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Armstrong Williams And Davey D. On The Harvard University African-American Studies Department Controversy

The controversy surrounding Harvard University's African-American Studies Department is one of the most interesting developing stories of the New Year. With a celebrity cast of characters and racial, political, cultural, class and age dynamics;the story may very well live beyond any resolution or "deal" that takes place on the campus of the Ivy League school. The contrasts and tensions involved in the debate can best be understood by a reading of several opinion pieces regarding the matter. Today we feature the views of Black conservative Armstrong Williams and Hip-Hop opinion leader, Davey D regarding the matter and those interest groups that are rallying around the issues and principals.

Here they are, in sequence:

Here We Go Again
By Armstrong Williams

Here we go again. Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton are once again hard at work wagging their fingers.

This time their object de scorn is Harvard University President and former Treasury secretary in the Clinton administration, Lawrence H. Summers. Apparently, Summers had the audacity, I mean the sheer nerve, to request that Harvard Professor and distinguished black American academic, Cornel West, focus on his duties as an instructor, as opposed to releasing music CDs' and leading a presidential exploratory committee for Sharpton.

In other words, Summers requested that West make a priority of his students.

Jackson and Sharpton took immediate offense.

Mr. Summers is infringing upon Mr. West's "academic freedom," snarled Jackson.

Jackson thinks this is a bad thing. Apparently, he believes that academics ought to be beyond reproach and "free" to pursue whatever suits their fancy, regardless of how it effects their ability to teach their students.

Sharpton is toting a similar tune. "I feel aggrieved," Sharpton squawked, "if I can't have who I want to have work for me."

Apparently it does not matter to Sharpton that West already ahs a full time job as a professor. Apparently, Sharpton fancies himself the center of the universe and is therefore understandably "aggrieved" whenever someone else takes a different view.

His response: sit back and snort racism.

Jackson and Sharpton have gone on to criticize Summers for not fully endorsing affirmative action at Harvard University. For obvious reasons, neither Jackson nor Sharpton mentioned that the supreme Court has cited Harvard's admissions process as a ideal model. Nor, for that matter, did they acknowledge that Harvard University has long stressed racial diversity and is widely acknowledged to have the country's most prominent African-American studies department.

Instead, Jackson and Sharpton did what they always do: appeal to the lowest common denominator.

The jig goes something like this: Sharpton and Jackson see some opening where they can exploit our racial sensitivity. Then they move in, threatening to replicate with mobs and bad press if their demands aren't met (often their demands include no small amount of financial gain for themselves). Bottom line: They make their living as racketeers, offering to inflame or quell racial tensions at a cost.

Not surprisingly, Jackson threatened that "Mr. Summers risks losing several key professors…." if their demands aren't met.

Early on in the civil rights movement, this sort of racial racketeering was the only viable recourse black leaders had for pressuring companies into hiring more blacks and pushing important equality issues into the mainstream.

40 years later, these tactics serves little more purpose than to line the coffers of men like Jackson and Sharpton, while preventing the nation form moving beyond those initial first steps of the civil rights movement.

Under the guise of civil rights activists, Sharpton and Jackson are presently pulling apart the premier African-American studies department in the country.

Congratulations gentlemen. Once again, you've left your mark.


By Davey D

In other news, esteemed, award winning author AND Harvard Professor
Cornel West may be soon leaving his post. Apparently he has been
catching heat from the University's new President Lawrence
Summers. Summers decided to publicly attack West for releasing a Hip
Hop CD last summer called 'Sketches of My Culture.' He claimed that
what Cornel did was not befitting for a Harvard professor.

Talk about a shameful situation. If anyone ever peeped out Cornel's
CD, it would be quite obvious that this University president never
listened to it. What's there to disrespect? What's so unbefitting?
'Sketches of My Culture' does not have Cornel trying to rap like he's
the next Jay-Z, E-40 or Rakim. Instead Cornel brings to life the
rhyme style that was popular before rap which was spoken work. Anyone
who has ever heard Cornel speak knows that he has always done spoken
word pieces, long before he released the album.

His beats are jazz flavored and designed for those who want to chill
and listen as opposed to dance. His subject matter is on point and
reflects the things that Cornel always talks to the younger, Hip Hop
generation about; history and respect for elders, being responsible
and productive within the community and the importance of having
self-respect and pride. The tightest song on that album is a cut
called the '3Ms' where Cornel raps about freedom fighters Martin
Luther King, Medgar Evers and Malcolm X. It was a cut that generated
lots of requests when we played on our show all last summer.

How Cornel could come under criticism is pure haterism It's a good
album and it makes Cornel a lot more relatable to a generation of
folks he now teaches who grew up on Hip Hop. Its not like Cornel is
featured on the cover holding a 40-ounce, grabbing his crotch and
smoking a joint. It's not like he released an album that calls women
bitches and hoes. It's not like Cornel is pretending to be a thug or
a gangsta. I don't get it. Perhaps Harvard's new president doesn't
want a guy like Cornel to become relatable to a younger generation.
Perhaps he wants to keep folks in our community divided. 'Sketches of
My Culture' for the most part serves as an important bridge. Before
the release of his album, Cornel West was not that well known by many
who listen to my Hip Hop show. His album brought him name recognition
and opened up a lot of younger cats to seek out his books and
speeches. A lot of folks thought it was cool that he did an album.
They also respected the fact that Cornel didn't play himself and try
and mimic the younger brothers and sisters he wished to reach. He
provided a nice conversation piece and put forth subject matter that
sparks much needed discussion. On the album he has a song about the
pervasive use of the N word. The song provided the perfect backdrop
for a compelling on air discussion several months ago. Everywhere I
go people both young and old ask me where they can get a copy of his
album. Cornel is connecting with his audience and now we have an
'outside force' trying to rebuke him. Shame, Shame, Shame.

Reverend Jesse Jackson who is gearing up to do a one-day Hip Hop
entrepreneurial conference in New York is calling for a meeting with
the Harvard President to discuss this and other matters dealing with
the issue of diversity.

Monday, January 7, 2002

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The views and opinions expressed herein by the author do not necessarily represent the opinions or position of or Black Electorate Communications.

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