Following Michael Eric Dyson’s open and brutal critique of his former friend Dr. Cornel West, the author opened up to HuffPost Live’sMarc Lamont Hill about the fallout he’s received and why he believes his piece on the political activist was necessary.
“The Ghost of Cornel West,” published Sunday on The New Republic, left audiences split. While many agreed that Cornel’s quarrels with President Obama alienated him from Black leaders, others believe Dyson’s article could have taken the backseat to a private conversation between the two.
Dyson said his response to Cornell was public because West’s actions were also done in public, making for an open debate.
“You know what the old people used to say? “Where you did it is where you get it,” he said. “So people say, “Why don’t you do it in private?” Because [West’s comments were] done in public. And the public character of what we’re doing here is vital and necessary because the lessons that can be learned, either from my mistakes, either from my flaws, either from my failures and professor West’s are instructive to other people, who will then learn. I’m not saying that therefore we have to mess up in order to clean up, so that we can have object lessons. I’m saying that in the engagement of these ideas, whether it’s Langston Hughes, whether it’s W.E.B. Du Bois, there’s a long tradition.
The men have been close friends and political allies for over two decades. While Dyson says there were emotional reflections in his piece, his stance is more concerned with the damaging effects West inflicted on himself and his own career.
“But I don’t fault him for that. That’s his choice. My public expression was not rooted in [wanting to] get back at you,’” he said. “My public expression was, I’ve seen you doing some damaging stuff and I have to say it in public because that’s where you’re doing it.”
He also says he’s been open to sit down with West, but he refused. You can check out Dyson’s full interview here.