Featured, Pop Culture, Race & Politics

Somebody Take Away Cornel West’s Pens, Paper, Computer Passwords, Scarves, Glasses, Etc…

I’m not a fan of Ta-Nehisi Coates. I respect the hell out of the man, but a fan? Nah. I understand, however, that many people are and I am okay with this. But me, myself, and I? We are still not a fan. It’s nothing personal. I don’t know the man nor have I ever seen him in person. He never stole my bike or tried to holler at my girl behind my back. For all intents and purposes, he’s probably a stellar human-being who always tips appropriately and do you remember when Common asked if he could borrow a dollar? Maybe he sent him one. Yo no se.

I’m not a fan because I do not enjoy his writing style. At all. Not in the slightest. I find it unnecessarily dense. I also find myself feeling like an ignoramus reading his works at times. And I do not enjoy feeling like an ignoramus. I get annoyed when I know what all of the words mean individually but have trouble comprehending what I’m reading because of the combinations being used. I acknowledge this is my own problem but still. I’m no dummy and my home has many leather-bound books and smells of rich mahogany. It’s a stylistic thing mainly and I’m okay with that; I’m of the think like a wise man but speak in the voice of the people school of communication. So I get turned off easily by those who limit the amount of people who can access and digest the very truisms that we all need to hear in the first place. To quote Erykah Badu…what good do your words do if they can’t understand you?

But like I said, it’s not personal. I feel the same way about any number of Black scholars like Michael Eric Dyson and his best friend forever, Cornel West.  If you’ll remember, Dyson wrote a love letter to West that pretty much said, “Cornel, you fucked up some commas, BACK WHEN YOU WERE RELEVANT.” Seemingly out of the blue.

True to form, Mr. West (the Californian, not the Chicagoan) decided to Beyoncé the Black intelligentsia game recently with his own critical analysis of Mr. Coates and his recently released book, Between The World And Me, a book that I’m sure people will tell me I should read to which I’ll reply, somberly, “I can’t”. I won’t cut and paste parts of the statement West dropped on Facebook of all places, but you can read it here, in all of its succinct glory.

Part of the reason I don’t like Coates is his style. The other is that I’m not a fan of academic writing that seems to be part of a cirlce-jerk of Black writers who write for themselves, other Black academics, and white folks in some language that really only serves academia well. While I also don’t get the entire hype behind Malcolm Gladwell (and I own and have read all of his books waiting for that ‘greatest book ever’ zing to hit me), he writes in a fashion that is accessible and digestible. Coates isn’t an academic, he’s just a guy whose got a nasty pen game that’s made him the subject of sincere adulation and praise. And he deserves it. His essay entitled, The Case for Reparations, which was as impressive as it was long (pause and that’s what she said) deserved every bit of kudos it received. It was well researched, contstructed, and premised. It was long as fuck #doe (it’s entirely possible that I’m still reading it now and Flex dropped bombs all over that thing in June of 2014) and it definitely took me a long time to get through it. But that’s, again, my problem not his.

Panama slow.

West, a man who isn’t slow, seems to also not be a fan. Which is interesting. It seems like all of the Blackademics of note seem to be sniping one another lately. And Cornel, a man whose star has begun to dim a bit since he started going at President Obama many moons ago, is yelping. I’ve not read Coates book (Panama slow remember), and honestly, I have no clue if Cornel has either. In fact, he seems mostly miffed by the fact that Toni Morrison (another abstract ass writing ass mofo…like, have you honestly made it through Beloved?)  called the book required reading. But it’s right there on the cover – I saw the book in person (cue angelic voices) at my local Busboys and Poets yesterday – and it seems like West no likey. For various reasons, but mostly because perhaps there’s a new sheriff in town.

And that’s what all this educated ass sniping seems to come down to, in my very humble opinion. For a long time, these guys, the Dyson’s and the West’s were the kings of the hill, sitting on their Ivory towers espousing all of this philosophical Black talk about the condition and the symptoms of it all. Their voices mattered in a way that was respected and awed. But times they are a changin’. Dyson is still oddly popular though it would take a serious intervention for me to understand why. But West, well, his footing seems long gone. And Coates seems like the next man up. The way his essays are spread via social media is impressive. People hit me up ask me if I read that new piece by TNC. People slide in my gchats to say, “I love TNC!”

He even has a dope acronym for a shorthand nickname. Meanwhile, ain’t nobody really checkin’ for Cornel West anymore. While I thought Dyson’s screed was a bit petty – and I’m all for petty – he wasn’t actually wrong. Which is why West going at Coates seems so extra petty. Dyson and West have positioned themselves as voices of a generation and worthy of note. TNC…my man is just writing his ass off and forcing himself into the conversation by being an individual whose finger is not only on the pulse, but with enough depth to express it in terms that both young and old people can cling to and appreciate. He’s the now, and it’s not because he’s asking for it, it’s because he’s good enough that its hard to deny it. I’ve pointed out that I don’t care for him but I respect the hell out of what he’s done and written.

Are you listening Cornel?

On a funny sidenote, I had the privilege of speaking at Princeton University a few years ago at a conference about Hip-Hop and Cornel West was there. Blowhard that I think he may be (now…I do respect what has done even if my views of him are less than stellar), you can bet your ass that I noticed when he walked in. You want these guys to pay attention to you, and he did. He told me after I’d eviscerated any number of institutions and rappers that I did Morehouse proud. Dr. Imani Perry was also on a panel with me. I was amongst good company. I wasn’t a Cornel West fan then. But you better believe I gave him a copy of our book AND took a picture with him holding it…the book.

All that to say, Cornel needs to chill the fuck out…and I have no shame.

Thanks, Obama.

Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is pretty fly (and gorgeous) for a light guy. He used to ship his frito to Tito in the District, but shipping prices increased so he moved there to save money. He refuses to eat cocaine chicken. When he's not saving humanity with his words or making music with his mouth, you can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking her fine liquors. Most importantly, he believes the children are our future. You can hit him on his hitter at panamadjackson@gmail.com.

  • NoPlaysOff

    Bought Mr. Coates book last week and I am getting to the point where I can ACT LIKE I know what he’s talking about… Like, if I was in the midst of a group of others who have read this book, I can lend a legit nod and a “hmmm” to the conversation and feel 75% good about myself….

    Seriously though, I am in full agreement with you in regards to Mr. West. I really want the Black academics to see themselves from our perspectives: they’re a bunch of old coots who like to hear themselves talk. Cornel West and Michael Eric Dyson came into prominence for me at a very important time while in undergrad. 2 of the first books I had ever bought as a teen were from them. To see them throwing jabs at each other 9 years later like it’s hip hop beef is sad to watch…..

    • panamajackson

      It is sad to watch…and seems to be beneath who I thought they were. That’s the sad part about it all…it aint like we got SO many prominent “scholars”. Why are they acting like bad rappers.

  • Tenicka Boyd

    I stop reading after you said you weren’t a fan. And a piece of my soul died. I never imagined a world where it would be possible that you don’t love him. Deeply. I guess I have to reconcile that :(

    • panamajackson

      We can’t all be winners. I’ve never really been a fan though. Though I think that makes it seem more negative than it is. I respect him greatly. I understand why other people like him. I just don’t enjoy reading his work and that shuts down my fandom.

  • Panama … you get all the points in the world for this, if for no other reason than the correct usage of “For all intents and purposes.”

    • panamajackson

      LOL. It’s the little things in life I see.

    • Ger Wil

      you saying it’s neither “all intents of purposes” nor “all in tents and purses”? (p.s. I will forever be confused on where that question mark goes)

      • AlwaysCC

        i almost choked on the water i was drinking when i read this!! lol (and it’s all INTENSIVE purposes lol)

  • Soula Powa

    For the life of me I don’t understand why West is still so butthurt about Obama’s rise and the last two elections and about TNC’s rise to prominence. If a rapper disses another rapper, you tell them get in the booth. West should get in them research books and publish a book, not throw shots on FB. It’s lame and we have so much bigger fish to fry.

    • panamajackson

      Agreed. He sees that shine going away and instead of proving why he’s the man, he’s just taking aim for no reason.

    • Tristan

      West has nothing new to say….the last 20 years he has been in a bubble of fame and fortune. Only thing left to do is critique.

  • I read TNC sometimes. He can write like h@ll but it’s easy to get bogged down in his stuff if you aren’t that into the subject matter. (see Morrison, Toni)

    I’m 2/3 through Between the World and Me I like it density and all. Seems odd that a long-form letter to his son would draw fire from West but I’m guessing lots of things draw fire from Dr. West. Smart ninjas be petty.

    • panamajackson

      I feel like West wakes up mad.

      • He wakes up mad about some s*** that happened a year ago and the person he’s mad at has no idea about it until he just explodes.

      • TheOtherJerome

        I think he wakes up jealous first, then mad. Before he puts on his bunny slippers he checks the internet to see if someone black somewhere is getting accolades for something.

        If it’s NOT him….then it’s ON!!!

        • panamajackson

          So you’re saying he’ll be on VSB soon coming for me cuz I sent for him…

          • Elowwole

            I see that as a real possibility.

      • miss t-lee

        I feel this way also.

      • LadyIbaka

        Tears!!!!!!!!!

  • TheOtherJerome

    Cornell is just a hater. The definition of it really.

    It’s weird to see people who should know better act like this, but there you have it. He wants to be THE gatekeeper for black intelligentsia. I think if Coates had simply allowed West to write a forward in his book about how he, Cornell West, was an inspiration to the young lad, then all of this could have been avoided

    And of course if Barrack Obama would have simply admitted….. during a national presidential address… the greatness of Cornell West, then they’re issues could have been avoided as well.

    I’ve been done with West for a while now. To think, i used to admire the man. Now he might as well wear a tee-shirt with Mr Krabs chillin in a barrel on it because thats exactly what he is!

    • KMN

      I think you can add Tavis to the Cornell team as well…he’s STILL bitter IMO…I stopped watching his show after he showed out…

      • TheOtherJerome

        Please don’t mention Tavis. I purposefully omitted him in hopes that he will continue his fade-out. If you mention him too much he pops up

        • KMN

          LMAO…like Candyman…

        • The only reason Tavis came back onto my radar was due to Killer Mike being on his show a couple of weeks ago.

            • The h*ll???

              • KMN

                You didn’t see him show his tail on Dancing with the Stars? lmao…as you can see from the gif…comedy at its best

                • I’ve never once watched Dancing With the anything. #iMWINNING

                  • KMN

                    Yes and I hate you for it lmao….I have a mother and seven year old who STANS for that mess…and always wanna drag me into it. And as much as I fight I end up getting sucked in :( lol

                    • I would start watching wrestling again before I would watch this.

                    • KMN

                      It’s more realistic, entertaining, and rhythmic lolo

            • KMN

              If this wasn’t the WORST mess in the world… lmao

              • I seriously don’t know how you live this down…If I owned a major network, and he asked for a job, at best, I’d offer him a radio job instead.

                • KMN

                  I don’t even know what to say about his performance outside of embarrassing lol…and had the nerve to be mad when he got sent home…homie you knew you didn’t have any rhythm! You gave that up when you dissed Pres O chump lol

    • panamajackson

      I think you’re right about a forward by West would have been fine, cuz that way his grandness would be acknowledged.

  • Baemie St. Patrick

    #PanamaForRegularPeoplePresident.

    I WANT to get into Ta-Nehisi Coates and his and writing, but can’t. Too superfluous at times. My brain fries and I go back to debating a VSMusic post.

    • panamajackson

      I’ll be the regular people president. all day ninja.

  • KMN

    Tonight I’m going to read the TNC article you posted PJ…I’ve heard of and about TNC…but never (purposely) read anything of his…tonight will be a great beginning..
    …and can you give my comment it’s freedom please..tyvm lmao

    • panamajackson

      It’s actually a very good article. It’s just the longest one in the history of forever that isn’t a book.

      • KMN

        Yeah…I’m ole skool…I love paper…I had to print it out…63 pages…pretty damn long for an ‘article’…it’ll be interesting.

        • cakes_and_pies

          I said the same thing. Ain’t nobody scrolling through 50+ pages of text online.

          • KMN

            LMAO YES EXACTLY…I got bad, old eyes…I’m lucky I can see my hand in front of my face sometimes much less all that damn font running together lo

  • cakes_and_pies

    I can read TNC on paper, never directly online. Like I have to print out his stuff or I can’t retain his cohesiveness.
    Dr. West has David Ruffin syndrome. Talented egomaniac with security issues.
    Anyone who he perceives as a threat instead of an ally get’s the “Ain’t Nobody coming to see you, Otis.” treatment.

    • He (Coates) seemed to be easier to digest when he posted on the Atlantic more often.

      • cakes_and_pies

        When I use to get the physical copies of the Atlantic, he was easier to read. Ever since his Reparations article, I felt like I have to sit in a quiet corner with a highlighter and blue pen.

        • I’m still working through the Reparations article.

          • Barbie

            I purchased this edition of The Atlantic, carried it around with me for like two months and still never read it. Coates can be a little too wordy for me.

    • miss t-lee

      Maybe that’s the reason I haven’t been able to get through his piece on reparations.
      I gotta print it out if I’m ever going to read that tome.

      • Tonya Love

        I need to read him online, so I can look up historical references. Because he not only rights about ‘now’ but he brings up past ish too!

        • miss t-lee

          Yeah, yeah.I don’t like reading super long ish online. I’ll still look up the references online if need be, but otherwise. I cannot.

        • southern dreaming

          I started reading TNC just before he moved to The Atlantic. I hated every history class I ever took yet TNC hooked me onto the Civil War like no other. Someone cataloged those post here – http://absurdbeats.net/tncs-civil-war/

  • panamajackson

    You go on ahead and re-read it. That’s all you playa.

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