(ThyBlackMan.com) There is nothing new about the acrimonious debate between Al Sharpton and Cornel West. Historically, there has always been sharp, bitter divisions amongst Black leaders in America. Invariably, as now, it is over access to, and attitudes toward, the American power structure.
For example, Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois dueled frequently. Washington, dubbed by the press as the “Most Influential Black Man in America,” was favored by the establishment for his acquiescence to Black subordination while DuBois was largely shunned, and feared, because of his incessant insistence on complete integration.
For the bulk of the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X
Today Black leaders are at it once again. Only this time the premiere Black leader is completely above the fray. The pre-eminent Black leader in America, by far, is certainly Barack Hussein Obama, even though he has never even acknowledged that accolade, let alone pushed for policies to help the community.
The president is both head of state and head of government, the equivalent of Britain’s Queen and Britain’s Prime Minister rolled into one. As head of state, we are proud to have him at the helm of the nation, an excellent example and motivator for us all. However, as head of government, and chief player on the political stage, we certainly can and should thoroughly, and vociferously, critique his various policy proposals.
But ad hominem attacks about his mindset, based on his supposed upbringing, and an individual’s lament that he was not invited to the Inauguration, seem strange to say the least, but not surprising. Access and status are often seen as benchmarks of success for leaders of groups that have been largely marginalized. And when the leader of the entire nation is Black, like you, and others seem to have the attention one feels that one deserves? Hence, the fireworks on display a few weeks back.
The two men, Cornel West and Al Sharpton, have staked themselves out as the leaders of the two opposing camps in the politics of Black America: those demanding that Obama do more to help “his people,” and those gathered protectively around the president no matter what he does, or does not, do.
Remember Obama is a politician. And he was the politician in the right place at the right time when the American establishment realized it was staring at a demographic time bomb. America is becoming increasingly two nations. One white, older, wealthier, more educated, more politically involved that is shrinking in size, and another America that is Black and Brown, younger, poorer, less educated and less politically involved. Obama was propelled into power to elevate class over race. His presidency proclaims and promotes inclusion in the upper echelons of society thereby creaming off the most talented, industrious elements of the entire society, thus blunting the prospects of serious dissent in the next generation. He also serves the function of helping restore America’s prestige which had become badly tarnished in recent years.
Yes, Obama is a politician. Look at how he has positioned himself. All the fire directed and him by West and company plays well in shoring up his white support. Likewise Trump and the birthers, all their bluster, bombast and hateful rhetoric made Obama seem all the more sane and reasonable to mainstream America.
Finally, the Democrats have traditionally just about taken Black America for granted because the Republicans, for the last 50 years, have adopted a sharp reactionary tone. Now, though, now that a Black man is president, the Democrats have completely forgotten about any of our concerns. They feel safe in the belief that we will back the president, and his party, come hell or high water. The trick is to support and applaud him for what he has accomplished, but hold his feet to the fire for the persistent racial discrimination in the criminal justice system and other injustices. The trick is, can we do it? Can we?
Staff Writer; Arthur Lewin
This talented writer has also self published a book which is entitled; Read Like Your Life Depends On It.