Ta-Neshi Coates Gets Trolled by Cornel West

“Eat your heart out, Cornel.”

Ta-Neshi Coates is widely regarded as America’s best and brightest social critic (and I share the sentiment). If writers wield power through their employment and arrangement of words, Coates flexed his muscles in the 2014 essay in The Atlantic, “The Case For Reparations” which moved the debate in an entirely new direction. It certainly opened to the possibility of a legitimate claim for reparations which avoided the non-starter argument of slavery as the justification.

Coates is having his moment in the spotlight as he makes the rounds of television, magazine, web interviews to promote his new book, Between the World and Me. Already the book has been lauded by liberals, crapped on by critics and its author praised by one of America’s literary lions.

“I’ve been wondering who might fill the intellectual void that plagued me after James Baldwin died. Clearly it is Ta-Nehisi Coates.” Toni Morrison in a note to Ta-Neshi Coates’ agent.

That annoting did not sit well with one Cornel West who took to his Facebook page to retort:

In Defense of James Baldwin – Why Toni Morrison (a literary genius) is Wrong about Ta-Nehisi Coates. Baldwin was a great writer of profound courage who spoke truth to power. Coates is a clever wordsmith with journalistic talent who avoids any critique of the Black president in power. Baldwin’s painful self-examination led to collective action and a focus on social movements. He reveled in the examples of Medgar, Martin, Malcolm, Fannie Lou Hamer and Angela Davis. Coates’s fear-driven self-absorption leads to individual escape and flight to safety – he is cowardly silent on the marvelous new militancy in Ferguson, Baltimore, New York, Oakland, Cleveland and other places. Coates can grow and mature, but without an analysis of capitalist wealth inequality, gender domination, homophobic degradation, Imperial occupation (all concrete forms of plunder) and collective fightback (not just personal struggle) Coates will remain a mere darling of White and Black Neo-liberals, paralyzed by their Obama worship and hence a distraction from the necessary courage and vision we need in our catastrophic times. How I wish the prophetic work of serious intellectuals like Robin DG Kelley, Imani Perry, Gerald Horne, Eddie Glaude commanded the attention the corporate media gives Coates. But in our age of superficial spectacle, even the great Morrison is seduced by the linguistic glitz and political silences of Coates as we all hunger for the literary genius and political engagement of Baldwin. As in jazz, we must teach our youth that immature imitation is suicide and premature elevation is death. Brother Coates continue to lift your gifted voice to your precious son and all of us, just beware of the white noise and become connected to the people’s movements!

There are many ways to take that. I take that to mean Cornel West thinks Toni Morrison and Ta-Neshi Coates are full of shit.

But so is West if he (a) thinks James Baldwin needs defending and (b) he’s the guy to do the defending.

Michael Eric Dyson,  the former West ally turned bitter enemy went public with his break in a New Republic piece,  dumped derision on West’s kneecapping of Coates in an interview  “It shows the vast ineptitude of Professor West’s scholarship. The point I made in my piece is that he doesn’t keep up, he doesn’t read the freshest, newest, most insightful scholarship, nor does he write about it in any serious fashion or teach it in his curriculum, and it shows here.”

Dyson described Coates as a “greatly gifted writer” who forms “sentences and thoughts that sing on the page and stick to the mind.”

“Every charge he made against Ta-Nehisi is patently false,”  Dyson added. “Shall I introduce you to his essay on reparations? It has every bit of the analysis that West was hankering for,”

Dyson rallied to Morrison’s defense.  “And so now that makes her look like a dupe and a boob when she is a literary genius who possesses a Nobel Prize in literature,” he said. “I think her pedigree of assessment is far more convincing than Cornel West’s.”

Ta-Nehisi Coates_book

Coates may have incurred West’s undying wrath in 2011 in an essay entitled,    where he wrote:

In the matter at hand, there is no real difference between the tribalism offered by [Dinesh] D’Souza and his ilk, and the tribalism offered by West and his defenders. There is no real difference between Tea Partiers who insist that NAACP are the actual racists, and those who believe Obama is a “black mascot” damning the influence of identity politics. There is no real difference between those who push their agenda by implying that Obama isn’t really American, and those who push their agenda by implying that Obama isn’t really black.

Both are afflicted with a species of blindness, and intellectual sloth. Understanding and debating actual policy is hard. Enumerating perceived slights and name-calling, and dubbing it a black agenda, is not.

It may have taken him four years to return fire, but West never forgets an insult and never forgives the insulter.

West has become a small, petty, vulgar, envious and shriveled little man. His ego is second only to the equally vulgar Donald J. Trump. I now consider him a failed intellectual who has invalidated his earlier status as one of the leading voices in Black Thought.

West has nearly abrogated any claim to being a serious thinker to be taken seriously.   His pathological hatred of Barack Obama  coupled with his envy and spitefulness for anyone  like Coates who disagrees with or eclipses him is sad beyond words.   He’s become a really smart rapper with no flow  who enjoys playing the Dozens with big words.

West is a crank living off his rep and is clearly on the down escalator of his career  as Coates passes him on the way up.

“I repudiate Obama and I repudiate myself for supporting Obama.”

The Strange Logic of Obama Haters


Your threats to impeach me are highly illogical, but fascinating.

It’s time for this week’s Crazy Republican Idea and it comes by way of Fox Nation turning over a rock as a nobody named Frances Rice and her group of fellow cranks, the National Black Republicans Association who got the bright idea to file articles of impeachment against Barry Soweto, aka. Barack Obama.

The National Black Republican Association (NBRA) based in Sarasota, FL, headed by Chairman Frances Rice, filed Articles of Impeachment against President Barack Obama with the following language:

We, black American citizens, in order to free ourselves and our fellow citizens from governmental tyranny, do herewith submit these Articles of Impeachment to Congress for the removal of President Barack H. Obama, aka, Barry Soetoro, from office for his attack on liberty and commission of egregious acts of despotism that constitute high crimes and misdemeanors.

It’s been  a right-wingnut’s fantasy to impeach Obama.   It’s not going to happen even with this crazy Congress.   The Republicans know the last time they tried this stunt with Bill Clinton they got their ass handed to them.   The same thing would happen now and with Congressional elections coming up in 2014, they aren’t about to fire up the country to rally behind a president being targeted by an overtly partisan lynching.   They would pay a terrible price at the ballot box, so they’ll allow Rice and her fellow Negro malcontents to have their moment in the sun, but this is going nowhere further than one whacked out woman’s fever dream.


Impeaching Obama is not the first dumb idea the NBRA has had.

Rice’s crazy-ass group is based in Florida, where brain cells go to die.   With all the other things he has to be worried about it’s a safe bet the president hasn’t devoted two seconds of thought worrying about the NBRA’s impeachment threat.

Coming from the Left flank, director Oliver Stone, probably missing his dead homey Hugo Chavez, spat a little venom Obama’s way hissing, “Obama is a snake. He’s a snake, and we have to turn on him.”  You mean the same way audiences have turned on your last few movies, Ollie?

It doesn’t hurt the president to be scorned by a has-been like Stone who hasn’t made a good film in since JFK some 22 years ago and a non-entity like Rice whose importance exists exclusively within her own head.   The disapproval of the Right is nothing new for Obama.  They always have viewed him as the Anti-Christ.   The rebuke from the left-leaning fringe is equally unsurprising

People who imprint their own cloudy and unspecific agendas upon Barack Obama are doomed to disappointment when he fails to act on them. Perhaps they are longing for the good ol’ days when Tavis ” Sub-Prime Smiley” would conduct his corporate underwritten State of the Black Union where every problem Black folks ever faced was magically dispersed by talking it to death.

The same people who grumble, groan and gripe about the failure of Obama to advance their agenda are the same ones who have not elected more conscious and proactive Blacks to the House, the Senate or statehouses across America. They fail to back efforts to repeal punitive badly written laws like Stand Your Ground and mandatory drug sentences. They know their rhetoric, but don’t know the names and phone numbers of the Congressional representatives. While White Tea Party right-wingers were sweating their elected officials at hotly contested town meetings where were all the Black folks? Staying home and watching “Love and Hip-Hop?”

When you don’t understand politics you will always be disappointed by how unresponsive politicians are. Why should they be when you aren’t putting money in their pockets or holding their feet to the fire? Some of those disappointed in Obama really thought he was the Far Left Liberal Progressive Radical Centerfold Cornel West originally fell in love with. Truth be told, Obama has always been a moderate and cautious man. When he was in the Senate he didn’t align himself with reformers like Russ Feingold, but traditional pols like Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid. Why would anyone expect a dramatic shift to the Left now?

If Obama assumed the Left would have a hissy fit about how he ran things, but still vote for him, he assumed correctly. The only alternative as the Republicans have been body-snatched by their most extreme elements is to stay home, vote for a Third Party loser or hold your nose and hope for that Change to come. Most of us have faced reality and gone with the Least Bad Choice.

“Obama is a snake and this helmet looks dumb as hell.”

I understand and I even share some of the discontent with President Obama as those who can’t stand him. But faced with a racist, reactionary Republican opposition and a occasionally soft, easily pushed around, but frequently effective Democrat, my choice is clear, if not always easily made.

In 2009, writing in The Progressive in an article entitled “How To Push Obama”, John Nichols wrote:

After his election in 1932, FDR met with Sidney Hillman and other labor leaders, many of them active Socialists with whom he had worked over the past decade or more. Hillman and his allies arrived with plans they wanted the new President to implement. Roosevelt told them: “I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it.”

Maybe the problem with Obama not making your dreams come true is you never made him do it.

Cornel West’s Slow Slide Into Darkness

“I love you now but I’ll hate you later.”

There used to a half-serious joke that once Michael Jackson’s skin turned White and his nose started falling off, it wasn’t the real Michael Jackson.   The real Michael was sick or locked away somewhere and this freakish clone of him was the one being wheeled out to the public.

Is that what happened to Cornel West?   There’s a guy running around who looks like him.   He sort of sounds like him if Cornel West only talked about how much he despises President Obama.    He even wears the only suit in West’s closet.   It’s too bad it isn’t a clone of Cornel West trashing his own rep while he trashes the president.   It would be even easier to dismiss him as a bitter hater than it already is.

West’s latest in a series of tiresome tirades short of any intellectual insights, but long on street-level smack talk came in an interview with Tavis “Sub-Prime” Smiley, the Iago to West’s Othello:

Smiley:  “What’s your sense of how the media, and not just Fox News but beyond that, your read as you’ve been watching this, how the media handled this case?”

West:  “I think that it’s been decrepit though, brother. I mean, you get a focus on some of the upper middle class folk. I mean, what I call the ‘rent-a-negro’ phenomenon on MSNBC.”

This is almost funny.   West snipes at his former allies, Rev. Al Sharpton and Michael Eric Dyson (and longtime adversary, Melissa Harris-Perry) for appearing on MSNBC  (a network that has given West plenty of face time) while his best buddy Smiley has whored himself out to such corporations as Wal-Mart, Exxon, Wells-Fargo and McDonald’s.  This does not trouble West as he is represented by Smiley for book publishing and speaking engagements (West earns up to $25,000  to speak).

In other words, if you got the cash, you can rent West and Smiley’s ashy asses.    If MSNBC came calling and offered West and Smiley a show, how fast would they run not walk to sign on the dotted line?

The dizzying descent of West as an intellectual has been rapid and sad to behold.  West has permitted the unscrupulous  Smiley to co-opt him into a sustained and relentless campaign of negativity and baseless criticism of President Obama and any Black person who doesn’t share West and Smiley’s opinion.

“Eff me? Eff YOU! My dear brother.”

The roots of West’s rage trace back to when Obama’s first inauguration.  West was angry Obama hadn’t personally thanked him for his support and  ensuring West was invited to the inauguration.

“There is the personal level,” he says. “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 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 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.’ Beginning in Iowa to Ohio. We had to watch the thing in the hotel.”

“What it said to me on a personal level,” he goes on, “was that brother Barack Obama had no sense of gratitude, no sense of loyalty, no sense of even courtesy, [no] sense of decency, just to say thank you. Is this the kind of manipulative, Machiavellian orientation we ought to get used to? That was on a personal level.”

What that says to me is the only thing bigger on Cornel West than the gap between his teeth and his busted-ass Afro is his ego. It’s as big as outdoors and Dear Brother Cornel likes to have his ego stroked frequently and often.

I respect Dear Brother West. I bought Race Matters by the Dear Brother because race does matter and so did his observations.. I watched the Dear Brother on television and heard the Dear Brother speak when he came to town. I believe the Dear Brother is one of our greatest thinkers.

When the Dear Brother bothers to think. He stopped doing that when he let his ego, the only thing larger than his ‘fro, slip off the leash and he turned himself into a vicious, hypocritical, small-minded hater and it seems to be no coincidence the descent from renowned intellectual to annoying crank came when another blood enemy of Obama began whispering sweet nothing in the acclaimed academic’s ears.

The Enabled and the Enabler.

West hasn’t written a meaningful book, penned a useful article or expressed an original thought since 2008 when he got butthurt over Obama not kissing his ass or give him a position of prominence in his administration as he did with West’s nemesis from Harvard, Larry Summers.

Seriously, isn’t Cornel West starting to look like a hip-hop Hobbit?

It seems the longer West hangs around Smiley the crazier he sounds.   Smiley’s enemies (Obama, Al Sharpton, Tom Joyner, Melissa Harris-Perry, Michael Eric Dyson) have become West’s enemies.  By lending his diminishing clout to Smiley, West only diminishes his own reputation and enhances Smiley.

West needs to put several time zones of distance between himself and Sub-Prime Smiley and get back to thinking like an intellectual instead of babbling like a damn fool.   If West were as smart as he believes himself to be, he’d realize Smiley is playing him the way a pimp plays a ho.

Sharpton, West, Dyson: Once friends, now foes.

Tavis Hates Barack: Take 25

"I am important so you should listen to me."

“I am important so you should listen to me.”

Last weekend was spent in Canton, Ohio visiting the Pro Football Hall of Fame and getting primed for the start of another NFL season, but don’t worry.   This isn’t a football post.  I can’t get away from politics even when I’m trying to.

Tavis Smiley is talking again which means again he’s talking trash about President Obama.   These two guys don’t like each other and for his part, Tavis is never going to let the world forget how much he doesn’t like Obama.   The president doesn’t respond to Tavis’ slams because he’s the president and he doesn’t have to respond to non-entities.

So I will.  Because I don’t like Tavis.  If possible, I like him less than he likes Obama and for the same reason he hates on Obama.  Smiley is a con man.  A self-promoter.  He talks a good game but what if anything has Tavis ever done except write a lot of shitty books, find others more talented and intelligent than him to latch onto and leech off and whore himself out to whatever corporation needs a fast-talking Negro to get in good with the Black folks?

Tavis went on Meet the Press because host David Gregory is almost as terrible at interviewing as Tavis is and that’s saying something.    In what was billed a panel to discuss race, Tavis tried to start a rap battle with the president over his remarks about Trayvon Martin saying his flow was weak and his words weren’t kicking either.

The lowlights:

“weak as pre-sweetened Kool-Aid”

We are never ever getting back together again.

“This is not Libya, this is America. On this issue, you cannot lead from behind.  He’s the right person in the right place at the right time. But he has to step into his moment.”

“I appreciate and applaud the fact that the president did finally show up. But … he did not walk to the podium for an impromptu address to the nation. He was pushed to that podium. A week of protests outside the White House, pressure building on him inside the White House, pushed him to that podium.”

At this point there’s no reason to believe Tavis is capable of saying anything remotely fair about Obama, but is “intelligent” off the table as well?

The president isn’t deaf to the cries of the Black community.  He can’t always acknowledge them without his relentless critics saying, “There he goes again.  Being Black” or have jealous little toads like the worthless Mr. Smiley sneering he only spoke about Trayvon due to the protests.   But did Tavis notice how Travyon’s parents thanked the president for his kind words about their murdered son?   The praise of Trayvon’s parents trumps Tavis’ hateration and it isn’t a close call.

It’s a lose-lose situation for Obama.  Say something and he gets slammed by his enemies.   Say nothing and he gets slammed by his supporters.    James Baldwin said, “To act is to be committed and to be committed is to be in danger.”   The president is always in danger of being Too Black or Not Black Enough.  He chose to act and commit his support of Trayvon and his family.  I’m glad he decided to lead from ahead instead of hide behind the myriad issues and events in the Oval Office Inbox.

Here is the funny thing about clout.   For somebody to have it, somebody else has to lose it.  The rising of Obama’s star came with a settling of Smiley’s.  Prior to Obama, Tavis had a prominent place as commentator on Tom Joyner’s radio program.   He had his State of the Black Union conferences broadcast on C-SPAN.   He had his books telling Blacks how to get themselves together.  Mostly, by buying more of his books.   He had a radio program on NPR.   He had a show on PBS.

With the exception of his 30 minute talk show broadcast just before midnight on my local PBS station, Smiley doesn’t have any of that going for him anymore.   Smiley’s downward spiral really kicked after his book that was supposed to put Obama on notice, “Accountable” tanked hard.  Characteristically, Smiley didn’t blame the book stiffing on writing a bad book.  He blamed Black folks for being so in love with Obama they didn’t buy it so y’all better feel terrible about that!

What really chaps Tavis’ ass is he knows he didn’t make Obama and he sure can’t break him. Tavis is irrelevant and Obama made him that way.

The argument Tavis makes is he has been called to hold Obama’s feet to the fire.   It’s the only way to ensure the president doesn’t completely ignore our issues.   That’s how Tavis sees it and he’s sticking to his story.

This is mine.

Tavis isn’t keeping “MY” issues out there. I don’t need a spokesman and nobody elected this fool to be MY leader. I voted for Obama twice and didn’t see Smiley’s name on the ballot even once.  He’s a self-promoter, a swindler, a con man and out for Tavis Smiley more than he is about anybody else. Remember that “poverty tour” he and his boy Cornel took? What came out of it? Any calls for legislation? Did he ask Congress to convene hearings? Did he even present an action plan for the president to work on?

All he and bunk buddy West did was pulled off a media stunt, get a little undeserved attention at the same time yet another book was coming out.  When conservatives talk about “race hustlers” they point at Sharpton and Jackson. They should be pointing at Tavis “Sub-Prime Loans” Smiley.

While it’s good for visitor hits on my blog, talking about Tavis’ trash talk is a never-ending story.  Like any race hustler who craves attention like a moth to a porch light, I’m giving this unimportant has-been exactly what he craves.  The election of Obama was a mortal blow to the unelected “leaders” of Black America.  Smiley and West were never elected so they can never be tossed out of office.   They offer no legislation, sign no laws, and offer nothing but talk and then more talk. Tavis and his ilk is only as important as Black people let him be.  Ignore him and he’s as played out as Rae Dawn Chong ripping into Oprah.

Rae Dawn and Tavis would actually make a good couple (if she could squeeze between Tavis and Cornel West).  They’re two nobodies whose only way to find relevance is taking smack about more successful somebodies.

“What did I get on my finger? It stinks.”

Tavis Smiley’s Pathetic Paranoia and Increasing Irrelevance

Always complaining. Increasingly irrelevant.

The job of the artist, the activist and the journalist is to engage in uncomfortable analysis.  If they don’t then all they’re feeding the masses is a steady diet of nothing but comfort food.  There is no intellectual nourishment in always entertaining people.

Then there’s Tavis Smiley.  The self-appointed President of Black America who has been both a race hustler and a shameless corporate shill even as he prowls the country on a “poverty tour” designed for no other reason than to try to embarrass the twice-elected President of the United States.

Not that is has.  Lately nobody seems to notice Tavis  and his stunts.  His pandering for press attention has reached Lindsay Lohan levels of desperation.   For a minute it was fun to watch Smiley babble how he was going to hold Barack Obama “accountable.”   It became clear Smiley really desired Obama to be accountable to him.

That’s when the rank odor of Smiley’s bullshit finally became overwhelming.   Smiley used the 10th anniversary of his PBS television program to accuse the White House of pressuring advertisers to abandon his show and of course he had a reason why they would go after him.

“This administration does not like to be criticized. And the irony of it is, there’s nothing I have tried to hold the president accountable on that my white progressive colleagues have not…They’re labeled courageous critics, but if I say it, I’m an ‘Obama critic.’ There’s race at play in the very question…“I don’t have an anti-Barack agenda but this is what I do: My job is to raise questions of accountability.”

Oh Tavis, really?  Now you’re so desperate to play the victim you’re reduced to hiding behind your “White progressive colleagues” as your beard?  Negro, please.   Your “White progressive colleagues” aren’t the ones  grinding an axe since 2008 when you began your “I Hate Obama” campaign after he declined to appear at your State of Black America conference  to kiss your arrogant ass.

The causal observer may notice when Smiley speaks about President Obama he asserts he’s only trying to hold him accountable.   This might lead you to think that was Smiley’s favorite word.   Perhaps it is and not simply the title of a book Smiley wrote that bombed.   Here’s the thing about that word.  It can be applied to Smiley too as it was in 2009 when citizen journalist Faye Anderson looked into the race hustlers rewarding relationship with Wells Fargo in pushing sub-prime loans to African-Americans.

Smiley’s complete lack of credibility and anti-Obama  agenda has subjected him to a withering barrage of criticism for his latest unsubstantiated charges against the president.

Shannon Williams: Over the years I have watched Smiley go from a balanced public speaker who offered credible and thought-provoking perspective to his analyses to a bitter man who has used his platform to unjustly attack people who, in his opinion, have treated him in a bad or disrespectful manner. It almost seems as if he has had some sort of breakdown over the years that has caused him to speak in a vindictive and erratic manner. Though a breakdown would be a good escape goat, I think Smiley’s true problem is an overinflated ego. When people haven’t done what he thinks they should do, that ego gets bruised and Smiley gets angry. The way he “repays” the “wrongdoers” is he publically talks about them under the guise that he is holding them accountable.

Accountability is a marvelous thing that we all should be held to, but the said conclusions need to be derived from a thorough and fair judgment system. Public accountability cannot hold a personal vendetta.

Eric Wattree:  …why would Tavis’s corporate benefactors even want to hide the fact that they were being pressured by Obama? Trying to put pressure on Walmart, Nationwide Insurance, or Exxon/Mobile would not only be extremely dumb on the part of the administration, but it would be a gift from God to Tavis’s ALEC connected corporate benefactors. Can you just imagine what Darrell Issa could do with something like that in his House Oversight Kangaroo Committee? He’d turn it into Watergate.
So it seems that yet again Tavis is being deluded by his overblown ego – the same ego that made him assume that Obama had an obligation to come on his “State of the Black Union” show to be anointed by Tavis to run for president; the same ego that made him think that he’s been slighted when Obama failed to do so; the same ego that caused him to go all over the media complaining that “For the very first time in my career I haven’t been invited to the White House;” and the very same ego that made him think that he had enough clout in the Black community to challenge the first Black president of the United States.
The fact is, President Obama hasn’t given either Tavis Smiley, or Cornel West, a second thought since he’s been in office. He hasn’t had to, because he, like just about everyone else in America – at least, with good sense – could see that he didn’t have to. Tavis and West were making themselves look like perfect fools on their own accord, so the president didn’t have to say, or do a thing. All he had to do was sit back and watch them implode – and that’s exactly what he’s done.

Michael H. Cottman: In a month where Republicans have accused Obama of everything imaginable –with the possible exception of Robert Griffin III’s knee injury — it seems that Smiley snagged a timely moment to pile on.

I would argue that the White House doesn’t care enough about Smiley to assemble a team of administration officials who would surreptitiously spend time thinking up new and creative ways to suppress Smiley’s voice.

Smiley says his self-imposed mandate in life is to hold Obama’s feet to the fire and keep him accountable to black people. That’s his choice and his path to follow, but I don’t believe there’s a clandestine campaign within the Obama administration that is secretly trying to shut Smiley down.

He’s just not that important.

Couldn’t have said it any better myself.    There is no reason for Obama to sic the dogs on Smiley because his importance is largely in his own mind and his impact is nil.   Take down Tavis?   Why bother?  He doing a fine job of it all by himself.

Tweedledee and Tweedledum.

Cornel West’s Counter-Insurgency Against Obama

A man thoroughly convinced of his own importance.

The other day  Tavis Smiley and Cornel West were bitching about President Obama.  What they were bitching about doesn’t rally matter because that’s what they do.  That’s all they do and they tear down Obama so much it makes me wonder are they angling for their own show on Fox News?   How did West and Smiley go from men of respect within Black culture to self-parody?

I’d sum it up in two words: Barack Obama. From Tavis’ perspective it’s straight up envy. He used to host a yearly gathering called “The State of the Black Union” where he would invite prominent people to discuss issues of importance to African-Americans. It was interesting to see people who were often overlooked by the White mainstream media gather to discuss and debate, but a funny thing happened with “The State of the Black Union.” Talking was all it was about. There was no action plan. There was no “Black agenda” that sprung from  these lengthy talk-a-thons.   It was equally clear if you weren’t part of the  Tavis Smiley clique of Favorite Black Folks ,   you probably weren’t going to be invited to speak. Then there’s  the issue of the gathering of Black thinkers  being underwritten by Smiley’s corporate pals,  Wal-Mart and Wells Fargo.

The defining moment came in 2008 when Smiley invited Sen. Obama to appear at the yearly gathering.   The eventual nominee was still in the middle of  primary battle with Hillary Clinton  and instead of coming off the campaign trail, he wrote Smiley a letter offering to send Michelle Obama in his stead.  Smiley flatly rejected Obama’s wife as his representative and got really ugly about it. Smiley, a Clinton supporter, invited her to appear instead and she accepted.

Smiley continued to attack Obama for not appearing.   Suddenly, even Smiley’s supporters started looking sideways at this raging egotist and wondering who was he to demand Obama appear personally to kiss his ring?

This led to Smiley eventually quitting the Tom Joyner radio show, the program that initially raised his national profile and a bitter falling out with Joyner himself. Smiley wrote a book after Obama won the presidency called “Accountable” where he pompously asserted how it was up to Black people like him to hold Obama accountable if he didn’t deliver the goods to the Black community once he took office.

The book tanked hard and Smiley griped Obama supporters had turned on him and caused the book to flop. He’s been a little pebble in a big can rattling around ever since about how Obama ain’t shit.

Cornel West…now that’s an entirely different and much sadder story. It’s also downright pathetic at points.  A frustrated supporter in 2008,  West despises Obama so much he can’t abide anyone that doesn’t share his negative opinion of the president.

“I love Brother Mike Dyson, but we’re living in a society where everybody is up for sale,” West said in a Huffington Post story. “Everything is up for sale. And he and Brother (Al) Sharpton and Sister Melissa (Harris-Perry) and others, they have sold their souls for a mess of Obama pottage. And we invite them back to the black prophetic tradition after Obama leaves. But at the moment, they want insider access, and they want to tell those kind of lies. They want to turn their back to poor and working people. And it’s a sad thing to see them as apologists for the Obama administration in that way, given the kind of critical background that all of them have had at some point.”

Who needs Cornel West’s kind of “love.”  If everybody is up for sale, where’s West hiding his price tag?

“Sister Melissa” hasn’t been reluctant to call out West for his single-minded mission to demean and defame Obama at every turn as her 2011 column in The Nation stripped West’s hypocrisy down to the bone with the precision of a surgeon’s scalpel.

Harris-Perry has gone from West’s colleague to his nemesis

“As tenured professors Cornel West and I are not meaningfully accountable, no matter what our love, commitment, or self-delusions tell us. President Obama, as an elected official, can, in fact, be voted out of his job. We can’t. That is a difference that matters. As West derides the President’s economic policies he remains silent on his friend Tavis Smiley’s relationship with Wal-Mart, Wells Fargo, and McDonald’s–all corporations whose invasive and predatory actions in poor and black communities have been the target of progressive organizing for decades. I have never heard him take Tavis Smiley to task for helping convince black Americans to enter into predatory mortgages. I’ve never heard him ask whether Tavis’ decision to publish R. Kelley’s memoirs might be a less than progressive decision. He doesn’t hold Tavis accountable because Tavis is his friend and he is loyal. I respect that, but I also know that if he were in elected office the could not get off so easily. Opposition research would point out the hypocrisy in his public positions in a way that would make him vulnerable come election time. As a media personality and professor he is safely ensconced in a system that can never vote him off the island. I think an honest critique of Obama has to begin by acknowledging his own privileges.”

The days when Black Americans had  “leaders” is over and done.  We have organization heads, self-appointed experts and spokespersons on race and some celebrities who have a podium to express their beliefs. But as far as “leaders” goes, that went bye-bye when Martin and Malcolm and others left the scene, often violently and always prematurely. What we have now is a group of Second Wave Wannabees who would like to considered as picking up where King, Malcolm, Rosa Parks, Medgar Evers, and so many others left off.

Martin didn’t have corporate sponsorship. Malcolm didn’t demand huge speaking fees. Rosa  didn’t have a talk show.  Nobody went looking for Smiley or  West to “lead” Black people.  We had REAL leaders.  Why settle for phony ones?

Pointing out West’s hypocrisy  is almost its own news desk.  Journalist and blogger Eric Wattree has long documented West and Smiley’s shameless self-promotion, “West is never short on words when it comes to denigrating high-profile Black people. He’s publicly criticized Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, Rev. Al Sharpton, Jay Z, and of course, his favorite target, President Barack Obama. But when it comes to his good friend and associate, Tavis Smiley’s, involvement in Wells Fargo’s victimization of the Black community, he’s been curiously silent.”

The silence is being interrupted by the loudness of the Black community waking up to Smiley’s coziness with Corporate America and how he’s played the role of Judas goat leading African-Americans into financial ruin while profiting from their misery.  Following their second so-called “poverty tour” that West and Smiley claimed was supposed to spotlight the poor, but was confined to key states in the last presidential election, the due were called out by Najee Ali, a Los Angeles based activist, for Smiley’s cozy relationship with rabidly anti-union Wal-Mart.

“Wal-Mart is a billion dollar corporation. They should be able to offer a better medical package for their associates and a living wage. The involvement of corporations like Wal-Mart in Tavis Smiley’s own PBS show is troublesome,” says Ali. “Wal-Mart is one of the major sponsors of his show. Therefore, Wal-Mart plays a major role in sustaining Smiley’s popularity. If Smiley and West want to address poverty shouldn’t they involve Wal-Mart in the conversation and hold them  accountable as well?”

Pete and Repeat are back in black.

Pete and Repeat are back in black.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for Dear Brother Cornel to answer that.

West is a joke. There’s a rock song entitled, “I Am What I Hated When I Was Young” and that sorry state where West is at now.  A vain, prideful man with a slight Messiah Complex,  whenever West opens his mouth he sounds more irrational, more deranged, more self-righteous and more butt hurt than ever.   There is nothing remotely intellectual in the vicious and highly personal ways West scorns the president.

What do you get when you match a vain, egotistical academic with delusions of divinity with a vain, egotistical hustler searching for a way to stay relevant?  Nothing good.  Just two clowns without a circus fighting to stay in the spotlight.   If it wasn’t so damn annoying it would be sad.

No Black President? No Problem.


This may come as a shock to anyone who expected Barack Obama to deliver reparations, 40 acres and a mule and a new flat-screen television to Black folks, but he’s not Black America’s president and never wanted to be.

“I want all Americans to have opportunity,” he told Black Enterprise Magazine. “I’m not the president of black America. I’m the president of the United States of America.” When asked about criticism that he hasn’t done enough to help minority-owned businesses, he said, “The programs that we have put in place have been directed at those folks who are least able to get financing through conventional means, who have been in the past locked out of opportunities that were available to everybody.”

 Obama, the first African American president, has been under pressure from some black activists to ease severe problems in the African American community such as unemployment, which is about 14 percent, far higher than the national rate of 8.3 percent. Another problem that African Americans want Obama to address is the high rate of incarceration for black men.

 But he has consistently resisted calls for any type of “black agenda.” In the Black Enterprise interview, published in the magazine’s current issue, he added: “I’ll put my track record up against anybody in terms of us putting in place broad-based programs that ultimately had a huge benefit for African American businesses.”

Obama has taken considerable heat for his refusal to advance a “Black agenda” which has turned former supporters such as Cornel West into bitter enemies.  West calls the president a “black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs,” and then twists the knife even deeper saying “I think my dear brother Barack Obama has a certain fear of free black men” and “He 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.”

They love you one second and hate you the next one.

Obama has always straddled the line of rising above his Blackness and being anchored by it.  Even Obama supporters have occasionally stuck him in a Magic Negro box. Who can forget Joe Biden’s brain fart when he thought he was paying Obama a compliment, “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”

In the process of making a million dollar contribution to a pro-Obama PAC, actor Morgan Freeman couldn’t resist qualifying how “Black” the president is. The man who has played both the president and God pointed out that Barack is not America’s first Black president. America is still waiting for its first Black president.

“They just conveniently forget that Barack had a mama, and she was White – very White American, Kansas, middle America,” Freeman said. “There was no argument about who he is or what he is. America’s first Black president hasn’t arisen yet. He’s not America’s first Black president – he’s America’s first mixed-race president.”

Obama is probably glad to receive Freeman’s money. The unwanted history lesson and the actor’s musings on racial purity? Not so much. This is the permanent dilemma of Barack Hussein Obama: too Black for some and not Black enough for others.

Even God gets it wrong every so often.

I agree with Dr. West when he says Obama has been too cautious. Too conciliatory. Too willing to give breaks to Wall Street instead of Main Street. The president been terribly served by his economic team of advisers, especially Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, his lousiest Cabinet pick and Larry Summers, West’s old nemesis from Harvard whose primary interest was protecting big banks, not the little guys screwed over by them.  There are problems specific and targeting Blacks that necessitate specific and targeted remedies.

But West is an ideologue and socialist who may had hopes he would be included in Obama’s  Black brain trust along with Henry Louis Gates, Christopher Edley and Charles Ogletree. It didn’t happen and West, a relentless publicity hound and self-promoter who is more likely to be in the studio cutting rap albums and appearing in crappy Matrix sequels than he is shaping impressionable young minds in a lecture hall.

I respect Dr. West and he’s not entirely wrong how President Obama has fallen short of realizing the hopes Black Americans placed in him, but does he have no understanding the political realities of Washington and the limitations of the presidential power?

There was never any chance the Republicans (and more than a few Democrats) would ever sign on to a targeted program specifically benefiting African-Americans.   The Republicans called healthcare reform a socialist plot.   You’d have to be nuts to expect these obstructionists to give a thumb’s up to massive new spending targeted toward 36 million African-Americans.   How does a moderate Democrat in Alabama go home to their district and sell that to their constituents as anything but another big government giveaway to Blacks?   Nuts or Cornel West, not that there’s all that much difference it seems anymore.

America has elected more than a few White Presidents of White America, but it’s not about to elect a Black President of Black America. It’s too absurd to even consider except for the hopelessly naïve and delusional.

The ideologically pure dream have the luxury of dreaming of utopias. Realists have to do the heavy lifting of complicated reality.   Whatever else that can said about Obama it has to be said he lives in the real world where if you’re not the president for as many as possible, you won’t be president for any of them long.

Black President or not, kids don’t have a problem with that.


Bros Before Hos: Black Academics Style

History will be made Saturday morning when Melissa Harris-Perry, a professor of political science at Tulane University, hosts a morning political talk show on MSNBC.   Asked what her show will be about Harris-Perry told The Amsterdam News,  “Although it’s not a show about race-look, I’m a professor of African-American politics, so we’re going to be talking about race. I’m a feminist, so we’re going to be talking about gender. I’m a parent, so we’re going to be talking about kids and young people. I live in the South, so we’re going to talk about politics beyond the D.C.-to-New-York corridor. It’s a political show but it definitely has a point of view.”

Those are points of view absent from the Sunday morning talking heads shows where Black women are non-existent.  I welcome Harris-Perry and wish her well.  But there’s no news that someone can’t find a way to receive it as bad.   Enter Cornel “the ‘Fro” West and his Mini-Me, Boyce Watkins.

In an interview, West unloaded on Harris-Perry, his former colleague at Princeton. “I have a love for the sister, but she is a liar, and I hate lying,’ says West. . . . She’s become the momentary darling of the liberals, but I pray for her because she’s in over her head. She’s a fake and a fraud. I was so surprised how treacherous the sister was.’

Yet before West heated up a clothes hanger to whip on Harris-Perry with, Watkins had scribbled his own bit of character assassination with a piece, “5 Reasons Melissa Harris-Perry is Perfect for MSNBC.”

If I end up sounding like a hater, it’s because I probably am.  White people, as a collective, have never like (sic) me very much and advocating for black folks has never been an easy way to pay the bills.  Also, my gripe with Melissa is the same I’d have with any black person who allows herself to be propped up by the Democrats to do their dirty work against Cornel West as he spoke on behalf of black, brown and poor people.   Harris never proved that Dr. West was wrong – she only sought to discredit him and dismantle his voice.  In that regard, she was no different from a slave using the master’s gun to kill the leader of the negro rebellion.

She is clearly a liberal who happens to be a black woman, not a black woman who happens to be a liberal…The whole light-skinned black liberal thing works in her favor:  I should start by noting that I’m a bit light-skinned myself and nearly all of my relatives are of the “high-yella” variety (I was adopted).  So, this is not meant to offend anyone with light skin.

Watkins breaks out the pimp stick.

In one breath, Watkins says he doesn’t mean to offend light-skinned Blacks.  Can you guess what he follows that caution with?  If you guessed offending light-skinned Blacks, you win!

But, the emergence of Barack Obama has opened the door for quite a few light-skinned, non-threatening, black superstars of both politics and media:  Cory Booker, Harold Ford, Don Lemon on CNN and a few others have been able to benefit from this wave.  Harris-Perry is a perfect fit as the (in the words of cousin Pookie) “light-skinded-ded,” red-bone, highly educated liberal that white folks tend to love.  Nothing militant will come out of her mouth, unless she’s angry about a new immigration law or some civil liberties violation in the National Defense Authorization Act.  Not to say that there’s anything wrong with the “light-skinned liberal analyst” phenomenon, but I wonder how successful these folks might be if they looked like they were siblings of Wesley Snipes – darker skinned commentators and pundits deserve opportunities as well, and I argue that they are being put to the side (can you think of one dark-skinned person in prime time media?  Me neither).

The cherry on top of Watkins talking out of both sides of his mouth comes with a slap at Harris-Perry for doing the exact same thing he does.

Black journalists have long complained about what Al Sharpton referred to as “All white, all night,” in which most of the major cable news outlets didn’t have any hosts of color on their nightly branded shows.   The best way to shut down that criticism is to hire Al Sharpton himself, which is exactly what MSNBC did.  But one challenge is that neither Sharpton, nor Harris-Perry, is a professionally-trained journalist, so there are still quite a few talented black journalists who are seething over the fact that MSNBC went after black scholars and activists, rather than seasoned media professionals.

For the record, I am not a real journalist either.  I am one of those scholar/activists who’s been able to benefit from the bias of which I am speaking (I have more media appearances than nearly all of my journalist friends).

Nobody made more of an issue about Sharpton landing the MSNBC gig than I did, but Watkins has twisted the legitimate concerns of “real journalists” who would like to see Blacks who do this thing for a living a shot at these television gigs as well as Black scholars and activists.

Watkins doesn’t like Harris-Perry, he’s not happy for her and he even goes so far as to question her Blackness and commitment to Black people because she prefers Obama to West. It just comes off as that small-minded, crabs in a barrel mentality that keeps us busy squabbling over small stuff that isn’t worth squat.

Call me a cynic, but this “I won’t do cable TV ’cause I want to keep it real” rap is more than a little self-serving. There are too many Black folks who are doing cable TV and they aren’t running away from their Blackness by doing so.   Watkins spew out a hit piece that is mean, petty, and it smacks of simple envy. If MSNBC offered Watkins a show he’d run over  West to get it.

On his Facebook page, Watkins denied everything in response to my challenging him about Harris-Perry.

Never blame on malice what can be adequately explained by sexism.

Brother, I can give you the real deal on the “smell test” – my goal is not to be objective about Melissa or to politely say “congratulations” to someone I think is bad for black America.

I make it ABUNDANTLY CLEAR that I am not appreciative of Melissa’s views. Her attacks on Cornel were uncalled for and unvalidated – I was very angry at the way she allowed white folks to prop her up on a platform so she could do the dirty work for the Democrats who were upset that Cornel was out speaking on behalf of poor, black and brown folks.

To answer any questions that might be asked about my remarks…no, I don’t want a f*cking job at MSNBC. I’ve been on all the networks numerous times and could have gotten quite a few gigs had I been a “good boy.” I’ve lost millions for speaking what I believe to be the truth and my only goal is to seek independence of thought and commerce for black America. In far too many cases, major black voices are controlled by white-owned media outlets and corporations – That’s why I put all my money and time into yourblackworld.com, which allows me to get my message to the public without having to ask for a white man’s permission. I don’t hate white folks, but the truth is that their agenda is almost always different from your own and they always view us as second-class citizens.

Someone who is “bad for Black America?” What is about Melissa Harris-Perry that is “bad for Black America?”  What’s really bad for Black America are Black academics talking smack like winos on the corner.

Harris-Perry took issue with West when he whined to a WHITE guy (Chris Hedges) how hurt he was that he didn’t get a personal invitation to Obama’s inauguration.

West came off like a jilted girlfriend, not a preeminent Black intellectual. It was pompous, it was small and it was arrogant as hell. Cornel West wasn’t speaking out for poor, Black and brown folks. He was ticked off that “the dear brother” who brought his bags to his hotel room had a ticket to the Inauguration and he didn’t.

There is a cost for working in the mainstream (just ask Roland Martin), but I’m not buying the line only those out of it care about, protect the interests of, and love Black people. No one is required to watch MHP on MSNBC.    Just don’t say you’re “happy” for her when you have made it crystal clear you are anything but.

Going after Harris-Perry for being “light-skinned” is as petty at it gets.  By the Boyce Watkins  standard, only folks as dark as Wesley Snipes (or Clarence Thomas!) can legitimately criticize other Blacks because they are “dark enough to decide who is really part of the club.

The weakest attack to make against someone is to cast doubts upon the content of the character based upon the color of their skin.     Black academics love a good disagreement, but when the intellectual quality of the argument doesn’t rise to the level of a beef between second-rate rappers, that’s pathetic.

West and Watkins are too smart brothers.  They should be smart enough to expend their brain power on a real problem facing Black folks.  Harris-Perry getting a TV show isn’t one of them.   Then again, maybe there’s another reason for Watkins and West’s “bros before hos”  smackdown of MHP.  Maybe it’s nothing more than sexism.  Plain and simple, they are simply asserting their male prerogative to put an uppity sista in her place.

Sometimes its most obvious reasons that are the least considered.

The next time West and Smiley plan a road trip for self-serving publicity, they should pack a booster seat in the back and bring Boyce Watkins along for the ride.