In a recent article in Diverse Issues in Higher Education, Professor Cornel West "went H.A.M." on Tulane University Professor Melissa Harris-Perry.
In what might be his strongest public comments yet, West referred to Harris-Perry as a "fake" and a "fraud" for allowing herself to be used by the liberal establishment to shoot down his critiques over our nation's decision to overlook racial inequality and poverty.
I was quoted in the article, but only as a supporter of Dr. West. Anyone who evaluates Cornel West's track record will see that he has consistently advocated for Black, Brown and poor people long before "hope" and "change" slogans were thrust on to our TV screens. In fact, Dr. West and Pastor Jeremiah Wright serve as our strongest modern-day embodiments of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Similar to King, both of these men must endure the public volatility that comes with not running in lockstep with any flashy political trend.
When I heard what Cornel said about Melissa, my neck snapped like Nene Leakes bumping into a bill collector at a night club. I was both impressed and shocked that West had been so strong in his position on Harris-Perry, and I was glad to see that even millionaires aren't afraid to tell the truth.
Sometimes when diplomacy fails and your people are being attacked, it's time to go to war. When Cornel West spoke up honestly about the challenges of poor, Black and Brown people, alarm bells went off in liberal elitist America. As a professor at an elite university, West was supposed to do what the other elites have done: consider the poor only as an afterthought to planning your next vacation at Martha's Vineyard.
In the cute and contrived world of academia, poor people are only secondary theoretical constructs that you discuss during research symposiums; they aren't real human beings that you should actually fight for in public.
West had run off the plantation by speaking freely, not as an enemy of the Obama Administration (he campaigned heavily for the president), but as someone who demanded that we give a voice to the voiceless. But when you have 96 percent of the Black vote, there is almost no incentive to do anything for Black people, especially those who are poor or in prison.
It's much easier to convince Black people to be quiet by using political goons to terrorize any voices of dissent. I can just hear someone at a closed-door meeting making the statement, "The negroes are getting upset, what do we do? Perhaps we should find one of our personal negroes to fight him."
Well, in full overseer tradition, the Democrats have created well-paid African-American attack dogs willing to defend their actions at any cost. Since Harris-Perry and her friends had no legitimate defense to the critiques of Dr. West, they presumed that it would be easier to simply discredit him. You see, if you kill the messenger, you never have to deal with the message itself.
Harris-Perry allowed herself to be used by the liberal establishment and their media channels to paint Professor West as irrelevant, petty, and ignorant in his critiques. She never actually addressed the issues that Dr. West brought to the table. That's like my doctor saying, "Boyce, you're gaining weight" and me responding with, "You're just a quack divorcee who doesn't know how to raise his kids."
If I want to honestly confront my doctor's argument that I've gained weight, all I'd need to do is stand on a scale -- unless I am afraid to do so. Harris-Perry knows that Cornel West was right about poverty and inequality. But because she is a highly paid scholar who doesn't have to confront the issues being brought forth by Dr. West, she likely sees poor Black families as an acceptable casualty to her own political ambitions.
Let's be clear: Disagreeing with Cornel West is not a crime. Supporting the Obama Administration is just fine. But avoiding the issues of racial inequality and poverty by simply discrediting anyone who brings the topics to the table is pathetically harmful to millions of Black families that are affected by economic inequality, poor educational systems, and mass incarceration. Someone has to speak up for these people, even at the expense of their own career opportunities, and we should all be thankful that Cornel West has the integrity to lose important friends in order to do what is right.
His willingness to do that which is unpopular (as Dr. King did before his death) will put Cornel West in the history books as a visionary activist and scholar; Melissa Harris-Perry will simply be remembered as another talking head.
In the worst African dictatorships, European corporations seeking to drain a country's resources realized this simple fact: There is no need to compensate a country's citizens for their resources if you can simply pay off greedy dictators and figureheads who control what the people think and do. As a result, there are countries where billions of dollars in oil are extracted every year, yet the majority of the country's citizens remain in poverty.
In the Black community, leading Democrats have learned the dictator lesson well: If we hijack a few figureheads in the Black community and convince them to always speak in support of our agenda, we don't actually have to do very much for Black people themselves.
It's much easier to take care of the Head N*gger In Charge (HNIC) than it is to take care of the people they represent - just give them big media guns and have them aim those guns at any of the field negroes who choose to participate in the rebellion. That's what makes Melissa Harris-Perry so harmful.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.
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