I am no longer surprised that Professor West is at it again, attacking the president. An article titled, “Cornel West and the Fight to Save the Black Prophetic Tradition,” lays out a blistering list of charges against the president. My intent is to examine the charges, then challenge Dr. West on both his assumptions and his conclusions.
- The main charge is that there is an unseen effort by the White House to silence those who would continue the fight to save the black prophetic tradition. Chief among those to be silenced are Cornel West and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
- Supporting the main charge is another that the White House uses surrogates such as Al Sharpton and Steve Harvey to attack Dr. West, who describes himself as the most prominent of those under attack.
- The silencing effort is intended to hide the fact that the president is the ideological heir of Booker T. Washington, an accomodationist who counseled blacks to adjust and submit to white tyranny.
- He accuses the president of being the face of an empire that is responsible for heinous crimes, even crimes against humanity. He describes how Obama has overseen the eradication of civil liberties, the expansion of imperial wars and the mass incarceration of people of color.
- Although he does not accuse the president of being directly responsible for it, Dr. West implies that the “emaciation” of the black press, the consolidation of the media, the exclusion of Dr. West from the broadcast media and the absence of the subject of the black prophetic tradition in public schools all occurred on the president’s watch and thus, by implication, is a charge against the president.
Dr. West describes the black prophetic tradition as the major roadblock to American fascism. Again, by implication, the president supports both imperialism and white supremacy by his unseen efforts to suppress those who would carry on the tradition.
Now, that is a heavy load to lay on the president. One of the problems we have is that the main charge is “unseen.” Consequently, we have to take Dr. West’s word for the fact that the White House is, in fact, orchestrating the effort to silence Dr. West and others.
One way to go at judging the validity and ultimate value of his message is by examining the underlying premises of his position; that the black prophetic tradition does act as a block to fascism, that president Obama knows this to be true, does attempt to suppress its practitioners, does act as the face of imperialism with all of the abhorrent outcomes that this entails and does, in fact, act as heir to Booker T. Washington in admonishing black people to adjust and submit.
I can agree that the leaders and martyrs of the black prophetic tradition named were certainly effective at drawing attention to the tyranny of the white majority. At a propitious time in history and with the proven strategy of non-violence, Dr. King was astoundingly successful at awakening the sleeping conscience of the nation and the world. The fascism practiced daily by the most ordinary white citizen against the completely helpless black people was too much for the nation to see without reacting in horror. But, notice that the practices were open, violent and wanton. At the same time, there was no effort to make the practices visible until the television cameras saw Dr. King. This revealed to the whole world the stark difference between what the US wanted to present to the world and the reality that the world could see. By contrast, I have seen no such impact from Dr. West’s efforts.
I would think that President Obama is quite well aware of the black prophetic tradition and most certainly with Dr. West’s loudly proclaimed assertion that Dr. West is the most prominent of the current practitioners. But, the president does not have to waste his time or concern on “suppressing” them. The networks have no problem choosing those to whom they give air time. The people who are on network shows are overwhelmingly, even nauseatingly Republican, imperialist, white supremacy sympathizers.
Is the president an imperialist? If he were not, he would not be president. The US has been on an imperialist path since WWII. No candidate for the office would have the necessary support to make the run if that person did not show by enthusiastic word and deed that the imperialist path was acceptable and necessary. By the way, one does not have to agree to understand the nature of political reality. Lastly, to accuse the president of being an heir to Booker T. Washington, accomodationist, is an ad hominem attack, the lazy way of attacking and most unworthy of a renowned scholar.
Now, we are left with the question, “Why does Dr. West spend so much energy and personal capital attacking the president?” Even though he says it is not personal, there is evidence that it is. An article, again written by Chris Hedges, that makes the personal hurt painfully clear is available at the following link, http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_obama_deception_why_cornel_west_went_ballistic_20110516. The article tells us that Dr. West, at the time a true believer, worked 65 campaign events for the candidate. In the words of the author, Dr. West, “now nurses, like many others who placed their faith in Obama, the anguish of the deceived, the manipulated and the betrayed.” The only surprise is that the scholar allowed himself to be devastated by a politician. After all, if the president were not a politician, he would not have been elected…twice.
Dr. West’s “anguish” likely intensified to the point of fury when the president did not invite him to the inauguration. The fury has been too evident ever since.