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Dr. Wilmer J. Leon III

(TriceEdneyWire.com)—“Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? …And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home.” Matthew 13:53-57

On Sunday Dec. 17, The Guardian published an Op Ed penned by Dr. Cornel West entitled “Ta-Nehisi Coates is the neoliberal face of the black freedom struggle.” It is a very clear and well thought through analysis of Coates’ book, “We Were Eight Years in Power.” West’s Op Ed was also a border critique of Coates’ Weltanschauung, his controlling perspective or image of the universe and of humanity’s relation to it. Simply put, Coates’ worldview.

Dr. West’s critique has kicked off a firestorm of controversy via social media and other outlets. Most of the controversy has been critical of Dr. West. In Slate.com, Ismail Muhammad wrote, “Not only is it a case of one of Black thought’s elder statesmen attempting a hatchet job on a younger writer, West thoroughly botches the job…” In Huffington Post Dwayne Wong wrote, “For me, the biggest problem with Dr. West’s piece is that are there more pressing issues that need to be addressed.” Jelani Cobb took to Twitter accusing Dr. West of having “cloak[ed] petty rivalry as disinterested analysis.”

We will never progress as a political constituency so long as our politics are based upon the politics of personality and not the politics of policy. Honest critique needs to include substantive policy analysis. Honest analysis of the work of African American writers or intellectuals by other African American writers or intellectuals should be framed within the context of the analysis, not the personality. By placing the critique in the context of personal animus, the critique can be summarily dismissed and not dealt with on the level that the issue and critique truly requires.

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