Ditto for Joan Walsh’s characterization of West’s battering of the president as a “meltdown.” A meltdown happens when a person acts unlike himself. A meltdown isn’t when a figure behaves in a manner to which the public is accustomed.
Bewilderment at Cornel West obsessing over race is like expressing surprise that Rodney Dangerfield would talk about respect. It’s his shtick. In the barely two-page introduction to Race Matters, West discusses teaching a course on Afro-American Cultural Studies. He perceives Manhattan cab drivers bypassing him as racial slights. He dutifully notes the “European descent” of a woman picked up by a cab and points out the “white male photographer and white female cover designer” whom he meets. The race-obsessed author quotes the race-obsessed W.E.B. Du Bois and name-drops the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. He fantasizes about living in Addas Ababa, Ethiopia. He talks about visiting his favorite soul food restaurant and “the soothing black music of Van Harper’s Quiet Storm on WBLS, 107.5.” This is as much an introduction to a book as it is to a man. Cornel West is a professional black man. It’s his business, and a lucrative one at that.
It’s not that the reader was not forewarned. The book is called Race Matters, after all. Therein, West segregates not just people, but their emotions, their actions, their thought, their everything. To take just one page (page 86), West writes of “black sexuality,” “black intelligence,” “black moral character,” “black possibility,” “black social spaces,” “black humanity,” “black families,” black institutions,” “black egos,” “black sanity,” “black love,” and “black survival.” It’s as if West believes blacks and whites aren’t merely separate races, but separate species incapable of sharing basic human characteristics such as intelligence, ego, and character. The unhealthy obsession with color, which manifested itself in the verbal assault on the president, made Cornel West. It now threatens to unmake him.
Much pop psychology has been engaged by those seeking to analyze why one black leftist would attack another black leftist. Surely the egomaniacal West encouraged this by publically griping over unreturned phone calls, inauguration snubs, and a presidential cussing out. But the former Obama supporter’s pettiness is a minor factor here. Overlooked is the inconvenient truth that the same identity politics that weaved the modern Democratic Party is responsible for this small tear in its current fabric.
Daniel J. Flynn is the author of Why the Left Hates America (Prima Forum, 2002), Intellectual Morons: How Smart People Fall for Stupid Ideas (Crown Forum, 2004), and A Conservative History of the American Left (Crown Forum, 2008). He writes a Monday column for Human Events and blogs at www.flynnfiles.com.
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