Ed Schultz interviews Cornel West & Melissa Harris-Perry on the criticism of Obama from the black community

This will likely be my last coverage of this issue for a while (unless there’s news, of course). I wanted to round out the discussion by giving Melissa Harris-Perry her say.

As you may recall, there’s a dust-up in the black community regarding Prof. Cornel West’s criticism of Obama published in Truthdig. (For more, see here.) Dr. West’s criticism is both personal and political, and contains some psychological observations that may or may not have merit in your eyes.

West’s colleague, Princeton professor Eddie Glaude spoke to Sam Seder about the issue, in what (for my money) is a really interesting interview. (Our coverage of that is here.)

West has been roundly criticized in the black community and elsewhere for his remarks. One critic is Melissa Harris-Perry, a Nation magazine contributor and frequent Rachel Maddow guest.

In The Nation, Melissa Harris-Perry wrote in part:

Professor Cornel West is President Obama’s silenced, disregarded, disrespected moral conscience, according to Chris Hedges’s recent Truthdig column, “The Obama Deception: Why Cornel West went Ballistic.” In a self-aggrandizing, victimology sermon deceptively wrapped in the discourse of prophetic witness, Professor West offers thin criticism of President Obama and stunning insight into the delicate ego of the self-appointed black leadership class that has been largely supplanted in recent years.

To put both views side by side (West’s and Harris-Perry’s), here’s each appearing on The Ed Show. Ignore if you wish Schultz’s defense of Obama (you would expect that in any case) and focus on the two interviewees, West and Harris-Perry. They appear sequentially, but each get a good chance to voice his or her views. A short, very instructive video (h/t Sam Seder):


Why should you care? For several reasons: (1) West is voicing from the black community the same criticisms of Obama you hear from many other communities — gay, Latino, immigrant, progressive. These voice aren’t going away, and this criticism can’t be dismissed easily. Political preference aside, the argument has a strong grounding in fact. Agree or disagree, these voices will be part of the 2012 dynamic on the Democratic side.

(2) As I noted earlier, the critique of Obama from a black square is different than from any other position on the board. The black community has an understandable interest in rallying around the first black president, period. This subjects the Obama-critics to a kind of silencing counter-attack unavailable to those defending Obama against charges from Latinos, or gays.

It’s a fascinating discussion in my view; well worth the price of admission. I hope this helps your understanding of it.

By the way, my apologies if you’re one of those who gets subjected, as a lead-in for the above video, to BP ads saying “We’re the deadly dinos who really love you, not like those others nasty beasts.” Just picture them with their clothes off; because in fact, the kind of dishonest opinion-manipulation obvious in these ads does leave them naked and exposed, doesn’t it. Enjoy it for their self-stripping.


Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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