I suppose Cornel West just couldn’t help himself.
One day after his sidekick, Tavis Smiley, ripped President Barack Obama on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” West called Obama a “global George Zimmerman” during a rambling critique where West accused Obama of being hypocritical in his response to the Travyon Martin killing and George Zimmerman’s acquittal.
“We know anybody who tries to rationalize the killing of innocent people is a criminal,” West said in an interview with Democracy Now. “George Zimmerman is a criminal, but President Obama is a global George Zimmerman because he tries to rationalize the killing of innocent children, 221 so far, in the name of self-defense… Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen. So when he comes to talk about the killing of an innocent person, you say, well wait a minute, what kind of moral authority are you bringing?”
West, an outspoken professor at Princeton University who has joined Smiley in ambushing Obama at every opportunity, says the Obama administration refuses to speak out against an American justice system that has destroyed two generations of black men and has contributed to what West calls “re-niggerizing” the black professional class.
“Five years in office and can’t say a word about a new Jim Crow,” West said. “And at the same time I think we have to recognize that he has been able to hide and conceal that criminalizing of the black poor as what I call the re-niggerizing of the black professional class.”
Responding to Obama’s comment last week, “Trayvon Martin could have me 35 years ago,” West said: “You got these black leaders on the Obama Plantation, won’t say a criminal word about the master in the big house. Will only try to tame the field folk so that they’re not critical of the master in the big house.”
West is continuing his assault on Obama. In January, during Obama’s second inaugural ceremony, West criticized Obama for using Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Bible, calling Obama a “war criminal.”
West’s anger can be traced back to Obama’s 2009 inauguration where West said he couldn’t get tickets for the inauguration. He was also upset that Obama never called him.
“He doesn’t have time, even two seconds, to say thank you or I’m glad you’re pulling for me and praying for me, but he’s calling these other people. I said, this is very interesting,” West said in 2011 interview. “And then as it turns out with the Inauguration, I couldn’t get a ticket with my mother and my brother. I said this is very strange.”
What’s strange is how quickly West and Smiley turned on America’s first black president in such a hateful way, a man they praised repeatedly when I watched them at Howard University when Obama was running for election in 2008. Back then, they couldn’t get enough of Obama. They posed for photos with him, showed up at many of Obama’s events, and hailed him as America’s next great leader.
And then, suddenly, it got ugly. Obama didn’t attend Smiley’s “State of the Black Union” conference in 2008 because he was campaigning for the White House and five years later, Smiley still can’t let it go.
On Sunday, during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Smiley said Obama’s remarks about race last week were too little, too late and “as weak as pre-sweetened Kool-Aid.”
“I appreciate and applaud the fact that the president did finally show up,” Smiley said. “But this town has been spinning a story that’s not altogether true. He did not walk to the podium for an impromptu address to the nation. He was pushed to that podium. A week of protests outside the White House, pressure building on him inside the White House, pushed him to that podium.”
Obama’s remarks last week weren’t meant as a definitive speech on race or to facilitate a national discussion. It was specific: Obama, for the first time in his presidency, used his White House bully pulpit to stand with black men all across America and share their collective pain of racism.
“There are very few African American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars,” Obama said. “That happens to me — at least before I was a senator. There are very few African Americans who haven’t had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off. That happens often.”
I guess Smiley and West only listen to each other.