Cornel West: Barack Obama doesn’t care about black people

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Cornel West

Cornel West is probably one of the most interesting public intellectuals we've got these days. He got fired from Harvard for making a rap album (or so he'd tell you), watching him speak is like watching a crazy man whispering to himself, and he's the only tenured Ivy League professor to sport such a delightful beard. Recently, he's also been on the offensive, intensifying his longstanding beef with Barack Obama

Earlier this week, West went on The Ed Show to spout off about what he calls Barack Obama's "fear of free black men." He said: 

"I think he does have a predilection much more toward upper-class white brothers and Jewish brothers and a certain distance from free black men who will tell him the truth about himself as well as what’s going on in black communities, brown communities, red communities, and poor white and working-class communities."

I feel mixed about this. Black and historically under-served communities in this country struggle with poverty now as much as they ever have, in a "permanent recession," as some have said. And it's valid for people to push the President to serve the working class. That said, our weird culture of racial authenticity — where one prominent black man can insult another by suggesting he's somehow inauthentic, "not black enough" — feels oddly regressive, and stands in the way of real progress. Plus, yelling at the President for hanging out with too many white men seems like willful ignorance. 

Moreover, whatever political message West has gets obscured by his personal gripes with the President. West campaigned aggressively for Obama in 2008, but soon soured with the President. At first, it seemed like a personal thing, like West was just feeling left out. He got very mad about not getting a ticket to the Inauguration, and bitched publicly about how Barack didn't return his phone calls. I know you're Cornel West, sir, but he's the President.