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Cornel West and Friends By: Mike Adams
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, June 07, 2004

The following correspondence is excerpted from a chapter in Welcome to the Ivory Tower of Babel by Mike S. Adams.

Dear Professor West:

I have been trying to get in touch with you for several days but haven’t had much luck. First, an e-mail I sent you bounced back with an automated response indicating that you do not read, write, or answer e-mail. I also called your secretary who informed me that you have been out of your office lately. Therefore, I thought I would write with a few quick questions inspired by a conversation I recently had with an untenured colleague. He takes offense that our university has invited you to speak on our campus because he thinks that you are an anti-Semite. I just want to get some information from you before I decide whether I agree.

The first time I heard you speak, you were sitting on a panel on a cable television broadcast. Although it was many years ago, I believe you were discussing various racial issues such as affirmative action. I also remember that you were seated next to Khalid Abdul Muhammad of the Nation of Islam. On the phone, your secretary confirmed that you and Khalid were friends and that you had made various public appearances together.


When I saw you on television with Muhammad, I immediately remembered a speech he had delivered in 1993 at Keane College, during which he said the following:


If the white man don’t get out of town by sundown, we kill everything white in South Africa. We kill the women, we kill the children, we kill the babies. We kill the faggot, we kill the lesbian, we kill them all.


Muhammad also said the following about Jews:


The so-called Jew is a European strain of people who crawled around on all fours in the caves and hills of Europe, eating juniper roots and eating each other. You (Jews) slept with your dead for 2000 years, smelling the stench coming up from the decomposing body. You slept in your urination and your defecation . . . The so-called Jews are bloodsuckers of the black nation . . . That’s why you call yourself Rubenstein, Goldstein and Silverstein, because you’ve been stealing rubies and gold and silver all over the earth


… Everybody talks about Hitler exterminating six million Jews. That’s right. But don’t nobody talk about what they do to Hitler.


It struck me as odd that you would appear on national television seated next to such a virulent racist. At the time you were a Harvard Professor, a widely read author, and had spoken more than once at my university. Even back then, I wondered why we would pay for a speaker who made public appearances with genocidal racists like Muhammad. Not long after that, I decided to go to the library to search for some of your publications.


When I got to the library I noticed that you had collaborated on a publication with a noted feminist professor named Bell Hooks. I immediately remembered reading an essay by Hooks in which she described an unfortunate incident on an airplane. She was sitting in first-class with a friend (whom she referred to only as “K”) when a white man approached with a boarding pass assigned to the seat in which “K” was sitting. An attendant then informed “K” that her upgrade to first-class had not been completed and that it was too late to fix it. She then moved to coach. The white man sat down in the seat actually assigned to him and then apologized. Hooks rejected his apology and accused him of both racism and sexism. She then proceeded to pen the following: “I am writing this essay sitting beside an anonymous white male that I long to murder.” It seems like a lot of your friends want to kill people because of the color of their skin. Doesn’t that bother you?


Later, I came across a library entry for a book you had written, called Race Matters. I checked out the book and started reading the following sentence that appears on page three: “What happened in Los Angeles in April of 1992 was neither a race riot nor a class rebellion.” I immediately began to think about all of the whites that were dragged out of their cars and beaten solely on the basis of race. Reginald Denny, the truck driver who was kicked, beaten, and nearly killed by a cinder block that was repeatedly dropped on his head was the first to come to mind.


I then read the next sentence that said, “Rather, this monumental upheaval was a multi-racial, trans-class, and largely male display of justified social rage.” That was all I needed to hear. In my opinion, no one who refers to racially motivated violence as “justified” is worth reading. I would greatly appreciate if you would write back to tell me where I am wrong.


A few years later, I caught an interview you did on the O’Reilly Factor shortly after the controversial 2000 Presidential election. The show’s host, Bill O’Reilly, responded to a comment you made about black voter disenfranchisement by asking you whether voting machines in Florida could tell the difference between white and non-white voters. In other words, were the machines capable of somehow spotting black voters and then rejecting only their votes? I noticed that you never answered the question. You just urged viewers to consider the “fact” that those machines were built and put in place in a state with a long history of white supremacy and lynching.


Later, O’Reilly asked you about your alliance with Reverend Al Sharpton who is perhaps best known for his support of Tawana Brawley. As you already know, Brawley made national headlines when she claimed that she had been raped by three white men who then smeared her with excrement and wrote “KKK” and “n**ger” all over her body. After a New York grand jury concluded that she fabricated the story, Sharpton continued to echo her discredited claims. Although Sharpton himself was later sued for his comments and continues to pay damages, I noticed that you continue to be one of the biggest supporters of his bid for the Presidency. In the interview, you also refused to admit that Brawley was lying. I believe you said that the grand jury’s decision was one view of what happened, but not the only view.


After seeing your interview on the Factor, I decided to pick up another of your books in order to better understand your perspective on racial matters. As I sat in my office reading your book entitled Keeping Faith, I had a hard time understanding what you were saying. For example, I found the following passage hard to comprehend:


Following the model of the black diasporan traditions of music, athletics, and rhetoric, black cultural workers must constitute and sustain discursive and institutional networks that deconstruct earlier modern black strategies for identity-formation, demystify power relations that incorporate class, patriarchal, and homophobic biases, and construct more multivalent and multidimensional responses that articulate the complexity and diversity of black practices in the modern and postmodern world.


Reacquainting myself with your writings raised some of my old questions about you. For example, why do you make public appearances and co-author articles with racists and anti-Semites? Why can’t you just say that a voting machine can’t think, let alone conspire against blacks? And why can’t you just admit that Tawana Brawley was lying?


After returning Keeping Faith to the library, I thought of some new questions. Perhaps most importantly, I wondered why (in the midst of a state budget crisis and tuition hikes) my university paid you $12,000 to speak recently? I have many other questions but I know you are busy. Perhaps you can write when you get back to the office. I would love to hear your “deconstruction” of my narrative.


I look forward to hearing from you, professor.


This is excerpted from chapter in Welcome to the Ivory Tower of Babel by Mike S. Adams.

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