Harvard Professor Says Obama’s Black Critics Are Off BasePublished by Joyce Jones on Tuesday, September 20, 2011 at 1:15 pm.
Barack Obama’s ascension to the nation’s highest office is an achievement that almost all African-Americans — including those of different ideological stripes—have collectively enjoyed. But some of his most vocal critics, most notably PBS host Tavis Smiley and Princeton professor Cornel West, who once could be counted among Obama’s most avid supporters, have turned against him. West has even joined forces with consumer advocate Ralph Nader to find a Democrat to challenge the president’s re-election bid. Some critics have charged that Obama isn’t Black enough, others say he doesn’t pay enough attention to Black issues.
They couldn’t be more wrong, argues Randall Kennedy, an African-American Harvard Law School professor, in an opinion piece that he penned for CNN this week. Nor are their actions surprising. Kennedy said that the loyalties of African-Americans who achieve great success in mainstream America are frequently called into question and causes a level of anxiety. Perhaps more important, they get more media attention “that is far greater than their representativeness of Black America or their influence within it” deserves, as some people have suggested is the case with Smiley and West.
Black rank-and-file Democrats, Kennedy adds, have a more realistic understanding for what Obama has been up against since before he even took office — namely a horrific economic climate, and, let’s be honest with ourselves — a degree of racism, or as Kennedy puts it, “racial resentment.”
Even though the number of Black Obama detractors is small, he warns that that their criticisms could influence some Black voters and diminish their support for the president next year when he will need all of the support he can get during what will surely be a rough and tumble fight to win re-election.