Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sharpton Vs. West: The Knock Down

For context of this post, see this.

Al Sharpton is right. It's not Barack Obama's job to write every bill and take up every local cause in the country. The job of the President is to shape and guide an all-encompassing American agenda that allows for the nuances of our society to shake themselves out.

Cornel West is right. President Obama is the singular most influential and representative figure of everything that is the United States of America. It's his job to be attentive and sensitive to the needs of all of us, and support us in our battles and struggles as we navigate this delicate society.

But this isn't about that. No, this post is about the silly, abrasive, hilarious, wonderful collision between two of black America's largest egos, Professor Cornel West and Reverend Al Sharpton.

My first response to this video was, "Who at MSNBC thought is was a good idea to put West and Sharpton in the same room on television? Haven't they been paying attention?"

For the sake of full disclosure, I'm not really a fan of either of the cats. Not because I don't think they take appropriate positions on the given topics; most often they do and I agree with much of what they say. But rather they communicate a sense of cultural privilege; an arrogance that their points of view should never be shunned because of their status in the black community. They both seem to attempt serving as the mouthpiece of a community without maintain a sense of participation in it.

Consider Al Sharpton for a moment. I remember when he ran for president back in 2004. During the Democratic primaries, there were a few debates that featured all of the Democratic nominees for that year, all 10 of them. (That's right. Ten. Look here.) Sharpton would show up to the debates and blow more wind than a nor'easter. And yes, he would make great points, shake up the debate a little, and even brought some occasional comedy to the conversation. But most of the time he read as the loud, bossy, bombastic black dude more interested with his own voice than adding to the conversation.

Then there's Professor West. You know, very rarely does he fail at coming off as completely pompous and hyper-rhetorical. Yes, he is a very intelligent cat. That's not the problem. But he imparts his intelligence and insight with such inaccessible vocabulary that his arguments read as cryptic and difficult to follow. I do give him credit for the ability to be a translator for the black community to people who may not fully understand our collective impulses (see West and Mos Def of Real Time with Bill Maher). More often than not, however, I think his comments and lectures do more to gratify the black elite in the belief of their own exceptionalism than make significant strides in a societal understanding of the African American experience.

Actually, I'm glad MSNBC got these two together.

"A little nonsense now and then is cherished by the wisest men." Roald Dahl


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