He has questioned the president’s racial authenticity (claiming he fears “free black men”) and called him a “Republican in blackface,” but even West’s supporters may find his latest criticism beyond pale.
During an interview on Democracy Now!, West ridiculed Obama’s recent remarks on racial profiling and the George Zimmerman trial:
“We know anybody who tries to rationalize the killing of innocent people is a criminal. George Zimmerman is a criminal. But, President Obama is a global George Zimmerman because he tries to rationalize the killing of innocent children, 221 so far, in the name of self-defense… Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen. So when he comes to talk about the killing of an innocent person, you say, well wait a minute, what kind of moral authority are you bringing?”
West did concede that Obama’s comment that “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago,” was “beautiful” but he was skeptical about the action the president’s words would inspire.
“The question is will that identification hide and conceal the fact there’s a criminal justice system in place that has nearly destroyed two generations of very precious, poor black and brown brothers, he hasn’t said a mumbling word until now. Five years in office and can’t say a word about a new Jim Crow,” said West.
“And at the same time I think we have to recognize that he has been able to hide and conceal that criminalizing of the black poor as what I call the re-ni**erizing of the black professional class. You got these black leaders on the Obama plantation, won’t say a criminal word about the master in the big house. Will only try to tame the field folk so that they’re not critical of the master in the big house,” he added.
Despite having endorsed his candidacy in 2008, West has been skewering the president (alongside Tavis Smiley) for the his entire time in office. MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry has alleged that personal slights have been the motivation for West’s attacks, instead of genuine disagreement over policy.
“In a self-aggrandizing, victimology sermon deceptively wrapped in the discourse of prophetic witness, Professor West offers thin criticism of President Obama and stunning insight into the delicate ego of the self-appointed black leadership class that has been largely supplanted in recent years,” she wrote for The Nation in 2011.
West’s latest Obama critique comes on the heels of Tavis Smiley’s widely rebuked statements following Obama’s impromptu address to the press.
The PBS host and frequent collaborator with West called Obama’s words “weak as pre-sweetened Kool-Aid.”