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West and Dyson should know better

Hurling broadsides publicly not the right course Why are two of Black America’s foremost intellectuals flogging it out in a blog? Dr. Cornell West and Michael Eric Dyson should know better! What brought it about? The public denigration

Hurling broadsides publicly not the right course

Why are two of Black America’s foremost intellectuals flogging it out in a blog? Dr. Cornell West and Michael Eric Dyson should know better!

What brought it about?

The public denigration of President Obama’s domestic and foreign policy by Dr. Cornell West is of a very personal nature that dates back to the president’s refusal to embrace West and his buddy, PBS talk show personality, Tavis Smiley, as confidantes; personal advisers on the “black-hand side.” That scorched both West and Smiley and they’ve been bitter about it ever since.

That’s my take on it!

Both West and Smiley try to couch their disdain for the president in objective criticism of his policies they claim have scarcely benefited black people. If you can’t see through that smokescreen you are ripe for the first salesman bouncing along in clickety-clack shoes selling obsolete vacuum cleaners. Some of their argument may spark truth, but these guys are just mad at the POTUS and want to kick dirt on his shoes.

Enter Michael Eric Dyson, the prolific author and scholar who penned a scathing article recently in The New Republic lambasting West — his former mentor — because of West’s cacophony of criticism on Obama’s administrative policies. Now, we have a swirling whirlwind involving two American pillars of color implicating a third — the first black American president in history. West’s response: “Michael Eric Dyson is trying to assassinate my character to cover up his allegiance to the status quo.”

Really guys? Did this volcano have to erupt, now? Not a very good picture.

You’d think the pair would take their spat private—not in the public arena. It looks bad. Not only for the Obama presidency, but for two intellectually gifted individuals. It reflects poorly on Black America; for black children who desperately need all the black male role models they can get. West and Dyson, like other black scholars have claimed to be committed to progress for African American people, but this swirl of angst by West-for-Obama-Dyson-for-West amounts, metaphorically-speaking, to a spat between Crips and Bloods. For West and Dyson, might as well be Marion “Suge” Knight versus Cle “Bone” Sloan. Same difference.

Time out fellas.

As one other black scholar put it, “Black people are being shot dead in the street daily by trigger-happy cops and two ostensibly smart men, who have both produced excellent work and who pride themselves on being engaged academics responsive to the needs of the black community, are firing broadsides at each other. We don’t have the luxury of tearing each other down in white spaces so publicly, no matter how far atop the ivory tower we have climbed.”

To that I say, amen!

West and Dyson should be engaged in solidarity using their collective gifts to ease our collective pain as black Americans—pains endured at the lowest levels in Urbia, to the highest echelons at the White House, where even a black First Family is not immune.

West and Dyson should know better.

Jarrette Fellows, Jr. is Publisher and Editor of Compton Herald. He attended junior and senior high school in Compton, and is an alumnus of California State University, Los Angeles.

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