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News Flash: Dismantling Cornel West is Not the Same as Confronting Poverty and Mass Incarceration

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Your Black World

As we enter into the second term of President Barack Obama, we find that the end of the election allows us to continue the conversations that seemed practically intolerable before Obama was reelected.  The black community is becoming ground zero for a battle of wills between those who expect President Obama to acknowledge an increased degree of black suffering and those who feel that Obama has no obligation to the group that gave him 93% of their vote.  The man who has voluntarily placed a bull’s eye on his forehead is Dr. Cornel West, who seems to be unable to “just get over it” when it comes to racial inequality.

I find it interesting that there are so many among us who will criticize Cornel West for speaking out on poverty and mass incarceration by saying that he’s only mad because he didn’t get inauguration tickets.  So, rather than seeing if poverty and mass incarceration are actually a problem, some of us are blinded into allowing a  focus on Cornel’s inauguration tickets to excuse us from addressing critical problems that are facing our communities.  That just doesn’t make any sense, and shows the lengths to which even seemingly intelligent individuals like Melissa Harris-Perry will go in order to avoid defending the indefensible.

Whether Cornel is or isn’t upset about the tickets has nothing to do with the fact that black people continue to be incarcerated and born in poverty more than any other group in the history of the United States.  Sometimes, when faced with an inconvenient truth, we find that it’s easier to k**l the messenger than it is to actually deal with the message. Poverty and mass incarceration are VERY REAL and destroying the black family in America. It’s time to elevate the conversation.

 

This week, I met with Father Michael Pfleger, a respected pastor and extraordinary activist on the South Side of Chicago.  Father Pfleger and I spoke for nearly three hours about the challenges that exist within the black community.  One of the points on which we agreed is that poverty, violence and mass incarceration continue to worsen, even as we celebrate the condition of the Harvard-educated black aristocracy.  Another thought that came to mind is that we must address the collective self-esteem problem which leads African Americans to feel that we should give 93% of the vote to a political party that barely says a word about the struggles our community continues to endure (Gay and Hispanic people refuse to accept such blatant disrespect).

 

The bottom line is this:  We must suffer in silence no longer.  Also, battle lines must be laid out clearly between those who care about poverty/mass incarceration/violence, and those who do not.  The same way that whites have the right to complain about 7 percent unemployment, blacks have an even greater right to complain about 14.3% unemployment.  The racist rhetoric which claims that black people don’t have jobs because we are too lazy to work is directly contradicted by the woman who found that her job offers skyrocketed when she pretended to be a white woman on Monster.com.  Nearly every study in America says that African Americans are more likely to go to  prison, even for the same crimes, and our children are more likely to be born into poverty.  It is white supremacy and ignorance that leads us to believe that we all randomly decided to lead horrible lives.

 

The day for cosmetic politics must come to an end, for symbolism will not pay the bills.  Also, we must continue to speak up on anyone within black leadership who has been compensated into silence, being forced to pretend that conversations on gay marriage are as important as discussions of the prison industrial complex.  In fact, I dare President Obama or his evil sidekick Valerie Jarrett to even use the words “Prison industrial complex” in public.  Their ignorance toward black suffering and the prison/poverty holocaust is no less damaging than what happened in Germany during World War II:  At that time, millions of Jews died because people did not have the courage to do what was right, and today, millions of black families are destroyed (with too many youth dying in the streets) because mothers and fathers have been placed behind iron bars.

 

Cornel West didn’t cause these problems and neither did President Obama.  But the difference is that one man has billions of dollars in African American tax money available to help solve these problems, and the other one does not.  If the president and his team do not wish to address these issues, then they should give us our tax money to let us address these problems ourselves:  Taxation without representation is entirely unacceptable and represents a blatant violation of our civil, constitutional and human rights. We must speak the truth about America during this second-term, for it makes no sense that our lives have become markedly worse under the first black president in history.  Barack can do better than that.

 

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Finance Professor at Syracuse University and author of the book, “Black American Money.” To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

139 Responses to News Flash: Dismantling Cornel West is Not the Same as Confronting Poverty and Mass Incarceration

  1. ST Reply

    November 21, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    Cornell West IS the reason he hasn’t been more effective with his messaging. He should have realized his “public” and presented a message in a way that could be received by “that” public. For him to state that President Obama doesn’t want to see a free black man is not a message that would be accepted by the masses who not only wanted Obama to be elected, but saw the racist tirades against him. In addition to that, Dr. West has attacked Melissa Harris Perry and other well know blacks, calling them part of the exploitive establishment. When the public hear these people speak, that doesn’t come across. Also, who does Dr. West suggest as an alternative to these prominent blacks? That point has never been made clear. He comes across as a bitter man blowing a lot of hot air. If he wants to be heard and more successful, he needs to sit down and figure out why he can’t get his message across. Don’t blame the public. His message has been heard over and over again. He’s not reaching the people and it’s his own short comings, his own inablitity to do so that’s the problem. No one elses.

  2. ST Reply

    November 21, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    Cornell West IS the reason he hasn’t been more effective with his messaging. He should have realized his “public” and presented a message in a way that could be received by “that” public. For him to state that President Obama doesn’t want to see a free black man is not a message that would be accepted by the masses who not only wanted Obama to be elected, but saw the racist tirades against him. In addition to that, Dr. West has attacked Melissa Harris Perry and other well know blacks, calling them part of the exploitive establishment. When the public hear these people speak, that doesn’t come across. Also, who does Dr. West suggest as an alternative to these prominent blacks? That point has never been made clear. He comes across as a bitter man blowing a lot of hot air. If he wants to be heard and more successful, he needs to sit down and figure out why he can’t get his message across. Don’t blame the public. His message has been heard over and over again. He’s not reaching the people and it’s his own short comings, his own inablitity to do so that’s the problem. No one elses.

  3. Concerned Reply

    November 20, 2012 at 7:55 pm

    What’s the presidents excuse for ignoring Harry Belafonte’s request to meet and sit down to talk about the conditions of blacks in this country. I guess if you don’t agree with the presidents politics and his supporters then access is denied irregardless if you have an extensive and impressive resume on civil rights and human rights such as Mr. Belafonte.

    So let me get this straight anyone who does not agree with the president and Obama supporters is a hater and you question their motives. Irregardless of the facts and position taken. But Obama supporters don’t question the motives of a politician who is the president of the US of America, have we forgotten the history of this position.

    I don’t expect anything from the president as a black person, but as a black voter my purpose for voting is so that the candidate that I choose will address the issues that are directly effecting my people and community and on a broader level the country. So when any candidate gets 90%+ of the black vote it’s not unrealistic for some of us to want our issues addressed by that candidates administration. No different than the gay community, Hispanic community and Jewish community that voted on principal and agenda. And do believe each group went to all the candidates with their agendas in hand and voted for the one that was willing to address their issues.

    I agree with Dr. Watkins in his assessment that our self esteem is low when we accept and wait for results instead of being proactive and demanding results. One of the realist things President Obama said himself in a speech during his first term was “MAKE ME DO WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO”. How many black Obama supporters remember that quote?

    Instead we are so busy praising a politician who is merely a man, (not a messenger of GOD) and not giving him the ammunition needed to go back to his constituents and say the black voters have a common agenda and make certain our communities issues (education, poverty, violence, unemployment and mass incarceration) are addressed. Until we let go of symbolism, the first black “whatever” and unite we will always be disregarded even by the BLACK PRESIDENT. Doing what’s morally correct without pressure does not work in politics anymore.

    Many of us stood on line for hours to vote for the black president, but how much of that black pride, togetherness and attitude was brought back to our perspective communities. The hypocrisy needs to stop. Yes, we accomplished a once unthinkable act and that’s fine but business is business and it’s time to move on and focus on leveraging this historic opportunity.

    The buying power of blacks in this country is almost one trillion dollars and less than 3 cents on every dollar is recycled back into black owned businesses. Which in turn would create jobs, wealth and much needed resources to our communities. It hurts to say this but who will respect a people that don’t respect themselves?

  4. Dham Reply

    November 20, 2012 at 9:34 am

    THANK YOU MS. LAFONDA. When will people like West & Smiley give of themselves (freely w/o trying to sell books). When was the last time they sat down with a group of young brothers & imparted wisdom of what it takes to become successful: staying in school, studying, how to be resiliant. Go into the hood themselves & make a difference.

  5. Pastori Balele Reply

    November 19, 2012 at 10:47 pm

    Now that elections are over, I hope FoxNews will fire the following: Hannity, Crowley, Ingraham, Morris, Malkin, Sanford, Foreman, Karl Rove,Palin d**k Morris and Ann Coulter. I am asking FoxNews not to invite Rush on any of show. He is now useless. Those morons wasted money lying to people. We are lucky President Obama was re-elected and they lost. What a night that was!

  6. Pastori Balele Reply

    November 19, 2012 at 10:38 pm

    Why am I wasting time discussing Republicans’ fate and now whining they lost elections. Now they’re blaming their candidate for his unfortunate valediction. These are same republicans who said poor whites, blacks, women is their fault (Romney); These are same Republicans who called Occupy Wall Street smelly, should take a bath (Newt). These are same republicans who said Blacks are BIT loaders. (Bachman, Santorum; Romney). These are the same republicans who said raped women to have children is god-send (I don’t which god). These are the same republicans who said women should not have rights to their bodies. (Republican memo); These are the republicans who said Obama should not have bailed out GM. (Romney and Hannity); These are same republicans who encouraged millionaires to ship jobs to China leaving American workers on welfare. (Rove); These are the same republicans who wanted to put electric fence to k**l Mexicans crossing into this country (Cain); These are same republican who at Mitt rally allowed a woman to wear a T-shirt, “White House for Whites”. Now they regret. That is a lie.

  7. Pastori Balele Reply

    November 19, 2012 at 10:31 pm

    Well, if Tavis and Cornell want to attend the inaugural why can’t they invite themselves there? In any case I will e-mail President Obama to invite them there. We are lucky President Obama was re-elected. We, Blacks, would have been relegated again to back of the bus. And they had intention to do so. Did you hear Emanuel, Chicago mayor, called Sean Hannity? F word.

  8. Samdromeda Reply

    November 19, 2012 at 10:20 pm

    How many of us pray for our leaders? We are to pray for our leaders so that God will influence their decisions and behavior and also give the community vision and inspire the citizens in business and every aspect of life. The community will be elevated when they put God first. Otherwise you come under the punishment of the rest of this evil world. Without a vision the people perish. Creative vision comes from the creator. If you do not ask how can you receive. The president is not God.

  9. virginia Reply

    November 19, 2012 at 8:51 pm

    Some of the problems that Blacks want President Obama to solve should be handled on the local level. Are blacks holding their state and local representatives responsible for problems affecting their community? The answer is a resopunding NO! Most blacks only vote for the President election every four years. You local politicians are responsible for the conditions that affect your ommunities, but most blacks do not vote,unless its a presidential election. Wwhen a politician makes note that you dont vote he assumes you don’t care. Guesss who gets the money allocated to solve some of your problems? The community that votes. Start putting your pressure on the Mayor, Governor, congressman, senator, etc., who represents your neighborhood. If they are not doing something to solve your problem they then become the problem. VOTE THEM OUT OF OFFICE!

  10. lin Reply

    November 19, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    Negro Please. When did the Federal Government start separting money by the color of the tax payers. Funny how all of the Haters want to write a whole new play book for Obama.

  11. mozlyric Reply

    November 19, 2012 at 4:58 pm

    Can I please ask a simple question (and I will check back for responses)…

    I you can’t hold government officials, and that includes the White House responsible for acknowledging what ails American communities why the h**l do we vote at all????

    All this push to vote for a Black president, which comes from a historic and emotional place for many, yet we can’t have any expectations? We can except our President visiting nations around the world and acknowledging their issues YET we can’t expect an American President to take an honest interest in Domestic Policies that will bring relief to disenfranchised populations right here on American soil?????

    So we excuse this President because we allegedly NEVER held any other President responsible for what ails the Black community???? Are you serious????

    So its more important that we goo goo ga ga over our President because he’s COOL looking or has SWAG, but we can’t have any expectations????

    You expect some of the poorest people in our nation who experience generational under-employment, under education, OVER incarceration, and social INEQUALITY in EVER American social paradigm to FIX our OWN ills (many WE DID NOT CREATE BUT DO Perpetuate)…YET

    We can NOT expect the most powerful man in the world to have compassion for people of color on American soil. We applaud his support of Israel, Gays, Illegal immigrants, Latinos….but we b**t up our own brethren for having EXPECTATIONS??????

    How dumb can we be???? You think Israel, Gays, and Immigrants don’t have EXPECTATIONS of this sitting President??? But we are blinded by the color of our own d**n skin and can’t have EXPECTATIONS???

    Wow. Why should I have expectations of my children then (even though I know they can do better and make changes). I am sad for this people, we call Black America.

    d**n!

    • virginia Reply

      November 19, 2012 at 9:02 pm

      Some of these writings are obviously from people who are so filled with anger that they only know how to strike out by calling those they disagree with, names. Sadly those are the people so filed with anger they are beyond reasoning with. Now I understand the saying…” A fool convinced against their will, Is a fool of the same opinion still”

      • mozlyric Reply

        November 20, 2012 at 10:49 am

        @Virginia

        Your reply did not answer the question of EXPECTATIONS. Every group expects something from any President of the United States. Blacks have a LONG history of addressing and CHALLENGING U. S. Presidents to address social ills, but for some reason Blacks can’t do so of a Black President.

        Ever think people have HIGHER expectations of the current President because his skin-color signifies some understanding and natural compassion??? (Which personally I believe many are mistaken).

        Political corruption begins at the Top of the Political food chain, not at the bottom. My suggestion is Blacks digress. Ignore politicians altogether and use their money and resources more wisely and put their money where it will count for something. OUR ancestors used their vote to activate Social Change, just voting for someone based on the color of their skin doesn’t meet this criteria if NO expectation of change is forthcoming.

  12. free soul Reply

    November 19, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    The “Rich” social Black population should find a way to hire Black youth instead of wasting our time fighting. The Jews/North Pacific Asians always find a way to create International companies and use the population wisely. Too much TALK so little action, Blacks account for 800 Billion plus of the American economy. We should find a way to tap into Africa’s resources like the Whiteman and share in the profits without abusing our distance relatives. There’s so much Talent in our community but we just can’t get along when it’s time to form CORPORATIONS. B.E.T. was never a 100% Black run Corp and we still can’t figure out the BLUE PRINT. Haven’t we learnt that airing our dirty laundry is nothing but a CRY for HELP.
    Why do Blacks always complain about crime when it comes from within regardless if the forces from outside are pulling the strings. Let start being real Blackmen and c*t the STRINGS. Not enough jobs created in our community by us. What happen to FUBU not the company but the Ideology?
    GOOD LUCK LOl

  13. blackjack Reply

    November 19, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    “I don’t recall West so vigoriously attacking any other President.”

    Then you must not of heard of him before 2008…the same year you probably learned about Obama…lol

    • virginia Reply

      November 21, 2012 at 10:11 pm

      Attn; Blackjack

      Unlike you I have been here through at least 12 presidents and I have not just started with politics since 2008. What I could TEACH YOU WOULD MAKE YOU CLIMB INTO A CRIB AND SUCK YOUR THUMB OR CRY FOR YOUR BOTTLE. GROW UP!

  14. Harold Reply

    November 19, 2012 at 11:26 am

    Ms Coney you are so right that Boyce needs to grow up. He, Cornell west and Tavis are all like spoiled kids that need attention. Not one has had anything positive to say about President Obama or his tenture. They are worse than some of those low-down republicans. In four(4) years, certainly he must have done something they can speak positively about.
    I would like to know exactly what is it they expect the President to do. Just tell him and us too. Crime and poverty in black comminities are not new issues. And yes, leave Melissa Harris-Perry alone cause I am very proud of that sister.

  15. Gloria Coney Reply

    November 19, 2012 at 10:31 am

    Leave Mellissa Harris-Perry ALONE. When you used the word whoring in one of your diatribes in discussing why or how she got the job on MSNBC that told me a lot about you DR “B”. Why you and Dr West must use such demeaning language when speaking of one of your own is beyond me. Grow Up.

  16. KBP Reply

    November 19, 2012 at 9:58 am

    Dr. Watkins, PLEASE tell me what President Obama can do about poverty and crime in our neighborhoods? Poverty and crime were problems in our ‘hoods during the Clinton years too. What did he do about it? I was born in the 60′s and remember my parents having difficult financial periods but they never resorted to crime to fix our issues. I don’t get what you and West and Smiley want the government to do. Why have the 3 of you not chosen a life of crime? Why are you 3 not in poverty? What President paved the way for you guys to avoid the very thing you detest. We know of the inequality that has always been in America. What has it prohibited you, West and Smiley from accomplishing? I really just want to know what President Obama can do to fix crime and poverty. Do you have this online somewhere? Does Smiley and West have it written somewhere so a simple man like me can understand where you all are coming from?

  17. nini Reply

    November 19, 2012 at 9:36 am

    Amen sistas…u are correct…Tavis and Cornell need to find other hobbies besides bashing Obama….Obama did put them in jail, he gives the tools its up to them….

  18. virginia Reply

    November 19, 2012 at 9:33 am

    I failed to mention the Obama care health coverage. Blacks and latinos fill the emergency rooms everyday. Obama Care gives them coverage for medicare care.

  19. virginia Reply

    November 19, 2012 at 9:09 am

    You are correct when you say these issues must be dealt with but so must Cornell West constant attacks on President Obama. Unemployment and incarceration did not just become a problem. I don’t recall West so vigoriously attacking any other President, nor going on speaking tours to do so. It is personal, if not he would find another way too approach the president. We all want President Obama to deal with the way blacks and latinos are being treated, but we also recognized the opposition that he met when he took office. I firmly believe that these issues will be dealt with in the next four years, there will be nothing to lose. If you are keeping up with what he has done you know its not true when blacks say he has done nothing for them. we are included in all of the bills he has signed thus far…college loans, equal pay for women, extention of unemployment insurance, tax cuts..etc. He is the president of everyone. Some of the conditions in black neighborhoods must be corrected by blacks. We cannot continue to expect someone else to solve our problems. He is working on unemployment, but we must prepare ourselves for these jobs. Maybe we are not employable because we drop out of school and need to return.

    • Barbara Reply

      November 19, 2012 at 9:45 am

      Yes Virginia, both you and Boyce are right.

      I like Boyce’s passion of caring.

    • Gloster mahon Reply

      November 19, 2012 at 10:16 am

      It is useless Dr. Boyce to present an alternative view of what the Obama administration should take up in the second term. I think blacks hold their so-alled leaders in too high esteem and the price of seeing Obama as a polititian. Look I voted for him but throughout my adult life my vote has been for the lesser of two evils. I’m also from Chicago and Obama was the senator of my district throughout those years he never visisted the office located in the black section of his district in fact they were selling dope in front of the office and at a separate meeting he and I was at I confronted about it. He gave a political answer “I was appalled”. Point is now is the time for this man to take a stand, you cannot go through a black family without coming across some member being impacted by a felony conviction for mostly small amounts of drugs. We currently have 1.11 million men in prison and that is not including those in ounty jails or on probation or parole. Those that commit crime should be in jail but drugs are a public health issue not a criminal issue. Black folk have to wake up to the motive behind this mass incarceration, failing schools, food deserts and availability of guns in the hands of youth. All West and Smiley are saying is use the bully pulpit to look at these issues, if Obama says something about these things the focus of the world will be on this stuff.

  20. virginia Reply

    November 19, 2012 at 9:09 am

    You are correct when you say these issues must be dealt with but so must Cornell West constant attacks on President Obama. Unemployment and incarceration did not just become a problem. I don’t recall West so vigoriously attacking any other President, nor going on speaking tours to do so. It is personal, if not he would find another way too approach the president. We all want President Obama to deal with the way blacks and latinos are being treated, but we also recognized the opposition that he met when he took office. I firmly believe that these issues will be dealt with in the next four years, there will be nothing to lose. If you are keeping up with what he has done you know its not true when blacks say he has done nothing for them. we are included in all of the bills he has signed thus far…college loans, equal pay for women, extention of unemployment insurance, tax cuts..etc. He is the president of everyone. Some of the conditions in black neighborhoods must be corrected by blacks. We cannot continue to expect someone else to solve our problems. He is working on unemployment, but we must prepare ourselves for these jobs. Maybe we are not employable because we drop out of school and need to return.

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