Editorial: In Defense of Dr Cornel West


Who am I to defend Dr. West who is a considerably one of the greatest minds God has blessed humanity with in the 21 century. He is a prophetic voice out of the African American Baptist tradition, a scholar, writer, historian and musicologist. He has been critical of President Obama and because of his criticism he and Tavis Smiley, his partner in criticizing the president have both been accused of profiteering and jealousy. Frankly, I cannot say if that is or is not absolutely false.

However, I do welcome Dr. West’s well placed articulation for the poor and disenfranchised. I applaud his truth telling in season and out of season. I encourage his well aimed perspectives on President Obama’s administration and policies. I disregard the claim that our President cannot be the Black President as a ridiculous comment, which seems only African American make about themselves and accept from others. The President is of African American descent, but he is also from other descents, yet we are not to enthusiastically advocate for ourselves to him?

I also have reflected on President Obama’s successes because I don’t want pundits, or the media, or some misinformed colleague to tell me how to think. I have listed President Obama’s first term achievements from my contextual perspective. Everyone has the right to do so;
consequently here are what the President achieved:

He overcame an intransigent Republican Party led by billionaires like the Koch brothers
and the Tea Party, who spent obscene money to defeat him. He had to deal with Sen. McConnell
and Representative John Boehner who stated their number one focus is to stop President
Obama’s initiatives, and deny him a second term.

He inherited an economy in freefall, after being robbed by Wall Street, by initiating a
stimulus that created 5 million jobs.

During his term Wall Street averages went from 6000 to 13000.

CEO’s of major corporations under Obama’s term increased their profits over 230%

He brought the economy out of a hole.

He initiated the Lilly Ledbetter Act giving women equal pay for equal work.

He saved the United States Auto Industry and thereby saving all of the Great Lakes

He wound down the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He eliminated Osama Bin Laden, after he was considered unable to be brought to justice,
and made America safer. Remember President Bush said he doesn’t even think about Osama Bin

He appointed two women to the Supreme Court and has one more selection to make.

He initiated the Health Care Reform that every President tried to do; but could not do for
over 100 years.

He managed that we did not go over the fiscal cliff and stood up to the Republicans when
they tried to hold America hostage on raising the credit limit.

An outstanding set of presidential accomplishments, but have African Americans gotten their usual short end of the stick? Yes, and Dr. West agrees and it is why I see Dr. West serving a necessary purpose. He is critical of the President and his criticism has been on point. Speaking as a Black American I would give President Obama a B+. Why? This is why. During the first term he never spoke of the poor, just the middle class. I assume his handlers and he felt it would be political expedient to do so. However, it is the poor in this country that have been left out of any economic recovery and the poor that took the gravest economic loss. The poor are still waiting for employment, educational opportunities and gun/violence free communities.

Eric Holder

Eric Holder

Secondly, the President’s Justice Department gets a “C”. Attorney General Eric Holder has been lackluster and seemingly unaggressive in his prosecutions in the face of a growing number of rogue cops and bigoted white men killing innocent black boys and men. For example, in Mississippi there has been a rash of car accidents, where running over black men as they walk along the streets and country roads is their cause of death at the hands of white male drivers. Young white southern men have stalked unsuspecting random black males to thrill kill.

Never to forget, the shooting of boys like Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis and others. Very little or to be fair an uninspiring response from the Justice Department has been offered – – no signal or aggressive Federal prosecutions to indicate a perception of safety and protection for people of African American descent.

Also, not one Wall Streeter went to jail for stealing our money and crashing the economy. Yes, we get reports of Wells Fargo, Bank of America and CitiBank paying hundreds of millions in civil case settlements for colluding to foreclose on vulnerable and unsophisticated homeowners. These victim homeowners were predominantly of African American descent, which resulted in the largest transfer of wealth from African Americans. I ponder if the banks are so willing to settle for 100’s of millions in awards, it must mean they stole twice as much.

Thirdly, there are the drone bombings throughout Pakistan that are killing their intended terrorist targets, but the collateral deaths are innocent women and children.

Long Lines at Voting Booths

Long Lines at Voting Booths

Fourthly, where in the jobs program? Black folk voted for our President in record number (92%), in spite of misinformation scams, voter intimidation, rigged voting machines, and the reduction of voting hours. The collusion to defeat the Black vote included the Republican Party and Corporate class, who planned, hired operatives and funded illegal and close to illegal scams to thwart the Black voting strengths. Republican lawyers, legislators, elected governors, state attorney generals and even the son of the Republican candidate all have unclean hands in these unscrupulous efforts.

Valiantly African American common folk, in the spirit of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the year – long protest in Montgomery, Alabama, that galvanized the American Civil Rights Movement and led to a 1956 decision by the Supreme Court of the United States declaring segregated seating on buses unconstitutional, stood in the hot sun and long lines to cast their vote; and, seemingly no earnest effort on developing a jobs program is on the horizon.

Fifthly, I appreciate the president’s effort on the gun violence initiatives. I support his advocacy and bold leadership, but where is the focus on urban youth? Forty percent of the deaths from gun violence occur within urban communities across this nation from Oakland, LA, Detroit, Chicago, Baltimore, New Orleans and Miami. Yet, no specific plan to address the violence that has destroyed communities and a generation of young black males. Jobs and hope are the answer to the nihilism affecting these communities.

Dr. West is advocating for the least of these that seemed to again be left out. Gays got “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” repealed and the right to marry, Hispanics got Supreme Court Justice Soto -Meyer and immigration dialog, Jews got Justice Kagan and an assurance of military protection from Iran. Wall Street bankers received no prosecutions for the theft of our surplus. Women got the Lilly Ledbetter Act that ensures equal pay for equal work and the Presidential defense of Roe vs. Wade. They also received the selection of two female Supreme Court Justices and possibly a third.The middle class received Health Care Reform.

So when the President chooses to get sworn in on MLK’s Bible the President is evoking Dr. King’s values that he has fallen short of. I understand he was trying to get to a second term, but if we do not demand in politics we will not receive anything. Lastly, every King David NEEDS a Nathan. It’s is an inoculation against corruption and apathy. Our President needs someone who will call it like it is and speak for the poor and people of color. Dr. West has done a good job at that and I hope he continues, along with others. Otherwise African Americans poor, elderly and Black middle class will not get their needs addressed.

written by Reginald W Lyles

38 comments on “Editorial: In Defense of Dr Cornel West

  1. I’m always baffled by those who accuse Dr. West and Mr. Smiley of profiteering or jealousy. They could each be wealthy beyond measure if that’s where their interests lay, but they choose instead to devote endless energy and time to the fight for justice. They are no harsher on Obama than they were on Clinton and the Bushes, and that’s as it should be — the abuse of power is the abuse of power.

    As a white guy I don’t feel entitled to comment on the terminology they use, but the essence of their critique is, in my opinion, spot on. Thank you, Mr. Lyles, for this piece.

  2. Excellent! The election of an African American president caused the long-simmering pot of racism to boil over… Our President has an obligation and responsibility to address the good and the evil his election wrought. All of us wait for justice for the Trayvon Martins AND for the young urban and rural Black men whose lives are deemed dispensable. Black women should not be afraid to give birth to sons. Thank you, Dr. West, for your prophetic voice, witness, and wisdom.

  3. Oh ma mankind,..evangelicals of color in peertaining socialist mens kisses! What a mess in the anonymity of ‘le temoin’_Analysis of the 1970s local adviced homeless freeze air.
    For me it was the Gyptology the psy_gan by Aboriginal friendly critical men: Robert W. Cornell!

    Salaam brothers! Its always a lack of choice!

  4. I get angry with West & Smiley…. where were their voices for the last 20 years? They LOVE the Clintons, who pushed mothers off welfare, enacted NAFTA which took all the middle class jobs from African Americans, enacted laws that kept people with felonies from voting, accessing housing or assistance and so on.

    From where I sit I see people returning to schools, and trying to start over. I see families getting section 8 housing vouchers which had been frozen for years. I see excessive drug sentencing being challenged. And children in poor school district getting some federal assistance with improvements. And I an looking forward the Obama Care!

    No he doesn’t talk a lot about us, but still water runs deep. and I believe he is doing what he can. Lest we forget, just because “WE” get the title doesn’t mean we get the power.

    West and Smiley act as if they live in an academic bubble, have they even noticed the obstruction the president is facing….and the weak party he represents. They can talk all they want about what should or could be done. But neither of them have lost their homes because the plant where they work is sending jobs to China. Nor are they in line for housing, or counting on Social Security that is being threatened daily.

    They have every right to voice their opinions, but not many black people are listening as they tear down the best hope for us since the civil rights era.

  5. I find the so called accomplishments partly right but POTUS, from day one has endorsed war across the globe, particularly on the continent of Africa. Many black Africans are blinded by “symbolism” While POTUS causes death and destruction and pushes for neo-colonialism through AFRICOM. For those interested check this piece out, “Africans Loyalty to Obama, their Abusive Step-Brother”…http://yoknyamdabale.wordpress.com/2012/11/07/obama-the-abusive-two-face-big-brother-to-africans/

  6. Know matter what you say and your position may be, if the president is doing everything correct or not is not the point. If these to brothers West & Smiley would use there voice to help the man help us on the inside but no they are throwing darts from the outside. I think none of us need to be reminded of how poor the black race is and how we will always get the short end of the stick. But at least we have some hope instead of just dope to cope. From were I stand in milkman land until blacks support other blacks and have there backs, like the white man no matter what will always look out for there people rich or poor we will be just like the roaches just here. We were first on this earth but last in the world unless we change our way we view others that look like us. If you are not going to help the man don’t hurt the rest of us who got his back. I am just saying what is up with you brothers… My advice to all the less you say the less you have to take back fact or fiction.

  7. Great commentary and spot on. Correct me if I’m wrong, I thought Obama’s father was African and not American? From what little I know of his background, I think most of his exposure to the African American community came during his adulthood. He is married to an African-American woman, however her family appears neither poor nor disenfranchised. I think it’s important to point this out only because it does shape his personal perspective.

  8. Be aware the bias of bein in a dope dome nippes,..or live the likelihood of asket_ci_Ism? The analysis devoted the pracitice bandanas of not in a homo_national circle of literacy the voche,…its here in the postfascist European the the ghetto of warzaw math the identity as actor concepts of ‘Hip Hop ist TTT!….pop…..

  9. Mr Lyles –
    I can and do agree with most of your observations, regarding the President of the United States Barak Obama. I do take issue with the assumption that he addressed only the middle class issues in his first term – case in point. The fact that he choose to, wisely, select the middle class for his talking points over the poor was from the focus of taxes (the fuel for the government). Remember this was and still is the biggest bone of contention between the two parties (bottom up or top down). My take is that you cannot have a political conversation about the middle class where the poor are not considered! It is the middle class that supports and pays for entitlements and collects the funds that flow back to the wealthy. As far as President Obama being “The Black President” I can understand this being communicated by black people, just for the fact of acknowledging that he is the first. Let’s also not make no mistake about the fact that Obama is a black man a strong and intelligent black man. I also give him a B+.
    Jack B. Day

  10. Yo don’t Kyles from the Nuller series of ‘Feind_sender’ 4400_grammar the BOINC_proJet of big academic remedies! Poor and pride means always by segregation means ::: ethno_fuck the poor and pride! I mean the Drag_E.L.F. is a bit larger then map the banglaah roses for next seasons max the mum…its ana_lysis the speech of be eyed or act as Johnny Rotten monstaa!

  11. I’d rather be in the crack house than the white house”
    Dr. Cormel West\

    The dividing line is the bargain. The civil rights generation, of which I am part made a deal. The deal is we can pass, get across the color on one condition. We have to give up collective action-radicalism- embrace the values of the mainstream. This means breaking ties with the ghetto and not raising cain over issues of race.

    So they took the deal. Obama fits in with this. He happens to be black but he cannot raise issues of race. He cannot end the drug war-which is pure apartheid. He cannot call police racist or say they acted “stupidly.” The black middle class was decimated by the housing crisis, the whole middle class was hard hit. But Obama cannot bail out main street on foreclosures. Wall street yes. Main street no. He-Obama- has to be cool with drone killings, which are war crimes. That is the deal, jack.

    Would King have gone along with drone strikes, with helping Wall street but not the masses of people, with keeping silent-not mentioning race- when incidents of racist brutality take place. When Trayvon Martin was shot Obama had an event about “violence against children,” he could not call it violence against black kids. He has to be post-racial politics. At the same time the post racial President claims the right to hold Dr.King’s bible in his hand when he is sworn in-as if he can both support drone strikes and Dr.King’s legacy.

    Cornel West says, in the name of Dr. King drone strikes are wrong, “when one person is poor I cannot be rich.” I love Obama, but he represents political pragmatism-the bargain- not the legacy of Dr. King. Cornel West rejects the bargain in the name of Dr.King. Cornel rocks. So those who accepted the bargain will not accept him. Today, King would be outside of the white house too.


  12. There is plenty of room to be critical of the President’s performance. I do it myself where I think its warranted (financial bailout policies of administration for example). So I don’t fault West and Smiley for critiquing what he has done. What I do object to is their self righteous tone and particularly from West what seems to me the rather pointed personal element to his criticism. I think he supported the President and then got brushed aside and confronted by Obama about his criticism that left a real nasty taste in his mouth. So if he has a problem with the president now, fair enough. But don’t cloak your personal grudge with him in all this “prophetic tradition” rhetoric. Same for Tavis who I think didn’t like not getting Obama’s attention for his SOBU event in 2008 and ain’t got his attitude right since. So I think they both have a personal issue with the president and that is part of whats going on.

    I object to their tone as they have essentially called the President a sellout in so many ways and attempted to pull his black card when he didn’t act in the manner they though he should. I think thats uncalled for, particularly given what the man and his family endures in part because he is black.

    I also object to their analysis. What’s their policy prescription? And to the extent they articulate one (I have not seen this) how much do you want to bet its mostly an agenda of what the government should do? They are extremely liberal and I don’t think their policy approaches would stand up to real scrutiny.

  13. Okay the mis_understanding of a continenthaal fault line, in identity ‘Warensubject’ the object of Berlin’s Alexander von Humbold as green behind the ear university deiss_courses,…the fascist family has to abandone the ‘drag’ out lobby_Ism and the Guilliotine to have some bnulls to much behind the printing machines for next storm? Only an occasional squat of bein positively aware!

  14. I understand where Dr. West and Tavis Smiley are coming from but understand this that being a black man in America be you the president of the United States of America or a Principal of a school it’s not easy cause the deck is usually stacked. But just look at Obama’s track record to date.

  15. I understand what Dr. WEST and TAVIS SMILEY are talking about but how can they say the PRES. OBAMA has not done anything for poor AF/AM’S, what have they done but give lip service and not say one positive thing that PRES OBAMA has done!!! It really makes me think they are being paid by the GOP to act stupid about PRES OBAMA to make people not like him but the people have spoken through an election so it is time for those guys to stop their jealousy and hating!!!

  16. I respect Dr. West and I think Tavis Smiley is a wanna be intellectual who knows how to reiterate great punchlines.

    The error both of these brothers are making is not supporting Obama 100%. For the first time WE have REAL representation in The White House. WE should just support on that fact alone. I’m sure West and Smiley and the rest of US never expected to have a black president in our life time. I’m happy for that. I’m happy that my daughter can actually see that and know that she or her future kids can make a change in this country. Not just march. WE can actually achieve a position of real power.

    I’m comfortable with the fact that this is not OUR country and we have to play the “game”. Obama represents the beginning of the shift in the “game”. We need to be patient and supportive as a group so that our grandchildren and beyond can enjoy REAL freedom.

    Dr. West and Smiley are those crabs in the barrel that pull you back.

  17. Nice editorial Reg! However, I can’t agree with you completely. I think Jack and Natalie stated most of my comments.

  18. Natalie.. is it hope for the president to oversea drone attacks on country’s we are not at war with? No one should speak up and say anything when those drones are happening in Africa? When Cornel was arrested at the white house for criticizing George Bush was that ok? When he came out against Clinton on the welfare reform tip was that ok.. I sat at speech at UC Berkeley where he blasted Clinton on that..I think we make excuses for Obama..Either your doing right or your doing wrong…If the president has to play the game.. then folks on the outside need to play the game of giving him political cover by publicly objecting to moves he makes in this so-called game.. Obama is not our friend..He’s not our homeboy.. He’s the president..and the president with relationship to the citizen has a role he plays and we have a role we are to play.. that includes pushing and agitating…same way Fredrick Douglass did Lincoln

  19. Negreaus are waiting on white Jesus so “O” is the closest thing.
    A half white black man who is embraced by white America.
    Its a win win. He doesn’t even have to do anything for blacks
    or minorities yet it gives everyone the impression that Gov
    cares for lower and middle class by him just being in there.
    Just singing some Al Green is enough pretty much to please
    & keep everyone distracted. Gays are happy and they have
    more power than Blacks or Latin in America so….
    This is a pretty smooth move to put him in the White House.

    How dare Cornel West speak on the closest thing to Jesus!!

  20. Okay is already an ongoin Cairoo sis speech on how to behalf the movement by such Turkey narrations into the ‘al_Umma al_deen’ as bellestric literates the ole kee a les has in common by such standpoint to say no to the siege of 2003 Iraq baath_ism. My respect for such on note,…but when the omnipotent pres of color can afford such Union flags by tha kids choice, then I believe in mainstream and survive labor!


  21. I agree that Pres. Obama often seems to get a pass on issues affecting our community, because of his historic status. And I too, have loved much of Cornel West’s voice on issues vital to the under-served and under-represented. However, his view of MLK’s Bible being used during the Presidential oath, in my view, is another illustration of his personal problem that Pres. Obama has stature that he and Smiley will never attain. A politician typically does not operate with the freedom or risk of an activist. This common sense fact is not unknown. To compare Pres. Obama to the ideals of what MLK did, seems to be yet another excuse for West to rant. For West to find, seemingly more support and camraderie with Newt Gingrich on that panel, than for the symbolic value of using the MLK bible, takes Cornel dangerously close to the editorial pages of The NY Post. @Darian: “MLK was a product of that time period and his views are rooted in that. Although his core values may not have changed, who is to say what his views would now be.” Clearly Dr. West, like everyone else is entitled to his opinion. However, he is not an arbiter for what is an appropriate use of MLK. If he could not repress his own ego in this matter, one would think he could respect the wishes of the family of MLK. Sadly, Dr. West failed on both counts and he moves increasingly closer to the fringe element we associate with The Tea Party. His attacks on Al Sharpton, Melissa Harris Perry, Spike Lee (called him a punk and a thug) and other people of color in the media suggests that we should all pray for Dr. West’s return to being a credible and constructive critic.

  22. @Chuck you are dead on! What does MLKs Bible have to do with the Obama administration? I don’t know what you see but I am seeing a lot more kids in school …more sensible crime laws and seeing african americans as whole actually believe they can make it pro in more than athletics. I see “thugs” actually trying to do more with their lives and become better MEN…the black family sees a different model of what black love can and should be. So for someone of Cornel West’s or Tavis Smiley to come at him as if he has done some incredible wrong to the black community is totally BOGUS! The man has to be neutral and be unbiased towards the community but his actions are actually directed toward us first! I am speaking from down here in the valley walking among the people …I think Dr West and Mr Smiley haven’t been in the valley so long that they can’t see it what’s going on when they are preaching from the mountain top!

  23. http://blackagendareport.com/content/don%E2%80%99t-you-dare-conflate-mlk-and-obama


    “One school of thought holds that corporate servants like Obama could not have taken root in Black America if Dr. King, Malcolm X and a whole cadre of slain and imprisoned leaders of the Sixties had not been replaced by opportunistic representatives of a grasping Black acquisitive class.

    In any event, had King survived, his break with Obama would have come early. Surely, the Dr. King who, in his 1967 “Where Do We Go from Here” speech called for a guaranteed annual income would never have abided Obama’s targeting of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in the weeks before his 2009 inauguration. Forty-five years ago, King’s position was clear: “Our emphasis must be twofold: We must create full employment, or we must create incomes.” The very notion of a grand austerity bargain with the Right would have been anathema to MLK.

    Were Martin alive, he would skewer the putative leftists and their “lesser evil” rationales for backing the corporatist, warmongering Obama. As both a theologian and a “revolutionary democrat,” as Temple University’s Prof. Anthony Monteiro has described him, MLK had no problem calling evil by its name – and in explicate triplicate.

    His militant approach to non-violent direct action required him to confront the underlying contradictions of society through the methodical application of creative tension. He would make Wall Street scream, and attempt to render the nation ungovernable under the dictatorship of the Lords of Capital. And he would deliver a withering condemnation of the base corruption and self-serving that saturates the Black Misleadership Class.

    He would spend his birthday preparing a massive, disruptive action at the Inauguration.”

    -Glen Ford

  24. http://blackagendareport.com/content/why-barack-obama-more-effective-evil


    “The prevailing assumption on the Left is that Obama has good intentions. He intends to the Right Thing – or, at least, he intends to do better than the Republicans intend to do. It’s all supposed to be about intentions. Let’s be clear: There is absolutely no factual basis to believe he intends to do anything other than the same thing he has already done, whether Democrats control Congress or not, which is to serve Wall Street’s most fundamental interests.

    But, the whole idea of debating Obama’s intentions is ridiculous. It’s psycho-babble, not analysis. No real Left would engage in it.

    I have no doubt that New Gingrich and Republicans in general have worse intentions for the future of my people – of Black people – than Michelle Obama’s husband does. But, that doesn’t matter. Black people are not going to roll over for whatever nightmarish Apocalypse the sick mind of Newt Gingrich would like to bring about. But, they have already rolled over for Obama’s economic Apocalypse in Black America. There was been very little resistance. Which is just another way of saying that Obama has successfully blunted any retribution by organized African America against the corporate powers that have devastated and destabilized Black America in ways that have little precedence in modern times.

    “When the Right was on its ass, Obama stood up and spoke in their stead.”

    Obama has protected these Wall Streeters from what should be the most righteous wrath of Black folks. To take a riff from Shakespeare’s Othello, “Obama has done Wall Street a great service, and they know it.” He has proven to be fantastically effective at serving the Supremely Evil. Don’t you dare call him the Lesser.

    He is the More Effective Evil because Black Folks – historically, the most progressive cohort in the United States – and Liberals, and even lots of folks that call themselves Marxists, let him get away murder! Yet, people still insist on calling him a Lesser Evil, while he drives a stake through Due Process of Law.

    I have not spoken much about the second half of Obama’s first term in office. That is the period when the Left generally becomes disgusted with what they call his excessive “compromises” and “cave-ins” to Republicans. But that is a profoundly wrong reading of reality. Obama was simply continuing down his own Road to Austerity – the one he, himself, had initiated before even taking office. The only person caving in and compromising to the Republicans, was the Obama that many of YOU made up in your heads.

    The real Obama was the initiator of this Austerity nightmare – a nightmare scripted on Wall Street, which provided the core of Obama’s policy team from the very beginning. That’s why Obama’s so-called Financial Reform was so diligent in making sure that Derivatives were virtually untouched.

    The real Obama retained Bush’s Secretary of War, because he was determined to re-package the imperial enterprise and expand the scope and theaters of war.

    He would dress up the war machine head-to-foot in a Chador of Humanitarianism, and march deep and deeper into Africa.

    He would make merciless and totally unprovoked war against Libya – and then tell Congress there had been no war at all, and it was none of their business, anyway.

    And he got away with it.

    Now, that is the Most Effective Evil war mongering imaginable. Don’t you dare call him a Lesser Evil. Obama is Awesomely Evil.”

    -Glen Ford

  25. Obama Nation… or abomination?

    House slaves have appropriated the term “willie lynching” to use against anyone who holds up a faithful mirror to their face.

    Wake up.

  26. “The Ballot or the Bullet”
    King Solomon Baptist Church, Detroit, Michigan – April 12, 1964

    MALCOLM X: “You’re A Political Chump!”

    This speech was made over 40 years ago… it’s sad to see what remains the same.

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