Open Thread: Cornel West on Stephen Colbert – Respect or Mockery?

By Deputy Editor Thea Lim

The Colbert Report is pretty hit and miss.  But most of the time I enjoy it.  Potentially that’s because Stephen Colbert’s satire is so impenetrable that I have little idea as to what his real politics are…which means I can just project my own politics onto him.  Jon Stewart on the other hand is less of a blank space. We get a much clearer sense of what he truly believes, making it (well, at least to this grump) easier to dislike him.

When Cornel West guested on the Colbert Report last week, my sleuthing skills went on overdrive.  What does Colbert really think of West? Does he agree with West, or does he think West’s a joke?

The Colbert ReportMon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Cornel West
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorReligion

Is Colbert mocking West’s manner of speaking, or borrowing it? When Colbert references Jim Morrison, is he poking fun at West’s knowledge base, or is he merely “tangoing”? When West makes a great counterargument to the logic of Post Racialism, Colbert responds by saying “I feel like a muppet.” Does that undermine West – and is that Colbert’s intention?

I have to say that no matter what Colbert is doing, I really love this interview. I couldn’t stop smiling through it – not only because Cornel West’s enthusiasm and exuberance is infectious, but also because I don’t think I have ever seen someone steamroll Colbert so effectively. And I love that it was an anti-racist black man – expounding such truthiness! – that managed the Colbert takedown.

It can be very difficult for women and people of colour to wrest control of a conversation in a white mainstream space, especially when that conversation veers into hateful territory. Feeling voiceless or ignored in a white or male conversational space seems like almost a weekly happening for me. Watching this video, I felt like West was striking one for any POC (or WOC) who’s ever felt silenced by the cacophony of racism around them.

Interestingly a Colbert fan site reports that Colbert appears to genuinely like West, stating that this is what Colbert did after taping the interview:

In person I got the impression that Colbert actually really liked Cornel West. After the interview Stephen immediately walked around the desk and gave him a hug. Then West smiled and waved at the audience and we gave him a standing ovation.

So what do you think? Is Colbert an ally or is he just using West to make white folks laugh?

About This Blog

Racialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Check out our daily updates on the latest celebrity gaffes, our no-holds-barred critique of questionable media representations, and of course, the inevitable Keanu Reeves John Cho newsflashes.

Latoya Peterson (DC) is the Owner and Editor (not the Founder!) of Racialicious, Arturo García (San Diego) is the Managing Editor, Andrea Plaid (NYC) is the Associate Editor. You can email us at team@racialicious.com.

The founders of Racialicious are Carmen Sognonvi and Jen Chau. They are no longer with the blog. Carmen now runs Urban Martial Arts with her husband and blogs about local business. Jen can still be found at Swirl or on her personal blog. Please do not send them emails here, they are no longer affiliated with this blog.

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