I read Cornel West‘s “Race Matters” with more of a sense of obligation than any real interest. The book’s been out since ’94 and I only got around to reading it this year, so that should tell you something. See, I think the “Black people as a scientific study” books have only been done right once: that was in W.E.B. Du Bois’ 1903 classic, “The Souls Of Black Folk”. All the other books, including Ralph Ellison’s brilliant “Invisible Man” and the book that has made more passive Blacks into outraged militants, “The Autobiography of Malcolm X”, were either too heavily tied to fiction, or based too strongly on the author’s own personal story. Now, here was West with his own clinical take on Blackness. Well, I’m a writer so I read and I’m a Black writer so I read Black writers. And yes, that means I read Zane too, so… whatever.
But unlike Debra J. Dickerson‘s mildly amusing “The End of Blackness”, I underlined not a single passage from West’s book. What that suggests to me is that there was no new or groundbreaking thought. I also knew I was in trouble from the door with West’s Book when he wrote in the preface about his Ethiopian wife, Elleni. I’m thinking, “uh oh”. I know an Ethiopian ain’t a white person; it’s actually an African, but for Black American women whose “never been married” percentage is 42.3 for all above the age of 16, Ellini’s origin might have been interpreted as a slap in the face. But, whatever again: Debra Dickerson was married to a white man when she wrote her book.
But now when I’m watching Cornel West in a clip that somebody sent me from an interview where he was featured with Dr. Julianne Malveaux on the Tavis Smiley show. I’m wishing that I was still the campus barber that I was during my Carver Hall days so that I could reach through the screen with my clippers and shave some sense into Dr. West because it’s become clear to me that wild afro of his is carrying his brain cells further and further away from his head.
President of Bennett College, Dr. Julianne Malveaux strikes me as nothing more than a Terry McMillian villain. Female, Black, accomplished and angry. She’s angry at Black men and if she can find someone else that’s angry at Black men, even another Black man, then she’s happy(er). Dr. Malveaux called Hillary Clinton’s applause-worthy DNC speech “incandescent”, but accused Barack Obama of a “whitewash of our history” during his own DNC speech. Lady, a Black man standing and accepting the nomination for president from the Democratic party is making history, not whitewashing it.
Meanwhile, Dr. West, who has bojangled in nothing less than the “Matrix” movie franchise, and who at some point actually high-fived Dr. Malveaux, had earlier posed the question to Barack Obama: “How deep is your love for the people?” Well Dr. West, I’d propose that Mr. Obama’s love for the people is so deep that he married Michelle Robinson of the South Side of Chicago and not Elleni from Ethiopia. Real talk.
Doctors West and Malveaux were both critical of the fact that Mr. Obama didn’t mention The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King by name during his DNC acceptance speech “reducing him” as Dr. Malveaux put it, to a “preacher from Georgia.” No, Dr. Malveaux, Mr. Obama was simplifying Dr. King as a “preacher from Georgia”. So much has been made of Dr. King’s legend that the man’s reality has become somewhat obscured. The same can be argued, I guess, about Christ. You must have missed the point at the end of the speech where Mr. Obama’s daughters and the grandchildren of vice presidential candidate Biden played together onstage. Dr. King’s dream coming true through the candidacy of his embodiment.
And I know you can’t knock the hustle. I’ve had the Reasonable Doubt CD since 1996. I also know that if LB Lacey, who suggested that Blacks “stop acting like crabs in a barrel and work together,” could see me now, he would shake his head in disgust. But I’d ask of Mr. Lacey and Hov this one exception. Black people of any voice or following have got to realize that all they need to do in order to have a microphone shoved into their faces is be critical of Barack Obama. And while I don’t agree with every single thing that the candidate does and stands for, I’ll keep my criticisms to myself and family members, fellow drug users, ex-cons, barbershop do-nothings and the similarly employed. If the press were to put a mic in my face for a quote on Barack Obama, I’d say simply, “He’s great!” then start dancing around and posing like Usain Bolt. But for all the other Blacks who see Mr. Obama’s candidacy as nothing more than an opportunity to advance their own misguided agendas, I feel the need to grab your claw with mine as you make your way towards the rim of the barrel and ask, “will you crabs knock it off?”