By Dr. Boyce Watkins (TheGrio.com) – Much of black America held its collective breath upon witnessing a battle royale between Rev. Al Sharpton and Dr. Cornel West. The argument took place on an MSNBC special entitled “A Stronger America: The Black Agenda,” hosted by Ed Schultz. This heated debate was a natural culmination of the growing frustration that many African-Americans are feeling toward the Obama presidency. For some, the election of a black president didn’t provide the second coming of Juneteenth that many of us expected. On the flip side, there are many who feel that serving the black community directly is too much of a burden to put on our first black president.
One of my greatest concerns about the heated debate between Professor West and Rev. Sharpton is that the argument may be misinterpreted by those who were watching. Some might see the back-and-forth as a reflection of serious animosity, which is not the case. West and Sharpton have been friends for a very long time and will continue to be friends after this is over. But even family members can disagree, and with both men being strong-willed, neither was willing to limp away from the conversation.
Cornel’s concerns are legitimate and accurate. He pointed out correctly that the Obama administration appears to be living off of the unconditional love that black America has for “the chosen one.” The president’s cabinet has not, to date, shown a willingness to reciprocate the unprecedented support Obama received from the African-American community. A group that provided roughly one-fifth of your votes deserves no less than one-fifth of your attention. That’s a simple, undeniable and logical fact.
West is also correct to assert that the Obama-Sharpton relationship is risky for both parties. Rev. Al must ensure that the relationship leads to meaningful opportunities for all of black America, and not just the National Action Network. As with all politicians, there will be efforts to skew the partnership to maximize benefits to the Obama administration, and only legitimate pressure is going to keep Washington honest. I think Sharpton understands this.
On the other hand, Cornel West is not beyond criticism either. By maintaining such a close relationship with the ultimate Obama-hater (Tavis Smiley), Professor West is at risk of undermining the validity of his arguments against President Obama. Read the full story at TheGrio.com.