Those Who Attack Cornel West for Speaking Up Usually Can’t Defend Their Point of View.

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( Some are up in arms over Cornel West and his most recent critique of the Obama Administration.  During the Smiley and West radio show this week, Professor West asked if Barack Obama and other Washington politicians would be so sensitive to gun violence were it not for the fact that the Sandy Hook kids were white.  Here is part of what Dr. West had to say:

“They’re either cowards or hypocrites when it comes to this issue of our precious children. By cowards I mean they care but they don’t have the courage to move forward and act. Or they’re hypocrites which is to say they say they care but deep down they don’t care especially when it relates to South Side of Chicago, Harlem, children across the board…”

Of course Dr. Cornel West’s remarks were met with the standard cries of “hater” that somehow became a significant part of black political discourse over the last four years.  Personally, I think the term should be banned for anyone who expects to be taken seriously.   Using the term “hater” to describecornelwest-obama every person who critiques your hero effectively turns you into nothing but a simple-minded cheerleader who follows the crowd.  We need more leaders in the black community, not followers.

The ironic thing about those who attack Cornel West for asking our politicians to do more for black people is that the attacks are reflective of the collective self-esteem problem that many of us have had since slavery.   Somehow, we were convinced long ago that when a black man gets “a big important job” in the White House, he is somehow too important to be concerned with petty issues like the deaths of black babies, families who can’t afford to eat or millions of black people unjustly trapped in the criminal justice system.  I beg to differ.

The challenge to those who want to call Cornel West a hater is simple:  If he’s wrong, then PROVE IT.  Show documented evidence that the Obama Administration would be or has been equally responsive to the deaths of black children as they are to white ones.  For every child who died at Sandy Hook last week, there are at least 10 children who’ve died on the south side of Chicago over the past three years. So, anyone who believes that there has been parity in the administrative response to gun violence is as delusional as any card-carrying member of the KKK.

Someone recently asked me, “Where were Cornel West and his criticism during the Clinton and Bush administrations?”   I responded, “He was right where he is right now.  But people expected him to change his tune because there was a black man in office.  Also, people didn’t start listening until we got a president that everyone felt black people should unanimously support without ever questioning his leadership.”

Dr. Cornel West has been incredibly consistent when advocating for poor, black and brown people in America.  What also remain consistent are the forces of oppression coming from those who don’t feel that the preservation of black life is worth any significant investment of political capital.   Had Barack Obama been president during the Civil War, the slaves would never have been freed, largely because Abraham Lincoln had to take serious political risks in order to secure passage of the 13th amendment.  I have yet to see any example in which the Obama Administration has taken an equivalent risk on behalf of black people (he is even afraid to grant commutation to drug offenders sentenced under laws that have expired).  In that regard, Cornel could be right about the president’s cowardice, at least when it comes to people who look like his wife, Michelle.

Attacking Cornel West, calling him a hater, and saying that you want him quiet is the easy way out.  The natural corollary for such an attack on Cornel West is to somehow presume that the beloved figures in the Obama Administration are doing all they can to support the black community.  To date, the evidence is simply lacking.

If you want to shut down the critique of Cornel West, then PROVE-HIM-WRONG.  If you can’t do that, then you don’t have a leg to stand on.

Staff Writer; Dr. Boyce Watkins 

Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition.  For more information, please visit