by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Your Black World – Scholarship in Action
The black political grapevine recently informed me that respected political strategist Donna Brazile plans to meet with Professor Cornel West at Princeton University. The meeting was apparently arranged in response to the “moral outrage” that West has expressed toward the Obama Administration over recent weeks. The disappointment came to a head during a highly-publicized feud between Prof. West and Rev. Al Sharpton on MSNBC.
Dr. West’s outspoken demeanor couldn’t come at a worse time for President Obama and his party. As the Democrats work to smooth talk their way out of a year of tone deaf behavior toward a suffering African American community, West comes in as one of a small number of major black public figures willing to rain on the presidential party.
There is a large part of my psyche that appreciates Professor West’s willingness to speak honestly on African American suffering. Politicians in Washington seem to behave as if racial discrimination doesn’t exist, and there is almost no consideration for the fact that people of color suffer more than nearly anyone else as it pertains to our treatment in our economic, educational and criminal justice systems. I know Dr. West to be a righteous man of tremendous integrity, so his critiques should be taken seriously.
The other side of me hopes that Dr. West’s cozy relationship with noted Obama-hater Tavis Smiley isn’t tainting his perspective. While Smiley has been quiet as of late, his silence may be driven by the fact that he’s lost a great deal of credibility in his critiques of the president. Also, there isn’t much that Tavis needs to say, now that Cornel West is doing enough talking for the both of them. The truth is that there is almost nothing that President Obama could do that would satisfy Smiley, since they are deeply-entrenched political enemies. Given that West has begun to sound a lot like Tavis, one has to wonder how far the apple has fallen from the political tree.
My other quiet hope is that the dialogue between West and Brazile is a two-day conversation and free exchange of ideas. I expect that the seriousness with which West has challenged the Obama Administration dictates that this highly-intelligent scholar can’t be convinced to simply change his mind about the Democrats. I also hope that the conversation is not full of empty political promises designed to appease West and protect the tremendous loyalty black voters have to the Democratic party. Brazile needs to listen to West and the Democrats need to respect his comments about the need for an adequate response to the Great Black Depression being experienced as we speak.
The simple problem for Dr. West and the African American community is simple: Black people are unemployed, incarcerated and miseducated more than any other group in America. Having a black president has not helped as much as some hoped, further reducing the black incentive to support any political party. Unless the Democrats can show an ability and willingness to help alleviate some of the challenges of being black in America, it is difficult to get excited about any political candidate.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.