Once upon a time there were two Black men who were considered our “leaders.” Martin Luther King, Jr., was a soft-spoken, but eloquent Baptist preacher who spoke of the content of our character meaning more than the color of our skin. Malcolm X was the fiery acolyte of Elijah Muhammad who thundered about the wickedness of the White Man and “the bullet or the ballot.”
Martin and Malcolm had little in common with each other except neither of them ever enjoyed the universal support of the people they purported to lead. The true stress test of leadership is does their stature diminish or grow over the passage of time. On that score, Martin and Malcolm have established themselves as two sides of the same coin and though their tactics couldn’t have been more different, they both wanted the same objective: freedom for Black people.
Once you’ve seen the real thing in action, how the hell are you going to settle for the clown act of Tavis Smiley and Al Sharpton? That’s like trading in Miles Davis for ‘Lil Wayne. That’s why the recent bitch-slap between the two race hustlers is something I don’t take seriously.
Tavis pulled the plug on his State of the Black Union slumber party, but since he can’t go an entire year without some sort of pseudo “event,” he’s offering up instead “We Count! The Black Agenda is the American Agenda.” What exactly is this “Black Agenda?” Apparently, Smiley is expecting a big dose of big spending by the Obama Adminstration on programs specifically targeted to aid and assist Blacks. It’s also an excuse for Tavis to prove yet again his swaggering self-importance never takes time off.
Leaving aside how damn dumb do you have to be to think that Obama is going to screw his chances of reelection in the ass by making such an announcement, what makes Tavis think the problems of a Black family catching hell in Detroit are so much worse than a Latino family catching hell in Los Angeles? We didn’t wake up the day after Obama won to any sort of post-racial America. Neither did we enter a Black Disneyland where we got our 40 acres, a mule and an unlimited shopping spree at Wal-Mart.
I don’t see our problems as exclusive to African-Americans. Certainly there are issues that effect us in disproportionate numbers, but it’s counter-productive to always cast Black people as eternal basket cases whose only recourse is yet another government “solution.”
The only good question Reverend Al asked Saint Tavis about this latest gabfest was, “Who made up the guest list?”
Well, of course Tavis did which means it’s top-heavy with his favorite Black intellectuals (Cornel West, Michael Eric Dyson), representatives of the Civil Rights establishment (Jesse Jackson, Dorothy Height, Marc Morial, Benjamin Todd Jealous, Sharpton) a token militant, Louis Farrakhan, and several other members of the Tavis Smiley Black Pack.
What’s odd about these bull sessions Tavis loves to throw is who doesn’t get invited. Black conservatives and libertarians are shunned. So are lesbians and gays and discussion of LGBT issues don’t seem to be part of the agenda. As for any thinkers, intellectuals, or prominent figures that don’t hang with Tavis, they’re left out of the mix.
Here’s a short list of Black folks you won’t see Tavis swapping war stories with: Shelby Steele, Juan Williams, Leonard Pitts, Jr., John McWhorter, Marc Lamont Hill, Bill Cosby, Dr. Allen Poussaint, Roland Martin, Joseph C. Phillips, Melissa Harris Lacewell, Manning Marable, Larry Elder, LaShawn Barber, Keith Boykin, Farai Chideya, Phill Wilson, Mark Anthony Neal, James Rucker, Star Parker or Stanley Crouch.
Does it matter if you recognize all those names or agree with what they believe in? No, but what does matter is they represent a perspective that won’t be heard at the Tavis Talk-a-thons because Tavis doesn’t want to hear them. There’s a range of political perspectives that never get an airing because they don’t fit into his agenda.
Tavis says, “It’s time for a choir rehearsal so that we’re all singing from the same page.” Didn’t we just come out of Black History Month? At what point were all African-Americans ever of one mind on anything? You can find a few folks who can find something positive to say about slavery (full employment!) and even King and X never enjoyed universal support within the race, so what changed?
Tavis would love to be the left-wing alternative to the Tea Party thorn in President Obama’s side, but despite his obvious distaste for Obama, he lacks the vision to mount a sustained political opposition. He’s not willing to damage his own standing with African-Americans by taking on the president with the fervor of a Sarah Palin. Unlike Palin who has no pull with Blacks, Smiley knows in any competition with Obama he’s going to finish a sick second best.
If Tavis wanted to up the ante on his attack on Obama, he’d bring in folks from both the political Left and Right wings to really rip into the President’s shortcomings. That’s a move he doesn’t have the nerve to make or the stomach to fight. Add that to the reasons why Tavis will bring the noise in this echo chamber, but it’s only cheap posturing and playing to the camera, not the fledgling signs of a grass-roots revolt against Barack Obama’s presidency.