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The Gospel according to Professor West


Former Miami, Fla., Congressman Allen West shares more than a last name with Professor Cornel West.

Both were (are) quick-trigger character assassins who love the public spotlight. Both profess to be knowledgeable, experienced and wise men whose points of view are and should be important to more than one or two drunken heads in the local bar.

Both suffer from enormous delusions of grandeur and smug self-puffery. The voters sent one of them into unemployment, while the wire-haired one still grins and preens for the media attention that comes from being a Black professional man on a constant mission of demeaning President Obama. For one who claims to be an antiwar activist, he seems to have declared a personal war of enmity against the president.

Most recently, Professor West has been quoted as saying that President Obama did not deserve to use Dr. King’s Bible as part of his oath of office re-inauguration on Monday, Jan. 21, 2013.

“President Obama doesn’t deserve to be sworn in with Dr. Martin Luther King’s Bible.”

Well, who made Professor West the estate executor of King’s legacy? No one I know. Dr. King spoke for a lot more of us than Cornel West, and that’s a fact. Clearly, the surviving children of Dr. King thought the occasion was an appropriate use of their father’s traveling Bible, and provided the Bible to the Inauguration Ceremonies Committee, and to the president. If the quote ascribed to Professor West is accurate, it is to be noted that he still has not yet recovered from his continuing bout with outrageous foot-in-mouth-disease, the very same malady the other infamous West certainly had.

Whoever is close to Professor West, please, for the sake of a lot of us in the Black community, perform an intervention. The man needs serious help. A little earlier, he was also quoted on Amy Goodman’s radio show as saying that President Obama was simply “Rockefeller in Blackface.”

This constant minstrel show act that entertains nobody but Rush Limbaugh and the Fox News people has gotten very, very old. It benefits none of us, and if, as publicly stated, Professor West aims at holding the POTUS accountable, this is clearly a wrong-headed strategy to accomplish that.

In fact, if Professor West has even the slightest scintilla of sincerity in what he continues to do regarding President Obama, then he should run for office himself. Become a policymaker and make some changes.

Or instigate a national movement to transform Congress into a body that remembers that its raison d’etre is to address and vote for legislation that will help the public rather than harm it. Professor West can become known for a “Throw the Bums Out” advocacy to get lawmakers elected who can help the president accomplish a peace and justice agenda.

Otherwise, Professor West will merely keep hemorrhaging his hard-earned credibility as a public intellectual. If a student in one of Professor West’s classes abruptly challenged the scholar’s ability to teach, yelling out all of the deficiencies the student thought he/she had detected, one of Professor West’s responses–imagined or implemented–would surely be, “Well, you haven’t yet walked in my shoes. You haven’t earned a terminal educational degree yet, you haven’t been hired to teach at the university, you have not yet had the opportunity of organizing a rational, effective college-level course. Your criticism, then, is bereft of substance, experience and logic, even if it is somewhat correct.”

Similarly, Professor West has never been president of the United States, president of the Harvard Law Review, president of a multi-level university, or anything of that sort. How then does he fashion the temerity to continually throw stones at the Obama presidency. Where was his shrill voice during the Bush years? Where were all the examples of name-calling and brow-beating? And even then, the same lack of experience criticism above would fit, although Professor West’s motivation may have been more understandable.

Here’s a Black community suggestion. If you, professor, and any one else has a reasonable constructively critical point to make, then go ahead. Just make sure you include a suggested, viable alternative to the action or lack of action you criticize. Negative criticism that appears as grandstanding and personal enmity will not and does not help the Black community’s cause. It just makes us and you look foolish and imminently disregardable.

Michael Jackson had it right: start first with the man in the mirror.

Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.

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