Dust Up at the Academic Corral

Words have been exchanged.

Lines have been drawn.

Sides have been taken.

Perry and West have yet to walk out into the dusty streets of Tombstone and slap leather, but it could still happen.

For those of you unfamiliar, Melissa Harris-Perry and Cornel West are invloved in an intrigue of epic proportions, at least in the academic circles and people from bootblacks to billionaires are taking sides and taking names. On the one side you have Perry, Straight-shooting social/political critic or hired gun for the Obama Administration and Establishment Media; and on the other side we have Cornel West, premier public intellectual or leftist kook with an acid tongue and personal beef with the President and all who defend him.

The characterizations are cartoonish and the battle absurdist. Two Ivy League professors meet at high noon on a deserted street drawing … what?

Curriculum Vitae at 20 paces?

People all over the blogasphere have weighed in on this, from This Week in Blackness to the Huffington Post to the Washington Post. Everyone is not just reporting but editorializing. Have yet to come across a story that didn’t have a slant, a pat on the back for one person and a slap in the face for another.

And yet all the stories are startling similar, The good professor is always humble and covered in rigorous peer review and hard earned respect while the bad professor is a intellectual light weight, a mere celebrity picked to be this group’s or that group’s darling as a mouthpiece to broadcast propaganda.

Now for my two cents.

Neither Perry nor West is a paragon of virtue or vice. Neither needs substitutes to do their fighting for them. Both have achieved heights in academia that most will only dream of and both likely have feet of clay.

The one thing that all the reports have gotten right is that this a personal fight. Where they fail is in saying that it is only personal on one side or the other. Something, or probably more accurately some things, happened at Princeton between 2006 when the two professors were buddy buddy and now when they are, uh, not.

What happened, we may never know and quite frankly I don’t care. When shit is personal, leave it personal. Even when the principals try to play it public. We don’t have to read, listen, and we damn sure don’t have to take sides and comment of things we know nothing about.


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