Paul R. Lehman, West’s remarks reflect negatively on him, not Obama

May 22, 2011 at 3:06 pm | Posted in American Bigotry, Ethnicity in America, Media and Race, Race in America | 2 Comments
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Recently a Princeton University professor, Cornel West, made
some disparaging remarks about President Obama referring to him as a black
puppet and a black mascot relative to his dealings with Wall Street and other
entities. West’s remarks are surprising in that they display more of him than
of his characterization of the President. One generally expects the remarks of
a noted professor to be informing, instructive, enlightening or even
entertaining; that, however, was not the case this time.

West first characterized President Obama as a black puppet.
All Americans have the right and privilege to speak freely even about the
President. West, however, West showed a lack of respect for the office of the
President by suggesting that he is an inanimate doll with strings attached to
his limbs and head. The strings are controlled by others who manipulate the
doll to resemble and suggest human movement. Certainly one can disagree with
the decisions the President makes, but to suggest that he is constantly being
manipulated by others is an insult based on ignorance. The insult is not
directed at Obama, but at West for making such an asinine remark. If West
believes that the President is being influenced by other and that influence
negatively affects his decision making, then he should say so. Calling the
President a puppet strikes at his character, not at his actions. If West came
to the conclusion of Obama being a puppet based on his observations of Obama,
then the problem is not with Obama, but with West’s expectations of the
President. In other words, because Obama is not doing what West expects or
expected him to do then he must be a puppet, controlled by others.

West next characterized Obama as a black mascot. A mascot is
defined as an animal, person, or thing adopted by a group as its representative
symbol and it is supposed to bring good luck. Although most mascots are viewed
favorably and with pride by the group they represent, West seems to suggest
something nefarious with the use of this term and its association with Obama.
Again, the remarks attack the person and not his decisions. Obama is operating in
new and challenging territories as President. He has and will make decisions
that will not be well received by everyone. Making decisions that causes
disagreements is part of the job of being President. West seems to be not in
touch with reality when he criticizes Obama for being a mascot rather than for
making decisions with which West does not agree. Maybe if we all knew Obama’s
thoughts prior to his making a decision we would be in a better position to
assess it. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

What really cast a shadow on West and his remarks about
Obama is the reference to black—black puppet and black mascot. One has to
wonder about West’s use of the term black in the context in which it appears.
Is the reference to a black puppet a reference to a color or a cultural
identity? If it is for a color than what is the significance of the color—bad,
Evil? If the reference is to a cultural identity, then it is meaningless—black
is neither a cultural identity nor an ethnic identity, African American is. So,
what is the significance of the color preceding the noun? The only sense it
makes is to seemingly associate it with slavery and bigotry where the African
slave was often forced to do his master’s bidding. West seems to be stuck in
the past with his reference to black puppet or he is deliberately trying to
demean Obama by attacking his character. What comes to mind, however, is the
character of West and his motives for making the remarks.

The reference to a black mascot occasions similar remarks as
does the reference to the black puppet. The complexity of the President’s
responsibilities are not restricted to or evaluated by what is observable to
the average citizen or even a well- informed citizen. So, for someone to assert
that the Presidents is not doing something or doing too much of something is
pure conjecture because it is based on opinion. West, apparently thinks that
Obama should think like he thinks and act as he expects is foolhardy. West’s reference
to Obama as a black mascot seems to suggest that as in the days of slavery,
African Americans were considered lacking in intelligence and incapable of
making rational decisions. If that is the suggestion West is making then he has
no grasp of reality and Obama’s record these past two years. Black is color,
not an ideology or way of life. Obama knows that but, apparently, West does

Obama is not a black president serving black people.
Although he received the majority of the African American vote in his bid of
the Presidency, he was not elected by black people. As President, Obama has to
represent all Americans. West seems to think that Obama must address the
concerns of African Americans specifically because of the biased treatment they
encountered in the past and continue to experience today. West does not seem to
understand that Obama as President cannot single out a group or groups of
people for special privileges and treatment. If he was to do that he would be
accused of being biased, and rightly so. Just because he cannot address the
problems of the poor and ethnic minorities individually does not mean that he
is ignoring them. He simple must be allowed to do his work how and when he sees

West is said to be a social activist as well as a professor.
His concerns for the poor and unfortunate Americans are important to him.
Whatever his efforts are in giving aid to these people, he cannot help their
cause or his by making the kinds of remarks about President Obama referenced
earlier. West needs to understand that Obama is an African American who happens
to be President of all the United States. Being African American is not
synonymous with being what West calls black. To identify with the term black is
to restrict one history to the American slavery experience and a total lack of
self worth and value except from a black perspective.. Only those African
Americans who want to hold on to the past and the bigotry it fostered accept
the term black as an acceptable identity. Those who have moved on consider
themselves African Americans. Professor West might want to consider joining
this latter group.



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  1. Well put. I think the comments were designed to get the professor some attention and you are right…speaks more to him than the President.

    • Sounds exactly right to me. Funny how people will use others to bring attantion to themselves. Low self esteem, perhaps?

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