TWO VIEWS ON THE OBAMA RACE DEBATE. Princeton Professor Cornell West’s sharp-edged criticisms of President Obama reached a new height this week when he told Chris Hedges at Truthdig that Obama "has a certain fear of free black men," that he “lacks backbone” and has become "a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats.” This week, Columnists Melissa Harris-Perry and Gary Younge take different points of view.
Described by Andrew Sullivan as the “definitive takedown,” Melissa Harris-Perry fires back in “Cornell West vs. Barack Obama,” pointing out that West’s “thin criticisms” are disingenuous and vague. She pointed out in an appearance on MSNBC’s The Ed Show that the president has, in fact, spoken up for America’s underrepresented in his Supreme Court nominations and signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
But, as Columnist Gary Younge points out in "The Paradox of Hope," African-Americans have actually fared worse under Obama: the economic gap between black and white has grown under his presidency. In the ensuing debate in the African-American community and elsewhere about whether Obama should do more, Younge says by concentrating so heavily on race, both sides detract from his responsibilities. Obama should do more for African-Americans: not because they’re black but because they’re suffering most. And they have every right to demand more of him: they gave him a greater percentage of their vote than any other group.
THE DSK AFFAIR. In the wake of the Dominique Strauss-Kahn rape case, Executive Editor Betsy Reed offers an important reminder in "What If DSK’s Accuser Had Been Undocumented": despite the laudable actions of Dominique Strauss Kahn’s accuser–a Guinean immigrant and single mother, the fact that she came forward with rape allegations is anomalous. Citing a study by the Southern Povery Law Center, Reed points out that a majority of women immigrants in the United States experience some form of sexual harassment or coercion on the job, and very few of them come forward. Columnist Katha Pollitt, in “DSK Déjà Vu,” is right to suggest that in a culture deeply hostile to women—reflected in the response from the French political class and others who see the treatment of Strauss-Kahn as “unfair,” feminism’s job is not over.