Why Cornel West Fears the Obama Coalition

When I read Cornel West's comments on Democracy Now early this week, to say that it made my blood boil would be a gross understatement.

In his interview in the so-called "news" outlet, West unloaded on President Obama, calling him "the global Zimmerman" for drone attacks against terrorist targets, calling the president's administration the "Obama plantation," accusing the president of not being as interested in justice for Trayvon Martin's killing as he is in prosecuting national security leakers like Ed Snowden and Bradley Manning, and "reniggerizing" black folk by ... well, I'm not exactly sure what action from the president precipitated that word choice. Best I can make out, it's the fact that there exists an Obama administration at all.

I see he's been up to his trick more than once this week.

Look. I am sick and tired of having to explain the difference between prosecuting a war and hunting down and killing an innocent child after someone racially profiles him. I am sick and tired of having to explain that the primary responsibility to prosecute murder within the United States lies with the states whereas the sole responsibility to prosecute federal crimes like espionage lies with the federal government. I am sick and tired of explaining President Obama is in possession of an Oval Office, not a magic wand.

But what I'm really sick and tired of are people like Cornel West pretending to represent the progressive movement while launching personal attacks Rush Limbaugh could only dream of on the most progressive president in history. I am really sick and tired of people like Cornel West pretending to represent African Americans and people of color, and especially, poor people of color in this country while running around the country doing "poverty tours" to sell books and a radio show. I am beyond sick and tired of Cornel West and Tavis Smiley and their partners pimping outrageous statements to the media to generate controversy, and I am sick and tired of people like Amy Goodman accepting such pretense without question.

If you want a litany of what this president has done for the economically downtrodden, read my article from this past weekend. If you want an in-depth analysis of the president's policies and how they have benefited - one by one - people of color who disproportionately fall victim to economic ups and downs and market manipulators, do a search. But I'm keeping this specific post on Cornel West's poverty pimping.

I will tell you what, Cornel West. I am also sick and tired of you using the color of your skin to throw out publicly derogatory words that even the harshest right wing Neanderthals on the airwaves would avoid. "Niggerization?" "Obama plantation?" The use of those terms aren't simply indicative of your vile hatred - the very same thing you purport to be against - against the president, they are the mark of a coward. You know that if you use those terms as a black man, that most others will not step into that territory, and so by default, you'll "win."

To hell with that. I am not here to tell you to cut it out or to sit down and shut up. But I am here to challenge you. I am here to ask what you have done in the past 5 years for poor black people or people of color, other than pimping it and them for your personal gain.

Let me suggest a proposition: you, Tavis Smiley, and your entire cadre of poverty and race pimps are as threatened by President Obama - both his policies and what his presidency means - as are Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh. For both of you, President Obama represents a new generation of leadership and a new coalition of Americans who are truly capable of judging others by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. You, Cornel West, need people to judge themselves and others by the color of someone's skin, because your entire celebrityis a house of cards with racial identity politics as its core.

The new generation of leadership and the new coalition of Americans that this president represents and was elected twice by are not color blind. No, we are race conscious and we are class conscious. But really, we are conscious of privilege, and we're better at understanding not just the institutional prejudices but also the institutional privileges - something you, Cornel West, are an utter failure at. However, we refuse to let the color of our skin - or other identity politics - define who we are. We are Americans who realize that our strength is in our diversity.

We display our strength when affluent white college students demonstrate in favor of the Dream Act and immigration reform. We display our strength when the California chapter of the NAACP becomes the first non-LGBT organization to endorse a 'No' vote on Proposition 8. We demonstrate our strength when men and women band together in the south to protect a woman's right to choose. We show our strength when people from all races, rich and poor, old and young, take to the streets in solidarity with a young slain man and his family that none of us personally know.

We do not consider calling the first black president's administration a "plantation" a sign of strength. We do not consider dividing us by race - and worse yet, by racial identity politics - in order for someone's political and monetary gain a sign of strength. We view your poverty and race pimping with as much disgust and disdain as we see racism of the far Right fringe. And because we do not see identity politics and race pimping as positive attributes, I know why we threaten your house of cards as much as we do Glenn Beck's.

The good news for America? You, Cornel West, are the past. We - the Obama coalition - are the future.

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(No) fear of a black planet

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