Breaking Brown

May 26, 2011

marc lamont hill up at bat, swings… bunts.

Marc Lamont HillIn the future, we must stop confusing symbolic black leadership with

real leadership. Just because black people are in office doesn’t

necessarily mean that we’ve made racial progress. After all, our

ancestors didn’t march for us to get mistreated by black teachers,

beaten by black cops or sold out by black politicians. – Marc Lamont Hill

At first read, it would appear that Hill took President Obama to task in his most recent piece Black Pols vs. Pols Who Are Black. The quote above seems to elude to the comments initially made by Cornel West, that Obama doesn’t carry with him, nor is he in any way guided by, the African American collective memory or experience. That is, of course, what West was getting at when he said, “I was thinking maybe he has at least some progressive populist instincts that could become more manifest after the cautious policies of being a senator and working with [Sen. Joe] Lieberman as his mentor..”

But instead of Hill allowing his argument to unfold and reach its own logical conclusion, which would’ve meant extending his abstract critique of black politicians in general to Obama in particular, Hill left us with a tepid cautionary tale. Hill ends his article with an admonishment of the African American community for not assessing African American politicians based upon their agenda.  Hill ends his absurdly obvious commentary by stating, “instead of questioning how “black” our politicians are, we should be asking how black (or Jewish or gay or working-class) their agendas are.”

Well Mr. Hill, isn’t that what Cornel West was doing when he criticized Obama? When he took on Obama for not helping the poor and being a “mascot for Wall Street”, wasn’t he assessing Obama based on his agenda? The question now, Mr. Hill, is what are you doing?

Hill wasted a great deal of space drawing safe conclusions and assessments. Instead of honestly discussing the criticisms of the one man who is obviously meeting Hill’s criteria (since he’s not making assessments based on race or symbolism) – Cornel West –  Hill backpedals to an intellectual point which preceded West’s conclusions.

Obviously, West had already reached the conclusion that it was important to hold Obama accountable for his actions and not march lockstep behind him because he’s “one of us”. West had already made the consideration that Hill’s discussing in this piece. So what, really, is Hill’s point? Why’d he edge so close to an honest critique of Obama and his supporters, but then end his article without making any meaningful assessments at all?

Simple. It is imperative that Hill and other African American pundits who are deemed mainstream enough for prime time colorize all issues. In this case, Hill reframed a conversation about Obama into a conversation about black people simply because it doesn’t pay, not in any meaningful way, to offer deeper insight. So instead of truly digging deep and providing some significant and useful intellectual clarity, Hill focused on the general qualms, angst, aggravations, plight, or in this case, shortcomings of black folk.

This is the reason behind Hill’s intellectually dishonest article. He didn’t address West’s argument, only touched upon a conclusion that West had obviously reached before he did his interview with Chris Hedges and Roland Martin. Hill’s piece was an intellectually lazy and disingenuous critique, not worth much. Just white noise.. or should I say – black chatter.

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