The Ghost of Cornel West
President Obama betrayed him.
He’s stopped publishing new work.
He’s alienated his closest friends
and allies. What happened to
America’s most exciting
Illustration by Hello Von
April 19, 2015
Obama welcomed West’s support because he is a juggernaut of the academy and an intellectual icon among the black masses.
West is still a Man of Ideas, but those ideas today are a vain and unimaginative repackaging of his earlier hits.
As a central prophet, Martin Luther King had been deeply involved with the Johnson administration’s efforts to pass civil rights legislation. Beginning already in the Eisenhower administration and increasing steadily throughout the turbulent Kennedy years, he had been regularly consulted on matters of interest to the Negro in America. After the March on Washington, Kennedy had scrambled to align himself with King’s beautifully articulated ideals. In some of Lyndon Johnson’s early civil rights speeches, King was gratified to hear echoes of his own ideas. No black leader had ever enjoyed comparable access to the Oval Office and the power it represented.
The brother was absolutely brilliant and I was having a ball. When I looked at my watch, though, I saw it was far into the middle of the night. We had been at it for hours. I realized I had an early morning flight back to New Jersey to teach at Princeton and needed just a little nod of sleep. But he was as fresh as ever. I remember thinking to myself—Does this brother have a job?—when I realized—He’s the president of the United States! I did leave, but only after another hour of conversation.
In his anger toward me I was forced, for the first time, to entertain seriously the wild accusations levied against him.
Because I’ve never been an advocate of psychotherapy as a path to self- understanding. . . . I’ve avoided such therapy because I worry about how it might exacerbate narcissistic tendencies. . . . I’m not sure I know myself well enough to share my whole self with others. This, in part, might explain my volatile relationships with women. One might argue that because I don’t know myself, the more time I spend with a woman, the more various parts of myself emerge—parts that are, in fact, foreign to me. In short, my whole self surfaces, and it is precisely my whole self that strikes me as a stranger. To maintain a long-term and long-lasting bond with a woman may require the kind of soul-sharing or self-sharing that’s beyond my capability.