Cornel West and Black Interests

Cornel West and Black Interests – There he goes again. The peripatetic Princetonian, last seen leaving Harvard in a huff, appeared in New York Sunday by the side of candidate Andrew Cuomo to announce that Carl McCall was, according to the account in the New York Times, “‘timid and hesitant’ on issues important to blacks.”

“I think Carl McCall is a decent man, he is a good man,” Dr. West said, as Mr. Cuomo looked on. “But he is a timid and hesitant man. We need an aggressive progressive.”

When asked on what issues McCall was timid and hesitant, West

alluded to Mr. Cuomo’s complaints that Mr. McCall was not aggressive in investing state pension money in concerns that would further social causes, like affordable housing. And he suggested Mr. McCall was late in joining the outcry over police brutality cases several years ago.

Mastery of the intricacies of managing large pension funds must be one of the best-hidden, least used arrows in the overly crowded quiver of Prof. West’s expertise. But never mind. What is really interesting here is the tension between West’s assumption that there are identifiable black interests but that, at least on occasion, a white politician can represent them better than a black.

Hmm. If this is true, what happens to the argument that blacks must be herded into “majority-minority” districts in order to be truly (authentically?) represented? If white politicians can, sometimes, represent “black interests” better than their black opponents, then surely white voters are not automatically hostile to them.

In addition, the idea of “black interests” itself is also called into question by what black leaders like West must view as the embarrassing tendency of blacks to disagree among themselves from time to time (as in recent Democratic primaries in Newark, Georgia, and Alabama) over what their interests are.

But wait a minute. If whites can have the same interests as blacks, and if blacks can differ over what those interests are, then how is “diversity” automatically enhanced by artificially increasing the number of blacks admitted to college or professionals schools (admitting more than would have been admitted using racially neutral criteria)? If diversity is really the goal, why not instead admit more, say, Muslims, born-again Christians, South Africans, Transylvanians, or whatever?

Perhaps if Prof. West went on a national speaking tour the rationale for racial preferences would crumble even faster.

Update – As quoted above, the New York Times quotes West as saying “I think Carl McCall is a decent man, he is a good man. But he is a timid and hesitant man.” Writing in the Washington Post, however, columnist E.J. Dionne’s version is: “Carl is a decent man, but he is a hesitant brother. He’s a timid brother.” Jay Nordlinger, writing in NRO, also has the brother language.

Could the Times possibly be trying to make West appear less ethnic and more mainstream?

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