In a recent survey by YourBlackWorld.com, it was found that African Americans are divided over the comments of Princeton University professor Cornel West, who has critiqued the Obama Administration in the media over the past several weeks. A mild majority of those who gave a definite answer (44.6%; only 87.2% said “yes” or “no”) claim that West is wrong about Obama, while a slightly lower number (42.6%) said that West is correct in his criticism. The remainder (12.8%) said that they are not sure.
While Black Americans were divided over the validity of the West critique, they supported his right to freedom of speech. Well over half (61.2%) of the respondents said that West should continue to share his point of view. Roughly a third (32.4%) said that he should remain silent. The rest said they were not sure.
Finally, the majority of black respondents felt that African Americans should ask the Obama Administration to do more than it is doing right now. When asked, “Should black people ask the Obama Administration to do more than it is doing right now?” most of the respondents (56.9%) said “yes,” while 30.5% of the respondents said “no.” The remainder were not sure.
The survey results seem to make clear that there are many within the black community who respect Cornel West’s freedom of speech, even if his words are not popular in some circles. Those who feel that he should remain silent might want to reconsider this point of view, since punishing others for speaking out is a direct assault on the Democratic freedoms on which our country was founded. Americans of all races have died in many wars to defend these freedoms, so protecting them is of the utmost importance.
With regard to whether or not West is wrong in his critique, the Obama Administration has yet to directly confront the criticism being levied by West. A recent study showed that the wealth gap in America between blacks and whites has grown dramatically over the last three years, reaching levels that have not been seen in nearly three decades. Additionally, black unemployment has gone up since the start of the recession, while white unemployment has gone down. In light of these numbers, it is difficult to argue that targeted economic policy isn’t necessary in a society where African Americans are structurally isolated from the benefits of massive stimulus programs that hit white America first – whites were the first to recover economically, in part, because they have the closest ties to Wall Street, which received the bulk of the stimulus package issued at the start of the recession.
West also faces the challenging task of advocating for the poor, which is a group that tends to be most neglected in a capitalist society. Obama supporters who are gainfully employed are afforded the luxury of overlooking massive unemployment and wealth gaps in their evaluation of the administration’s performance. But those who’ve lost their jobs and homes are likely hoping that more can be done. So, similar to the socioeconomic stratification which exists within white America, black America too is slowly being divided into the “haves” and the “have nots.” It’s much easier to hold on to hope and change when you’ve got plenty of food on the table.