I haven’t commented on the Cornel West circus much, leaving it to Instantman and others. But they had a piece on NPR this morning about it. Of course, the tone of the piece took it pretty much as a given that this was a major blow to Harvard. There was no questioning of the value of his work or performance. The closest they came was to find one guy who basically said that West made a fool of himself by feigning victimhood and making accusations of covert racism on Summers’ part, when the criticisms were legitimate, and had nothing to do with race.
They interviewed several Harvard students, some of whom were proclaiming doom. The closest they could come to the other side was one student who said it was a loss, but that Harvard would survive.
They didn’t bother to look for anyone, apparently (at least I assume that’s the reason, because I can’t believe that they don’t exist), who would say (as I would have), “Our gain is Princeton’s loss. Hope the doorknob doesn’t make a dent in his butt on the way out.”
[9:43 AM PDT Update]
John McWhorter has a piece in today’s Journal on the subject (link for paid subscribers only):
…he has implied that a CD and support for Mr. Sharpton are legitimate substitutes for academic work–a “visionary” paradigm of inquiry. Here is a coded wink to black people that Mr. Summers’ failure to understand this is racism.
I see a different subtext here: that serious academic work is optional for black intellectuals, and that to require it of a black scholar beyond a certain point is a racist insult. But can Prof. West not see that this only reinforces the stereotype of black mental dimness that feeds the very racism he is so quick to sniff out? Visionary or not, rap is not scholarship. Nor is putting one’s arm around a hustler like the Rev. Sharpton “speaking truth to power.”