One of the most powerful voices in America today is Dr Cornel West. West was ridiculed six years ago for being one of the few voices to publicly challenge the Obama Administration. But now, he is being redeemed with economic indicators that show that blacks have struggled under the first black president worse than they did under Bush or Clinton.
West is on tour to promote his book, “Black Prophetic Fire.” During a recent interview, he spoke with Huffpost Live about the project and the state of black journalism today. West says that there was a time when blacks could only rely on the independent African American press to tell its important stories. He says that today, these voices have been replaced by corporate machines that seek to squash dissent within the black community in favor of an artificial message.
West claims that, rather than seeking hard-hitting stories and doing critical analysis, many black journalists today are happy to have access to the White House and trading in that access for the truth.
“We have too many black journalists today who just want access,” he said. “[To] be at the White House or be at publicity and it’s understandable. It’s a human thing but it has to be called into question.”
West compared the black journalists at networks like MSNBC to Carl Rowan, a journalist who once heavily criticized Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. He even coined the term “Carl Rowanism” to reflect the state of black media today and why it is largely ineffective at telling important stories in the black community.
West also warns that today’s journalists who simply go along with the status quo will end up like Rowan: Forgotten and uninteresting footnotes in black American history.
“MSNBC and company — this is the Carl Rowanization of black journalists,” he said. “He had his own TV show trashing Malcolm [X] and trivializing Martin [Luther King], Martin is unpatriotic and so forth. He was the most honored mainstream negro of his day. Now, who talks about him now? He wasn’t a truth-teller.”
West says that also like today, many black media figures are celebrated because they’ve been embraced by white mainstream networks. But like Rowan, many of them are co-opted by corporations that have little to no interest in giving an authentic representation of the African American community.
“We supported his upward mobility because he was still dealing with white supremacy and racism, but he was co-opted,” he said. “Carl Rowan was co-opted.”