We all know that for years Cornel West has been accusing a select group of black public figures—Michael Eric Dyson, Al Sharpton and Melissa Harris Perry—of selling their souls for access to President Obama, a “Rockefeller Republican in blackface.”
So it’s no surprise that thousands of people have spent thousands of minutes reading “The Ghost of Cornel West,” Dyson’s 10,000-word evisceration of West, which The New Republic published on April 19.
In an unscientific survey of black blogs, Twitter and Facebook feeds, I’ve observed four major critiques of Dyson and approximately one dissent. The critiques:
1. “The Ghost of Cornel West” got too personal. “I felt like [I] was prying [into] someone’s business,” posted one Facebooker.
2. The essay is an inapprorpriate distraction from police violence. From The Root’s Kirstin West Savali:
African Americans are being gunned down in record numbers by police officers and vigilantes in cities across the country, and we are living in a cultural, political and revolutionary moment of intensified black rage. This being the case, it hardly seems the time or place for rehashed Ivy League drama between two well-respected and accomplished African-American professors. At a time when we’re focused on unpunished police violence against unarmed black civilians such as Rekia Boyd, Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
3. Dyson really didn’t need to make this embarassing Anita Baker reference:
West had a huge crush on the R&B singer Anita Baker, and I got us tickets to see her perform in New Jersey. After a brief backstage introduction to the singer I had finagled, West relived his high school track glory and sprinted up the street in glee.
4. Black public figures shouldn’t air their dirty laundry in a magazine with a reputation for racism. Humorist Luvvie Ajayi sums this up:
The New Republic is not known for being a publication with a large Black readership. There’s a lot of white gaze here and I wonder why MED thought it was the right place to hash out this beef with his former mentor. I kinda feel like DAMB. This is family business. Do it at the reunion, not while you’re at the country club.
Now, here’s the backlash to the backlash:
Half people critiquing Dyson for being too “personal” have no problem with West regularly accusing whole swaths of blacks of being Toms.
— Ta-Nehisi Coates (@tanehisicoates) April 20, 2015
Today Dyson explained why he wrote the piece. In a HuffPost Live interview with Marc Lamont Hill, a former student of his, he said:
Well look, I’ve been holding my powder for years. As you know, Cornel West has been wilding out on a lot of people for a long time. And look, there’s legitimate criticism, there’s aggressive and vigorous criticism and then there’s hate speech dressed up as prophetic insult. And you know, calling people names is just not a good look. And I was like, ‘Gosh, you gotta stop it.’ Like, ‘Please, please keep my name out your mouth. Don’t do that.
Check out the whole HuffPost interview here.
Oh, and here’s one more piece conventional wisdom I’ve seen on Facebook: We need new leaders.