Cornel West Says Obama Policies Have Racist Effects

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November 22, 2010; Source: Firedoglake.com | While the mainstream press—and yes, NPQ as well—are obsessed with the Tea Party and its potential emergence as a third party challenger to the Republicans and Democrats, we gave short shrift to the idea of a challenge to Democrats from the left. But the left is as disgruntled with mainstream Democrats as the right is with establishment Republicans. Notwithstanding the withering criticism Ralph Nader took for this run against Bush and Gore, the splintering of the parties may in fact be upon us.

Princeton University African-American studies and religion professor Cornel West was asked by Democracy Now! about his reaction to Kanye West’s calling George W. Bush a racist, but answered with a response about President Obama. The activist professor said that President Obama’s policies, like Bush’s, discriminate against African-Americans, with “racist effect and consequence” despite neither President’s “racist motivation and intention.”

West seemed to out-Kanye Kanye in his critique of Preisdent Obama: “He doesn’t care about the Black poor: The evidence is overwhelming! . . . His policies [a]re . . . generating misery among poor people, disproportionately Black and Brown . . . The Obama Administration seems to have very little concern about poor people and their social misery . . . (L)ook at the policies of Black Farmers—a settlement already in place but they don’t want to execute it because they don’t want to be associated with Black folk too explicitly . . . (W)e can go right across the board—look at the policies of the new Jim Crow.”

While Professor West is entitled to his opinion, his comment about President Obama and the Pigford black farmers settlement is wrong; ever since he was the junior senator from Illinois, Obama has strongly supported reopening and refunding the black farmers settlement, as we have reported here at NPQ before. Read here, here, and here.

West also intimates that the President was a reluctant supporter of the Cobell case on Indian trust lands, but the evidence is that he was in that camp as well, even when the staff he inherited at the Department of Agriculture (on Pigford) and Department of Interior (on Cobell) hadn’t caught up with the President. Critiquing “mean-spirited cold-hearted Republicans and spineless milquetoast Democrats,” West predicts the “slow demise” of the two-party system under pressure from both ideological wings.

Don’t dismiss West out of hand. He is one of the more influential African-American leaders in the nonprofit sector, sitting on the boards of the National Parenting Association, the Fund for Community Leadership Development (with board chair Rev. Calvin Butts), International Bridges to Justice, and Ebony Ecumenical Ensemble (with Alma Rangel as a board colleague). If Cornel West is talking, people are listening.—Rick Cohen

  • Kimberly Otis

    Thank you for sharing this, and for pointing out the objections to West’s comments. I would just add that the President’s record on women is perhaps even more dismal than for people of color, since they are an even greater majority of the poor (70%), and the lack of Administration leadership on the Paycheck Fairness Act resulted in its recent defeat, and the Deficit Commission’s agenda is strongly anti-women.

  • rick cohen

    Kim: Would you be willing to share with NPQ readers your analysis of the Deficit Commission’s recommendations as they affect women? Thanks for your comments.

    Rick

  • Shawn Carter

    Barack Obama Doesn’t Care About Black People!

  • mswoman

    Cornwell “bashes” President Obama every chance he gets, he doesn’t look for truth or facts. He’s no better than a “racist or tea party” himself.

    I think President Obama is governing and including women and Blacks. He has done so much, including making it easier for us to go to college, but have gotten very little to no credit for it. He has certainly tried.

    In the future, I hope Blacks can use their votes for candidates that will voice their best interest for us. So far, no one has even considered Blacks in their run for congress or senate. They never mention making our life better.

    When giving tax credits to these corporations, President Obama should stipulate hiring black people.

  • Rush200

    WRONG!! Despite prevailing stereotype, Whites, not Blacks, collect greatest share of public aid dollars. 65% of wellfair recipients are White americans, while 30% are black. The image of the Black “welfare cheat,”, is based on misconceptions about poor minorities. The notion, they say, comes from society’s resentment of seemingly ablebodied people getting paid for doing nothing.

  • darkside3044

    I am so glad that someone is finally telling the truth about wellfair… white people make up the largest percent of the wellfair programs in america, but yet they temselvs believe the misconceptions… just as the profile for a shop lifter is not a young black thug but actually a young white woman between the age of 17-27… wow. it just goes to show how propaganda has swayed popular opion for decaDES and until we start standing up for truth we will allways fall victim to its intent…

  • Hope

    The fact that two of West’s declarations about President Obama were disproved immediately should indicate that he’s not entirely objective when it comes to the President. In college, I read “Race Matter” and was so impressed with Professor West’s intellect and I was offended when my professor indicated his outsized ego. Boy, was I wrong. West, along with some others criticized the President on Inauguration Day for not mentioning Dr. MLK explicitly in his speech. He has gone out of his way at every opportunity to criticize the President about everything and I have ceased listening to him. He along with some others have crab in the barrel syndrome, it’s not new but it’s probably incurable.

  • Omari

    I don’t particularly disagree with Professor West. I also think NPQ is absolutely correct in stating where Obama falls on the issues. That said, Obama hasn’t been very forceful in making his vision manifest.

    All too often he’s appeared to fold like a lawn chair. He’s been extremely deferential to Congress. Time and time again, Obama starts off by compromising. There is a such thing as being too reasonable; especially when the opposition party is being anything but. We all know when you start with compromise you get less than what you would’ve gotten if you’d stated what you wanted from the beginning.

    Take the Health Care debate, Obama was for single payer and a public option, yet we find out later on those items were never on the table to begin with. I’m under no illusions either would’ve passed Congress, but we’ll never know.

    Re: Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, it’s simple. Obama is the Commander in Chief. Don’t like DADT? Issue an Executive Order ending it.

    I think West saying Obama “doesn’t care” is over the top, but a lot of times that may as well be the case.

  • Mitchell

    In response to:

    Princeton University African-American studies and religion professor Cornel West was asked by Democracy Now! about his reaction to Kanye West’s calling George W. Bush a racist, but answered with a response about President Obama.

    I went to DemocracyNow and read the transcript of Cornel West’s statement and his first response was in regards to GWB. It was a lengthy response about how he, West, thought Dubya’s actions were racist in consequence and effect on the poor who are black, brown and red. There is no way to miss his answer. It comes right before the comment’s directed at the current president. I agree that West did get the facts wrong on the black farmers but to suggest that West completely skipped over Bush in his response and went right at Obama is misleading. I would suggest that folks should read the transcript themselves. And oh by the way, Cornel has been digging into the President for quite some time so his comments are not anything surprising to me. I would like to add the Cornel in critiquing both Bush and Obama states that , “We

  • Samantha

    Cornell’s comment on President Obama would’ve been accurate if he was referring to Obama’s reluctance to:
    -Law Enforcement Reform(police brutality, police corruption)
    -this ridiculous DEA “Drug War”and incarceration for non-violent drug offenses
    – the DOJ, DEA and Fed’s ridiculous stance against legalizing medical marijuana

    Those 3 aforementioned topics are what’s terrorizing the black community and what many black people (rich & poor) were hoping he would address.

    Being that Obama is a black man, many blacks think he should understand the longterm effects that those issues have on: voting rights (a felony= losing voting rights), ,median household income, single-parenting, education and overall unjust “Justice System.” He is from Southside Chi-town afterall, Obama knows what he SHOULD be doing.

    Obama’s problem is that his administration is nothing but a revival of the Clinton Admin, which had one of the highest black incarceration rates in US history. Many of the people in Obama’s admin are also the same people from Reagan’s Admin during the Iran-Contra affair. Need I say more???

  • Kelis

    Crab in a barrel syndrome, mayhaps. But maybe the problem Prof West has with Obama (and the problem other black leaders may have with him), is that he’s not one of them. He’s not a black activist. West, Jesse, esp MLK were/are leaders who focused on the black cause- racism, equality, education, progress etc. It’s almost like it pisses them off that the first black president doesn’t make the “black cause” his primary mission while he’s in office. Now don’t get me wrong. I think Obama embraces his blackness as much as his white side. And I do think his heart is with all American people, not just the issues of a particular race. The problem with that, especially if you’re a guy like West is that guys like Obama, because of their position, become like the “uncle Tom” of slavery days. Because of their mixed race and/or their ability to assimilate into white culture, they were allowed to sit at the Masters table or not be made to toil in the fields. And many blacks resented that and their unwillingness (usually) to use their positions to benefit the less fortunate of their race… I get it, but when you’re talking about the Pres of the US, you’re talking of a man who was elected by the Black people, and the White, Hispanic, Asians, Pacific Islanders, etc. etc. etc. It would be unfair to other races for him to focus on just blacks. And to criticize his handling of women issues is laughable. Seems everyone knows he’s placed quite a few women into positions of power.

  • rick cohen

    NPQ readers should look at the full Democracy Now! transcript of the conversation with Cornel West at http://www.allvoices.com/s/event-7381934/aHR0cDovL3d3dy5kZW1vY3JhY3lub3cub3JnLzIwMTAvMTEvMTkvY29ybmVsX3dlc3Rfb25fY2hhcmxlc19yYW5nZWxfYnVzaA==. As Mitchell and mswoman note in their comments, West has taken after President Obama before, pretty much from the beginning of his presidency. Omari raises the question of whether the critique of President Obama is one of his beliefs or his political strategy. Omari suggests that he folds too quickly and too often, which leads to Mitchell’s observation that West is really taking aim at a system as opposed to either President Bush or President Obama. Cornel West might make that more explicit if he uses examples such as the black farmers case or the Indian land trust case or the lead-up the dissolving levees in Hurricane Katrina or even in the racially discriminatory impact of the subprime mortgage foreclosure crisis (see my report on that topic at http://www.racialequitytools.org/resourcefiles/cohen.pdf). They were hardly originated in the Bush II administration nor passively carried on in the Obama Administration. They have roots going back to previous Republican and Democratic administrations. Our take on this is really twofold, one is in response to West’s hint at the need for and interest in alternatives to the two major parties, a subtext message of the Tea Party insurgency against “establishment” Republicans, for example. But the other is how to push forward toward ideas (such as the public option in health care reform) without having to address the need for political compromise and pragmatism. The Tea Partiers are already confronting that problem, as some such as Tennessee’s Scott DesJarlais who campaigned like his Tea Party peers against earmarks has now accepted the notion that for his district, earmarks are fun and he will try to go after them (http://www.whnt.com/news/sns-ap-tn–earmarkopponents,0,4162300.story). Thanks to all of you for your comments on this story.

  • Que

    I’m African-American, and I’ve always thought of Cornell West as misguided and confused. He doesn’t speak for me, and is not thought of as a “leader” in the mainstream black community. He hardly ever puts together a coherent sentence and believes his connections to influential blacks, coupled with his simultaneous and frequent use of many words with many syllables, makes him intelligent. It doesn’t. In fact, it simply makes him wordy and irrelevant. Before continuing down this road or more ignorance, Mr. West should reconcile the fact of his multiple “baby-mamas” with his opinion of how the President harms black people.

  • big mix

    Yes, the numbers are really screwed when the stats come out on black folk. It’s two ways to come up with those numbers but unfortunately for black folk, the method used in coming up with their figures are done in a deceitful manner.

  • Ledadi

    WELL SAID….I agree 100% with you. I am a black female who agrees with you. I think Obama has done more for females, blacks, hispanics, asians and any other aliens on this planet. What Mr West fails to realize is that the world does not revolve around just black people…I hate when the black leaders expect you to believe their ignorance…I have attended several events where Mr West has spoken and I have never been impressed so he does not represent me or my families views…Before Obama we have always had BLACK POVERTY..No President has stopped to tackle the issue so why now..because he is black…I’m just saying this will always be an issue until we die so don’t knock this man, he only has a few years to make change and do the best he can and trust this he does not have COMPLETE POWER over decision making and there are more important things that calls for Obamas attention, not that Poverty is not important but we are at WAR so Mr West needs to RELAX

  • grammar hammer

    can we check spelling and grammar once more?

  • Crystal Gross

    I think the problem with the Obama Administration is that he is powerless. They gave a man power and he has not been able to use it. Everything the man tries to do for the poor, the “other side” says no. When he first started running I felt it was a set up and I hate to say it but that is what is seems to be turning into. Black people need to leave the country as far as Im concerned. How many times do you hear if you dont like your job dont complain just leave. I feel we should do the same with this country. The moment we start to leave, if they truly want us, then we will get what we want.

  • shbkyn

    Here is the real deal, President Obama need to do something that is going to help blacks in a different light, so he helped to be able to go to college, stay on parents insurance longer. Out greatest salvation is proper education for blacks, blacks have been miseducated every since blacks started going to school about 145 years ago. Afrocentric/Afrocentered Education, will correct most of the problems of black people, (prison, self determination/nationbuilding, we will began to see blacks doing more for themselves, employing each other, having our own communities, providing blacks with everything they need, their own hospitals, department stores, schools). Blacks have been calling on President Obama about African Centered schools every sine he has been in office, and we have not recieved one acknowledgement. African Centered schools, would probably be the most important issue he could do for blacks,and in the future less dependency on the government, when blacks are taught self determination.

  • Whitefaaace

    [quote name=”Kimberly Otis”]Thank you for sharing this, and for pointing out the objections to West’s comments. I would just add that the President’s record on women is perhaps even more dismal than for people of color…[/quote]

    Wait. Didn’t he appointed two (2) non-Black women to the Supreme Court? As a Black President? And appointed a non-Black woman to his Highest Cabinet Seat (Head Of State, Hillary Clinton)??

    And isn’t he the same guy who sent Eric Holder to CHI to do something about Derrion Albert being murdered outside of his Black ghetto High-School…but has done nothing, nada, nil, nunca about sending Eric Holder to NC to find out why UNARMED Black males keep being gunned-down by racist cops?

    Plus, isn’t he the same President who has done nothing but attack Black males, in public, every since he took oath??

    And isn’t it true that Black, inner-city, ghetto males have double the unemployment rate, than any other sect of Americans??…lol…by which, a Black President has generously extended monies and infrastructure dollars to White-Congressmen for their White districts…yet he’s extended nothing, nada, nil, nunca to Black Congressmen, to take home to their ghetto districts and create infrastructure employment opportunities??

    LOL

    I think you might do yourself a great service, by actually commenting on this President’s ACTUAL recent trek-record and resume, and not some hallucinated one.

  • GW

    Part of your statement is true. Yes Whites make up the largest group of welfare recipients; however, they also represent the largest group in the US. Blacks make up about 12% of the population, yet somewhere between 30-40% of welfare. If we average that out, we are probably 7 to 10 times more likely to be on welfare than any other group. Do the math, one of the smallest minority groups in the US, 2nd highest welfare recipient next to the whites. This isn’t hating, just facts. I’m also black.

  • n.2ford@gmail.com

    Well said Darkside and the gentleman before you who spoke so eloquently about what is the real truth concerning welfare,educational opportunities, and economic advanntages….You guys keep putting the truth out there for the people so that no one will get caught sleeping..

  • n.2ford@gmail.com

    You speak as if it’s fine for the largest population to receive these benefits, and because we are 12 percent of the US population our plight should be viewed with a higher scrutiny…It doesnt matter what color of the sking it’s the truth we are after…

  • MPierre

    I agree with much of what you have said Omari…
    I would only take exception with the terms, ‘too reasonable’…
    Reason has a reference to logic or logical deduction. Excuse my nitpicking Omari, I would say that Mr. Obama is ‘not too reasonable’ compared to his predecessor or opponents in the house & mass delusional media.
    More so, I would say that Mr. Obama might be considered ‘too accommodating or abdicating’ in his desire for a Rodney King “can’t we all just get along” compliance with people who’d rather see him impeached on the treasonous grounds of being black while in The White House.
    I also contend speculatively, that Mr. Obama from day one of his out-of-nowhere victory in the Iowa primaries was taken aside & told in no uncertain terms, “We will make you President, but you will follow order(s) as given or suffer the diar consequences of disobedience, whatever they may be.”
    Just my opinion…

  • Samsneed

    Good thought. One follow up to this post…if Obama had improving the plight of 😀 black Americans as his focus he wouldn’t have gotten elected and we would never have a black president again. You can say all that black activist stuff when you’re just a professor. It’s a different ballgame when you’re the president of the USA. West and all the other black activist haters need to chill–not everyone black political figure had to walk with MLK. I’m just sayin…

  • sickandtired

    When I was in Jr. High School, studying American History, I realized that the constitution was composed and signed by slave owners, and was not written for Slaves or free African people. I know that democracy is not beneficial to me, because it was of the people, by the people and for the people, at that time, my ancestors were not considered to be people. we were property, assets part of their wealth. It was a matter of wealth, money, and greed, with no thought to human rights, because we were not considered to be human.

    When freedom came, the constitution was not changed. Again freedom did not come because of human rights, it was money. We were a commodity. Although as slaves we had worked the land, took care of the animals, did carpentry, blacksmithing, welding, cooked there meals, made their clothes, cleaned there homes, nursed and reared their babies, and serviced the masters, while we were mated as animals, children and spouses sold, after the so-called freedom, they did not want to pay us to do these things. All of a sudden we were ignorant, lazy, uneducated, and not worthy to be paid for things we had done as slaves, There was no law that said they had to hire us, and we were given no reparations.

    I have lived through the KKK, discriminaton, segregation, integration, I have lived through 14 presidents, both democrat and republican, and until Johnson became president, there was nothing in the constitution to include what was then called Negroes, or colored people. When those ammendments were added, it still required the justice department to enforce them,

    I cannot go through the history as I know it here, it would take too long. But I do know this, History forgotten is doomed to repeat itself. I know also that the love of money is the root of all evil. I was intelligent before I was educated. I was free before the ammendment was added, because I think for myself, and I am a child of God, and therein lies my value, I do not allow others to tell me what to think, feel, or believe. I am not valuable because I have much money, or education, or expensive cars, and houses. I know that I cannot work within the system, because the system is corrupt. Right is not determined by the majority, and the majority is not always right. neither is the mainstream. Power corrupts, absolute power, corrupts absolutely. Only God is to be worshipped, and only him are we to believe and obey, all just laws are based on the commandments. It is the interpretation by corrupt Priest, scribes and pharisees,Preachers, and teachers, politicians etc. that interpret the laws that keep them in power and control.

    before the Israelites were brought out of Africa, God told them to put blood over the door of their houses, and the death angel would pass by that house. He told them to remember that, and to teach their children, and their children’s children, how they were in slavery, and who brougt them out. He personally led them out through the water, and before they could get to the promised land they were disgruntled with Moses, and they wanted a God they could see, so they built a golden Idol, and they worshipped it. That generation had to wander in the wilderness until they died out, and their ancestors led by Joshua went into the promised Land. They were not in the promised land too long before they were not satisfied with following a God they could not see. They had already forgot where they came from and who brought them out. So God gave them Saul, a tall handsome man, who was crazy.

    The Bible is a good read, whether you believe in God or not. It is full of Wisdom, that never gets outdated, it is good for all ages.

    This is from a person with no power, no wealth, no want or desire for either. I was led to tell you a little about my life,what I believe and why I am free.

  • Edward

    The president of the United States should focus on ALL Americans, INCLUDING black Americans. No one is expecting him to focus on black people exclusively, and, by the same token, no black person expects him to shun black people, as if they were the plague, because he believes not to do so would incur the displeasure of his white side. So far, He has promoted the interests of gays, white men and women and Hispanics. I am sure if he had excluded your people, we would hear your whimpering.