Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tavis vs. Sharpton

Lately, an ideological rift has formed within the Black Community with regard to President Obama that has effectively divided the Black Community and its "leadership" into two camps: one group feels Obama should be focused specifically on the Black Community - the other group feels Obama should focus on the country as a whole. Voices from the former group tend to express disappointment and even resentment towards Obama for what is perceived to be a retreat from the acknowledgment of race and all issues effecting the Black Community. Voices from the latter group tend to express approval of Obama's acknowledgment of race through race-neutral policies that still target and benefit the Black Community. Perhaps nowhere was this contrast made more stark than during a discussion argument between community figures Rev. Al Sharpton and Tavis Smiley which took place recently during one of Shaprton's radio shows. To provide a bit of context, Sharpton, along with guest Harvard Law professor Charles Ogletree, were discussing the February 18, 2010 meeting called by Obama where he met with various leaders within the Black Community (including Al Sharpton) to discuss the effects that the down economy is having on Black people. Tavis Smiley, having recently organized a meeting in Chicago to discuss the need for Obama's Black agenda, called into Sharpton's show to discuss. Listen HERE. Our take after the jump:
***Again, Big Ups to The Root for giving us a shout out for this post***

Lady Z's take:
I'm going to start with my conclusion: Tavis needs to sit down and be quiet.

Why? I've never been on Team Tavis, but especially when it comes to critiquing the Obama administration or even Obama during the campaign, Tavis comes across as a bit of a hater.

I do not understand how he thinks bashing Obama is going to help the black agenda. Do you want a Republican to win in 2012? How is that going to help black unemployment exactly?

The main issue here is whether Tavis has a point?

Short answer: No, not really.

If Tavis cared at all about black unemployment he should first take a look in the mirror. Instead of focusing on all that Obama is not doing to help black people he might want to focus on the fact that 3 of his main sponsors are Wells Fargo, Walmart, and McDonalds. If you cared at all about black people you wouldn't be caught dead anywhere near a company like Wells Fargo who is notorious for predatory lending in minority communities.

You know how the saying goes houses or something like that. And while we are on the subject of Tavis not holding himself accountable, how about his company publishing R. Kelly's book?! Is that sending the right message to our our young black girls?

I think Tavis is incorrect to say that Obama should have an agenda specifically for the black community. Barack Obama is not the President of black people. His policies are going to help black people and unemployment because they lift (hopefully) all boats, not just the ones with the black people in them.

As Obama's close friend and confidant Professor Charles Ogeltree said, "The reality is that the president has to do certain things, but there are certain things he can’t do. He can’t create a black jobs program, but he can create a program that benefits African-Americans by helping others as well.”

GodSon's Take:

While I totally disagree with Tavis on this particular issue, I do understand his perspective. He wrote a book called "Accountable" which discusses his critique of government as a whole, but particularly President Obama's administration since he was newly elected. The basic premise behind his book was that we need to hold President Obama to the same standard that we hold all of our other elected officials and that we need to remember the promises he made during his campaign and hold him to them. The book, I admit, did come off a bit like he was "hating" even before Obama officially took office, but Tavis made some very valid points about holding the individuals we elect accountable for pushing an agenda that includes the poor as well as the so called minority in this country, because at times we get left out of the mix.

Obviously Tavis articulated this premise a bit differently in his conversation with Al Sharpton, saying essentially that Obama should have an agenda specifically for the African American community. Lady Z and I share the same views on why that is wrong, so I will not touch that aspect, however, I will say that it is not President Obama's responsibility to deliver an African American agenda, it is the African American community's responsibility to do this, particularly, the Oprah Winfrey's, P Diddy's, Michael Jordan's and Russell Simmons of the world. These are the individuals that should be working with the president to help create better opportunities for black folks, because they are wealthy and in positions of power.This is what other races do, when they get one of "their own" in office. There was an opportunity, I believe for one of the major American car companies to be purchased, I cannot speak in specifics, because I am not familiar with all the details. The President could have pulled a few of those black power players I mentioned to the side and said, yall need to buy this company. It could have been the first African American owned car company.... but this is an example of how the "African American Agenda" can and should get pushed....Not through the president, but through the wealthiest, most powerful ones among us, that are not politicians. If Tavis Smiley wants to hate on anyone it should be the black rich, that exploit us through tools such as mind control (music and media), marketing and shaping a culture within our community that is negative, without doing anything to help uplift that same community besides degrading their employees on reality shows.

The Fed's Take:

Listening to the conversation, I don’t really think it went anywhere, and was about much of anything. It was Sharpton and Tavis arguing about who said what and why…
So I won’t comment on that…that is part of the media, and the media’s tricks. They LOVE to distort, or restate facts, if for nothing else, than to drum up more conversation…
However, getting to the central point to which I believe we have spoken about on here before, No, I do NOT think the president should focus on JUST the black agenda. That my friends would be career suicide! Can you imagine if a white president JUST focused on the “white agenda!?” WOW… What they did in the past was focus on agendas that did seem to benefit the white people of our country more than it helped the black people of our country. And I do believe that is what the president has done and is doing. Just a day ago (02/22/2010) the Credit CARD Act went into law. We KNOW that the black community spends a larger percentage of their income paying credit card debt than other races…so while the CCA doesn’t specifically point out black people, it does indirectly help them. Frankly, the rejection of that fact by Tavis (and like minds) is, quite frankly, shocking! Also, I agree with Sharpton that you can’t just hand over talking points to the Glenn Becks of the world. Imagine how much more vicious the Tea Party Movement people would be if they felt he was focusing on JUST the black community. (I believe they are borderline racists anyway…instead of government buildings, they would be flying planes into the only black house in a white neighborhood, and say it was patriotism and free speech)
Side Note: When did Tavis’ meeting become the all-hands meeting to decide what is right and wrong with the black community? I’m sorry, I didn’t know he was the counselor from Zion (The Matrix reference). I respect you Tavis, but come on…yours isn’t the only game in town! Don’t hate if someone disagrees that the path you laid is the ONLY way to go!
More importantly, to me, are the “intangibles” that President Obama brings. We all know the numbers…About 80% of Black kids can expect to spend a “significant” portion of their childhood living without their biological father. African American children are 9 times more likely than White children to have an incarcerated parent. The list goes on and one…you have heard it several times…Here we have a very successful Black man, who is a father to his children, (as far as we know) faithful to his wife, and establishing a role model that didn’t exist before. We always argue that “fixing” the foundation of the problems in our community starts at home. Aren’t he and his family and perfect example of that foundation?

The Janitor's Take:
I concur in part, and dissent in part from my fellow Urban Politicos. Like The Fed, I play poker. And at some point during a poker game, a player is going to invariably "tip their hand" when he/she didn't mean to, thereby exposing their true intentions to the rest of the table. While I respect Tavis as an activist and, not to mention, as a frat brother, when he raised a fuss about Obama not coming to the State of the Black Union during the 2008 campaign, he tipped his hand, and the cards he held at that pivotal moment revealed to us that, somewhere along the road of good intentions, Tavis Smiley had anointed himself as the gateway by which all things Black must pass. What Obama implicitly said by not showing up rang loud and clear throughout Black academic and leadership circles: "no, Tavis, I'm not going to kiss your ring in order to gain passage into the realm of Black Community Leadership. I can, and will, get there without you." And Tavis has been burned ever since. It is in this regard that I concur with my fellow Urban Politicos.

I must dissent, however, in this particular situation given that on the other side of this equation, Black America's favorite poverty pimp, the Reverend Al "The Perm" Sharpton, has made it clear that he has an image to maintain as being one of the "chosen ones" among Black leaders who speak with the White House on a regular basis. As such, he struggled during this particular conversation with Tavis to articulate his quote in the New York Times, stubbornly trying to convince us that there is any damn difference whatsoever between saying that the President shouldn't "balley-hoo" a Black agenda vs. saying that the President shouldn't "focus" on a Black agenda. Talk about splitting hairs. This a tantamount to Clinton's "I did not have sex with that woman....I had an 'inappropriate relationship' with that woman." Dude, whatever. However you wanna say it, you committed adultery, ok? And you, Rev. Sharpton, effectively said the President shouldn't focus on a Black agenda! So don't get mad at Tavis for calling you out on your own quote.

Now that we've settled the juvenile he-said/she-said debate, the bigger question still remains: should Obama focus on a Black agenda? As I have already addressed this issue before, in the interest of blog space I'll simply repeat something I've said before during this debate: do you want to paint the white house black TODAY, or do you want 44 more black presidents TOMORROW? Cause you can't have both.
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