Would Tavis Smileyâ€™s â€˜Black Agendaâ€™ Help the Black Community, or Bring America to its Knees
I want to begin this column with an apology. I went completely ballistic in a previous column on Tavis Smiley (Urban Comedy: Tavis Smiley–A Crab Determined to Reach Beyond His Grasp), but the brother just keeps on giving in what Dr. Boyce Watkins calls his “haterology” towards President Obama. Thus, while I feel my explosion was completely justified, a cooler head has convinced me that even though he may agree with my sentiment towards Tavis, by indulging my need to rant I did both the readers, and the publications that provide me with a platform to keep the public informed, a gross disservice, and I agree.
I don’t work for Fox News, so it’s not my job to ram my opinion down the readers’ throats. As a responsible columnist my job is to simply present the facts, discuss what those facts represent from my point of view, then allow the readers to make up their own minds. Anything short of that is both condescending and less than informative to the reader. So again, I want to apologize. But while I apologize for admittedly falling short of professionalism in my approach, I don’t retract one word of my sentiment in this matter.
On Tuesday, February23, Tavis Smiley went on Tom Joyner’s Morning Show and did a commentary indicating that Rev. Al Sharpton, Ben Jealous, Charles Ogletree, Valerie Jarrett, Marc Morial, and Dr. Dorothy Height said that President Obama doesn’t need a Black agenda. In doing so he not only grossly distorted Sharpton’s comment that the president didn’t need to “ballyhoo” a Black agenda, but he also left the impression that President Obama was ignoring the plight of the Black community–which is blatantly untrue.
So yes, I was quite angry–and one of the things that set me off was his disingenuous self-righteousness. He said:
“I choose to identify with the underprivileged. I choose to identify with the poor. I choose to give my life for the hungry. I choose to give my life for those who have been left out of the sunlight of opportunity. This is the way I’m going. If it means suffering a little bit, I’m going that way. If it means dying for them, I’m going that way. Because I heard a voice saying, ‘Do something for others.”
For a man who loves to quote scripture, he seems to have missed King James 3:14–“But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth.” One would have to be blind to believe that Tavis is less than envious of President Obama, or that he doesn’t have selfish ambition in his heart. And one would have to be a fool to believe that Tavis is willing to die for the hungry. Personally, I don’t see that kind of selflessness in his character. And while he may indeed be genuine about hearing voices, whose voice he’s hearing should be up for serious debate.
But I was angered even more by his hypocrisy. It was clear that he requested to go on the Tom Joyner show (after giving up his spot as a regular commentator on the show well over a year earlier) to create a controversy just to promote an event that he organized in Chicago for later this month. In his commentary he said the following:
“I know ‘What’s going on.’ I know “We shall overcome,’ but I don’t know this new tune, the president doesn’t need a Black agenda. And I’ve been hearing from other members, Tom, of our Black chorale, all across America as well, who either, like me, don’t know these new lyrics or have heard the song but ain’t down with singing it. That said, it’s time for a choir rehearsal so that we’re all singing from the same page. And so, our choir rehearsal will be held Saturday, March 20, in Chicago at 8:00 am, at Chicago State University, with Dr. Wayne Watson. Now, for all of those who can’t attend the choir rehearsal in person, this rehearsal will be broadcast[ed] on national television.”
Don’t forget to Mark you’re calendars, now. That’s Saturday, March 20, at . . . He sounded like he was doing a used car commercial.
Tavis is also fixated on accountability, and how “he choose to identify with the underprivileged,” yet, as I pointed out two years ago in on article on the 2008 State of The Black Union, while he may choose to identify with the underprivileged, he hangs out with the heads of corporations–and you’re known by the company you keep:
“. . . how accountable is it to produce a show called The State of the Black Union then sponsor it with companies that are largely responsible for the very conditions that you’re complaining about? One of the sponsors was Allstate Insurance-a company that is alleged to have denied the claims of thousands of Hurricane Katrina victims. One victim, Michael Homan, alleges that Allstate denied his claim based on their position that Katrina wasn’t windy enough. Another sponsor was Exxon/Mobile-a company that’s raking in record profits while many Black people have to flip a coin to decide whether they’re going to eat or put enough gas in their car to get to work. Wal-Mart was another sponsor-a company that’s committed to blocking collective bargaining, providing their employees fair wages and healthcare, who destroy jobs by running other businesses out of the community and purchasing their merchandise from outside the United States, and who humiliate their customers by searching them before they leave the store.”
So yes, I’m angry, because Tavis is a corporate tool and manipulator. While he’s trying to keep the people focused on the last war in order to promote his own interests, the powers that be have moved on to a class war. They don’t care any more about poor White folks than they do Black people–the healthcare debate should demonstrate that to anyone with any sense at all. Sen. Joe Lieberman just told the White folks of Connecticut to go to Hell.
If the people would open their eyes they’d see that Tavis’ self-serving nonsense is an unnecessary distraction. Blacks, and Whites, are now under the gun. So this is no time to be distracted by a self-serving wannabe. He’s not one of us, the poor and middle class struggling to survive–he’s made a few dollars. His chumminess with Walmart and those who oppress us clearly demonstrates that he’s one of them. But don’t take my word for it–ask the people of Inglewood, Ca. whose agenda he promoted during their battle with Walmart.
Eric L. Wattree