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Race matters

Remember last year when newly-installed Harvard President Lawrence Summers told Cornel West that it was great that West was producing rap albums and working on presidential campaigns, but could he please fill Summers in on the academic projects he was working on? The reaction from West and his partisans was, essentially, "How dare this guy ask The Great Cornel to be a professor? Who does he think he is? He's dissing Cornel. Racist!" (West then packed up in a huff and left Harvard.)

Well, to paraphrase Ronald Reagan, there they go again. West recently published a book called Democracy Matters; the New York Times Book Review printed this review last month. It was critical, to be sure, but no more so than dozens of other book reviews they print every month. In response to that review, former West co-author (but unidentified as such) Sylvia Ann Hewlitt wrote this letter to the editor (scroll down):

I am writing to express my dismay at the inaccurate and disrespectful review of Cornel West's new book, "Democracy Matters" (Sept. 12).


Even more offensive than these misplaced charges of sloppiness are the atmospherics of this review. Throughout, Crain's language is distressingly snide and disrespectful. Crain variously describes West as "wince-making" and "deeply confused." He starts off with the thought that West is "whining," and concludes with the sentiment that "journalists, however sentimental, have been doing a better job."

Crain should have had the courtesy to pay tribute to the stature and distinction of the scholar he was dealing with even if he then chose to take issue with the argument presented in this book. And the editors should have caught and dealt with the appalling tone of this review, a tone that is particularly egregious given the racial overtones. I see this as a major breach of stewardship.

Get that? West is owed tribute, because he's The Great Cornel. It's not only "disrespectful," but racist not to genuflect to him, regardless of the quality of his work. How dare they criticize him?

I think I sense a pattern.


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Comments (2)


Un-freaking-believable! The NYT doesn't accord that kind of respect to the Pope! And it' not "respect" in the first place; it's sycophancy.


John Rosenberg pointed out an earlier accusation of racism against a NYT reviewer. I discuss the hypocrisy of the accuser here.


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