Boxer Bernard Hopkins, a Philadelphia native and longtime Eagles fan, is continuing his bizarre campaign of slamming former Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb every chance he gets. And this time Hopkins added an element of race to his usual criticisms.
What makes one 'authentically Black?'
According to Philly.com, Hopkins described McNabb as not black enough.
“Forget this,” Hopkins said, pointing to his own dark skin. “He’s got a suntan. That’s all.”
Cornel West, a Princeton University professor and leading black intellectual, is harshly criticizing President Obama, a candidate he once supported but now calls “a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats.”
West, a former Harvard University professor, said during an interview with the website Truthdig posted yesterday that the president has not been true to his race.
“I think my dear brother Barack Obama has a certain fear of free black men,” West said. “It’s understandable. As a young brother who grows up in a white context, brilliant African father, he’s always had to fear being a white man with black skin. All he has known culturally is white…When he meets an independent black brother, it is frightening.”
The White House did not have an immediate comment. West did not respond to messages left at his office.
Republicans have questioned Obama’s origins — to the point where he felt compelled to release his long-form birth certificate to prove he was born in Hawaii — but West also uses Obama’s past to draw into question the president’s racial bearings.
“Obama, coming out of Kansas influence, white, loving grandparents, coming out of Hawaii and Indonesia, when he meets these independent black folk who have a history of slavery, Jim Crow, Jane Crow and so on, he is very apprehensive,” West said. “He has a certain rootlessness, a deracination. It is understandable.”
If you haven't been following cable news, Facebook posts or Twitter feeds over the past few days, then you likely missed the uproar over Princeton University Professor and renowned scholar-activist Dr. Cornel West's interview with Chris Hedges of Truthdig.
In the interview West escalates what has been an ongoing criticism of President Obama from both he and Tavis Smiley. West not only criticizes Obama for lacking progressive backbone, he levies several personal attacks that have produced a much deserved backlash.
West assailed Obama as being the "black mascot" of Wall Street and as disconnected from the urgent needs of black Americans and the poor. He claimed that Obama fears "free black men" (presumably including West) because of Obama's insecurities over being raised in a white household. In doing so West deployed the rhetoric of black authenticity -- the longstanding intra-racial tension over what actions/ideas/associations mark one's commitment to black people and black struggle.
Several years ago I published a book chapter entitled "Leader Authenticity Markers: Findings From a Study of Perceptions of African American Political Leaders" in Authentic Leadership Theory and Practice: Origins, Effects and Development. In the chapter I explored how racial authenticity markers continue to resonate with blacks born in the immediate post-segregation era (black Gen-X'ers), although in very nuanced ways.
On Twitter and Facebook, black Gen-X'ers excoriated West (and his defenders) in ways that would have seemed unimaginable just a few years ago. For those of us who respect and appreciate West's scholar-activist contributions, the past few days have been both revealing and woefully disappointing.
It's hard to feel sympathy for West. Having spent his career in elite, predominately white institutions, I'm certain at times he has had to defend his own connection to black communities. That he could so carelessly invoke tropes of racial authenticity and essentialist notions of culture to deride Obama reflect how embedded racial authenticity politics are in the black public sphere.
Alleging that someone is not "black enough" has long been regarded as a grave insult. Racial authenticity attacks continue to operate in black political discourse, though, and it's understandable given the political realities of black freedom struggles.
There have always been diverse strands of ideology within the black community -- monolithic identity is a myth. But in times where solidarity was essential for fighting racial discrimination, "closing ranks" was necessary for the potency of black political aims. Branding someone inauthentic not only diminished their stature within the community, but also signaled to those outside that the community's leaders could enforce conformance with a unified front.