Black Intellectuals Go at It Again

Cornel West is calling Melissa Harris-Perry a "fraud." Someone explain how this is productive.

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Melissa Harris-Perry and Cornel West (News One)

In a recent article in Diverse Issues in Higher Education, Princeton professor Cornel West attacked Tulane University professor Melissa Harris-Perry in some of his most critical comments yet, calling her "fake" and a "fraud."

His claim: She's allowed herself to be used by the liberal establishment to shoot down his critiques of the nation's approach to addressing racial inequality and poverty. This, of course, is just the latest. Remember when tempers flared on Twitter last year as members of the black intelligentsia got in on the melee surrounding West's controversial comments about President Barack Obama having a "fear of free black men"?

News One's Dr. Boyce Watkins couldn't resist jumping in, writing in a "Yeah, what he said!" piece for News One: "When I heard what Cornel said about Melissa, my neck snapped like Nene Leakes bumping into a bill collector at a night club. I was both impressed and shocked that West had been so strong in his position on Harris-Perry, and I was glad to see that even millionaires aren't afraid to tell the truth." 

Now Al Sharpton is in the mix, defending his MSNBC colleague from the "arrogant" and "disingenuous" attacks.

Um, speaking of Nene Leakes, though: Where do we send a request to leave embarrassing and unproductive black-on-black name-calling on Real Housewives? It's something to celebrate that there are so many passionate and intelligent African-American voices who want the best for black people and for social justice more generally.

There should be no expectation that they agree all or even most of the time on matters of policy, or on tactics for achieving what we imagine are largely shared goals. And disagreement among them could actually be harnessed to advance the conversation in a way that benefits everyone listening. But is it too much to ask that they stick to the substance, and handle those disputes without character attacks and name-calling? We get enough of that from elsewhere. Thanks.

Read more at News One.

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