couldn’t get a ticket [to the inauguration] with my mother and my brother. I said this is very strange. We drive into the hotel and the guy who picks up my bags from the hotel has a ticket to the inauguration... We had to watch the thing in the hotel.” Let me get this straight—the tenured, Princeton professor who collects five figures for public lectures was relegated to a hotel television while an anonymous hotel worker got tickets to the inauguration! What kind of crazy, mixed up class politics are these? Wait a minute…
The whole article by Professor Harris-Perry is worth a read from beginning to end. She does an incredible job.

Perhaps it is not Barack Obama but Cornel West who is afraid of and apprehensive about a new generation of Americans - a generation that rejects racial, religious gender and sexual orientation stereotypes to a much broader degree than any other, and brings this country closer than any other to Dr. Martin Luther King's dream: a generation that judges our peers not by the color of their skin (or who they fall in love with, or by their faith, or what gender they are), but by the content of their character. And Barack Obama is the first president that captured the imagination of that generation. Barack Obama did so by challenging the very stereotypes Cornel West grasps for:
Now don't get me wrong. The people I meet - in small towns and big cities, in diners and office parks - they don't expect government to solve all their problems. They know they have to work hard to get ahead - and they want to.

Go into the collar counties around Chicago, and people will tell you they don't want their tax money wasted, by a welfare agency or by the Pentagon.

Go into any inner city neighborhood, and folks will tell you that government alone can't teach our kids to learn - they know that parents have to teach, that children can't achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white. They know those things.
Perhaps this generation - my generation and those following mine - threatens the old compartmentalization of American society and experience so much that it threatens those who fear that racial resentments alone are no longer defining race relations in America. Perhaps the likes of West fear a loss of their own influence on the body politic - as the debate skips out of their defined parameters. Perhaps the threat to Cornel West is that our generation was captivated by and identified with candidate Obama's speech on race and a more perfect union - which, I think, is worth it for everyone to see one more time:



These petty, racist slanders must stop. We have way too many important things to do in this country than to get into a "is he black enough" silliness. We cannot, and will not, stand by race baiting from Glenn Beck or Cornel West. We are a better country than that. We are a better people than that. We do not go around de-legitimizing American presidents through by questioning and berating his heritage and his race - whether it comes in the form of birtherism or the Cornel West's he's-not-really-black-ism. We do not put up with antisemitism from Rick Sanchez, and we do not put up with it from Cornel West.