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Tuesday
May172011

Cornel West's Legitimate Obama Gripe Comes With An Unfortunate Side of "Jilted-Lover"

Sometimes I truly think that if President Obama had just invited Cornel West to the White House and baked him some cookies he'd never have anything to mean to say. In the professor's latest interview, West wraps up legitimate concerns about the poor and Civil Rights with "Where's my extra Inauguration tickets?" and "Why didn't you call me back?"

More after the jump.

Falling the logic line of "jilted lover," West goes from a "Neo-Liberal" critique about Jews and finance reform to his version of Prince's "How Come You Don't Call Me Anymore."

First, West was totes calling Obama all the time, praying for him and such, but the presidential hopeful wouldn't return his calls in a timely manner:

I used to call my dear brother [Obama] every two weeks. I said a prayer on the phone for him, especially before a debate. And I never got a call back. And when I ran into him in the state Capitol in South Carolina when I was down there campaigning for him he was very kind. The first thing he told me was, ‘Brother West, I feel so bad. I haven’t called you back. You been calling me so much. You been giving me so much love, so much support and what have you.’ And I said, ‘I know you’re busy.’

But, oh snap! He had time to call everyone else back!

But then a month and half later I would run into other people on the campaign and he’s calling them all the time. I said, wow, this is kind of strange. He doesn’t have time, even two seconds, to say thank you or I’m glad you’re pulling for me and praying for me, but he’s calling these other people. I said, this is very interesting.

And then the Heartbreak Kid messed up West's Inauguration tickets:

And then as it turns out with the inauguration I couldn’t get a ticket with my mother and my brother. I said this is very strange. We drive into the hotel and the guy who picks up my bags from the hotel has a ticket to the inauguration. My mom says, ‘That’s something that this dear brother can get a ticket and you can’t get one, honey, all the work you did for him from Iowa.’ 

Continuing the jilted lover theme, West also complains that Obama "had no sense of gratitude, no sense of loyalty, no sense of even courtesy, [no] sense of decency, just to say thank you." Yet that little Skip Gates was having beer at the White House and ol' Rev. Al Sharpton was coming over for play dates every other day. Just throwing it in his face. WHY WOULDN'T THEY JUST GET A ROOM ALREADY AND STOP THROWING THEMSELVES IN WEST'S FACE!?!?!

Then, sez West, the President started being friend with all these smarty-pants "Jews." (And you totes can't trust Jews, apparently. All the anti-semites say so!) But why? Why would the first black President choose to hang out with a bunch of white Jewish guys? (And a bunch of former Clinton staffers, and Chicago people, and black women, and young folks, and gay people and white women, and former First Ladies-turned-Senators-turned-Presidential candidates and other folks from the Democratic voting bloc?)

Why? Because President Obama, like that cheap punk who refused to marry you, is scared of a "strong free black woman man!"

As a young brother who grows up in a white context, brilliant African father, he’s always had to fear being a white man with black skin. All he has known culturally is white. He is just as human as I am, but that is his cultural formation. When he meets an independent black brother, it is frightening. And that’s true for a white brother. When you get a white brother who meets a free, independent black man, they got to be mature to really embrace fully what the brother is saying to them. It’s a tension, given the history. It can be overcome. Obama, coming out of Kansas influence, white, loving grandparents, coming out of Hawaii and Indonesia, when he meets these independent black folk who have a history of slavery, Jim Crow, Jane Crow and so on, he is very apprehensive. He has a certain rootlessness, a deracination. It is understandable.

Which is why the President "feels most comfortable with upper middle-class white and Jewish men who consider themselves very smart, very savvy and very effective in getting what they want." Just like that cheap punk who left you for some "Kim Kardashian" looking chick? Ugh! Isn't that just like a biracial black man raised by white people who marries a black woman to cheat on you with some old, rich Jewish guys? Why does this keep happening!

But then, the President is a self-made, smarty pants, rich guy and you surely can't trust that.

He’s got two homes. He has got his family and whatever challenges go on there, and this other home. Larry Summers blows his mind because he’s so smart. He’s got Establishment connections. He’s embracing me. It is this smartness, this truncated brilliance, that titillates and stimulates brother Barack and makes him feel at home. That is very sad for me.

But then, you know? West admits that maybe he did read what he wanted to read into Obama. He, after all, is holding Obama to a populist, Progressive standard when Obama ran for the Presidency on escalating the war in Afghanistan and was against gay marriage (but kind of considering civil unions). Also: He was running for the President of the United States -- a position that comes with one seat at the military table and one seat at the Wall Street table and if anyone thought there was ever going to be an American President who wasn't going to be eyeball deep into jingoism and capitalism, I don't know what to tell you. Perhaps you watch too much FOX News. Obama is about as socialist and peacenik as Rappin' Ronald Reagan*.

So, West admits that, you know, maybe he screwed up. Maybe. And perhaps the red-hot Obama love affair he was having was pretty one-sided.

“I have to take some responsibility,” he admits of his support for Obama as we sit in his book-lined office. “I could have been reading into it more than was there."

The messed up thing is, West has a few points if you can dig through the hurt feelings. Like, how you want the President to be more proactive, to have more backbone, to stand up for the poor, to be more pogressive, to take risks, to stand up to the banks and whatnot. Yes! That all sounds awesome! But when the bulk of your interview is about "he didn't call me back" and getting tickets to things it SEVERELY makes it seem like you're equating your ego being stroked with cuts to food stamps. And SURELY, West can't be doing that. Surely, he can't be phrasing this in a way that makes it seem like he could have been bought off by the White House if they'd made him Poet Laureate and invited him to Martha's Vineyard in the summer? He cannot possibly be tossing in his personal "Obama doesn't love me anymore" hurt feelings with bailing out Wall Street. Surely, he's not playing the old race-baiting, class/colorism game of "black is, black ain't" where you argue the President's personal black experience is inauthentic because it isn't exactly like your own?

But then, he kind of is. 

EXTRA: For more on why Cornel West sounds like a jilted lover, check out Melissa Harris-Perry's latest for The Nation where she states the following about his lack of inauguration tickets:

Let me get this straight--the tenured, Princeton professor who collects five figures for public lectures was relegated to a hotel television while an anonymous hotel worker got tickets to the inauguration! What kind of crazy, mixed up class politics are these? Wait a minute…

What exactly is so irritating to West about inaugural ticket-gate? It can't be a claim that the black, progressive intellectual community was unrepresented. Yale's Elizabeth Alexander was the poet that cold morning. It can't be that the "common man" was shut out because the Neighborhood Ball was reserved for the ordinary women and and men who worked to make Obama '08 possible. It must be a simple matter of jealous indignation. While I appreciate the humanness in such a a reaction, it hardly counts as a prophetic critique. 

Read the rest at The Nation's blog. (H/T Zerlina)

*I actually hated all the Rappin' Ronnie Reagan songs, so I'm using this as an excuse to post my favorite novelty rap , Rappin' Duke. It's like Rappin' Ronnie in the sense that "Why on Earth is John Wayne rapping?" But he mentions Ronald Reagan in the lyrics, so ... IT COUNTS!

"Aretha Franklin. Aretha Franklin. Let me rock you, Aretha Franklin ..."

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Reader Comments (19)

It is almost sad to watch West, Jesse Jackson and Tavis Smiley writhe in the pain of marginalization. It would be fully sad, but their respective egos force me to enjoy every minute.

I shouldn't have been surprised, but Rev, Sharpton figured out pretty quick how to navigate his urge to be King of the Blacks against the seas of an Obama Presidency.

May 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTwoNuse

can cornel just get over it, or is he going to go all crazy chick and start bustin gout the pres' windows?

May 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGreen Afro Diva

Cornel West....is jealous of Obama and feels that the president should bow down to his message. Obama needs to keep ignore these fools.

May 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLilia

This is too funny.

May 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNK

I actually thought most of the interview had more to do with West's critique of Obama's economic and financial policy, but meh, we all read what we want.

Aside from that I actually disagree with the stance most people are taking with regards to West's critique, but more in the interest of opposing groupthink a la Black Twitter/Literatti/Blogosphere, I think it's up to us to focus more on the issues that West highlighted than him falling victim to the jilted lover syndrome. I'm sure West didn't expect his personal sensibilities to be the focus of the interview no more than Manning Marable would have expected those he left to parse the titillating morsel that challenged Malcolm X's sexuality.

We should know better, why are we getting caught up in the minutiae?

May 17, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterthe uppity Negro

Ha Ha Green Afro you are too funny!

May 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMary

The scam is up. West and Smiley and the rest of these "buy my book so I can tell you how fucked up you are" flim flam artists are mad because the jig is UP. These pimps have done nothing but put black people on the "woe is me" stroll and their beef is that the hustle is OVER. They never actually talk about specific policies or proposals, they just scream from their lofty ivory towers about "jobs" and "poor people". And you have not nitwits falling for that tired mess. None of these pimps are interested in serious economic discussions - they know all they have to do is yell and holler about the poor people and get all indignant and that is enough for some, but times have changed and any black person with more than two brain cells is well aware that no specific legislation or program is some sort of one size fits all for the unemployment rate that is affecting teachers, accountants, assembly line workers, information system techs, and every other kind of profession from Los Angeles to Philly. All of these mofos can STFU with these simple ass talking points to complicated situations.

May 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLynne

Hi Black Snob. I like this piece, but I have a caveat (repeating what I wrote at weeseeyou, forgive the third person):

Still waiting for people to admit that someone who (a) has anxieties about President Obama as a puppet to Jewish people; (b) couches his critique of President Obama in terms which are racially offensive towards African Americans, and (c) cannot fathom that a bellhop should receive inauguration tickets when His Highness was not afforded tickets for himself and his guests...

*perhaps does not have legitimate gripes*

*perhaps is himself an elitist*

*and perhaps is just cloaking himself in the mantle of principle towards black folks, and poor folks, to escape accountability for what is nothing but some hard core, straight-up hating which if hating were an Olympic event, would win the gold, silver, and bronze metals

I respect her a lot, but she needs to realize that a bunch of these folks complaining about POTUS of "not enough backbone" or "not proactive" are totally full of shit and would not issue such attacks if they didn't have a PERSONAL problem with President Obama. I just need for her to reach that final conclusion. With that nitpick, that was a great piece; thank you.

May 17, 2011 | Unregistered Commentergn

Dr. Cornel West sounds like a fool. I'm not coming from a jilted lover standpoint; I'm coming from the POV that he talks all this mess about poor people and standing with the people, but he won't STAND with the people. The moment he and Tavis come down from their ivory towers and actually do something instead of peddling books that always TALK about doing something will be their first. If West was concerned about the plight of poor Black folks, then he would leave his cushy endowed chair at Princeton and bring himself to Fisk or Morris Brown to ensure that educational opportunities are available to folks wanting to pull themselves out of poverty. Folks sit and act as if they would do better (in some cases that could be true), but when the fire is on that ass, they won't know how to deal with it. Obama may not be the savior that liberals thought him to be, but the man HAS done some things right. Furthermore, West talks about Obama being a puppet of Wall Street and the elite, but the President DOES NOT draft, introduce, actively debate and pass legislation; that is Congress's role. Why is West not holding Maxine Waters, Cleaver, Rangel, et al to the SAME standard to which he is holding Mr. Obama? They have been in their elected positions MUCH longer than the POTUS. THAT is why West is a joke to me now. I used to respect him a lot. Have an autographed hard cover of Race Matters and everything, but dude is on some other shit right now.

May 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEddie Gray

Two thoughts:
1) Dr. West has been spending waay too much time with the pseudo-journalist/pseudo- intellectual Tavis Smiley - and not in a good way.....
-
2) And since Dr West started selling books, he is turning into more and more of a side show, and its getting old - I get its to drive sales, but don't sell yourself out in the process... make the legitimate critique and leave that other mess alone...

May 18, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterdivaliscious11

divalicious

that is quite possibly the grossest thing i've ever heard of.

worse than seeing the picture of ahnold's mistress.

May 18, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterswiv

Sorry Cornel, the POTUS has more important things to be concerned with and does not have time to come over and pick-out your afro and grease your scalp.

Instead of trying to get Obama to swoop in and "save" the poor, why not focus on helping the "poor" to stop being poor and take care of themselves. Vote, for starters maybe? They ain't got no jobs, plenty of time on their hands...

Obama is not the king of America.

May 18, 2011 | Unregistered Commenternovanova

@Swiv - Oh dear, oh no, I wasn't going there... I was referencing the desire for BHO to be the President of Black America, versus the President of America...ouch, my acid flushed imaginary eyes.....

May 18, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterdivaliscious11

First, thanks for that Rappin Duke. Good looking out. As for Kanye...er Cornel West and his zany antics, I still put it out there -the ma wears a costume. Who takes anyone seriously wearing a costume? Not a uniform, but a black and white suit that never comes off. Does he think he's today's Federick Douglas or a leftover X-Man?

May 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterWenzel Dashington

Nice one, Snob! As a progressive who never drank the kool-aid, I can't say that I'm too surprised by West's jilted lover syndrome as it was always all about him. Adolph Reed Jr., Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, etc. never fell for the hope or change brand, but West did 65 events & calls himself a progressive?! The left is rarely allowed on corporate-owned media, but West sits up on MSNBC, CNN, HBO, Comedy Central thinking he's representing? The air really is thinner up there.

I recall when Amy Goodman interviewed the brother who heads the Mississippi Black Farmer's Assoc. prior to the '08 election. She asked him if he thought Obama would be a positive change for family farmers and he gave her a SSDD look, sighed & responded something about BO's voting record/CAFTA & how it had resulted in Miss. farmers being unable to compete with the food coming from Guatemala. Like Shirley Sherrod said, "It's about poor people." We can see where that got her. I'm sure West will be headed down to Miss. to see if that brother got a ticket to the ball too.

Check out Ta-Nehisi's zingers here:
http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/05/gathering-the-tribe/239060/#disqus_thread

May 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSnape

Dr. West should have taken a moment to get his thoughts together before running his mouth. Instead, he chose to continue on the path of being a B.S. three ring circus side show attraction.

May 20, 2011 | Registered CommenterLevelUp

When was the last time West did anything "for the people" where he didn't get paid for it?

In response to Wenzel Dashington uptthread, West has actually said he sees himself as Fredrick Douglas to Obama's Lincoln.

May 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNellcote

I agree with all the comments and find it so ironic or maybe just proves how full of shit they are that the Tavis Smileys,Cornel Wests,and Micheal Dysons all work for and went to IVY LEAGUE schools. They talk one thing but then do another they are full of shit and then some Corncob West doesn't need Obama to get off his Manhattan condo ass and actually do shit for poor people. Stop all the whining,complaining,bitching,talking and get off your ass and finally DO SOMETHING!

May 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSandy Beach

Cornel West sounds like a kid who was playing in a sandbox with a few other kids but when they didn't do what he wanted them to do, kicked them out of the sandbox and said

"MINE MINE MINE! Get out! I'm not your FRIEND!"

Goodbye sir. :-|

May 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSpinster

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