Dear Tavis Smiley:
Let me start off by saying that I’m legitimately somewhat conflicted about you. Granted, you and Uncle Dr. Cornel West have been doing the absolute most with your never-ending “Obama Ain’t S**t But A [Redacted] and [Redacted]” tour, but I can’t say that I don’t completely disagree with some of your assessments of him.
A peek at some of your recent tweets.
“And STILL skirting his MORAL responsibility to lead on the most vexing societal issue. #TrayvonMartin”
“Race is not a personal reality, race is a political reality. We need moral leadership from our nation's influentials starting with POTUS.”
“In 1997 we had a WH Race Initiative. Pres. Obama should consider concretizing his words into a plan for action. That’s what's lacking here.”
These are criticisms that many have leveled against the president in recent years. After all, Black people are disproportionately suffering, only our plight hasn’t been addressed directly the way other groups have. Well, besides President Obama giving us those trite lectures on “personal responsibility” that evade a number of contributing factors (oh hi, systematic racism and poor-bashing economic policy). Moreover, given that President Obama himself acknowledged that he was paying close attention to the feedback over the verdict, maybe that did give him a little nudge to say more.
Even so, what does it matter? Most political leaders find themselves pressured into addressing the concerns of certain blocs of supporters. However, not everyone rises to the occasion. President Obama did and while his words weren’t perfect, they were incredibly helpful. You would think you would all people might understand that everything isn’t so black and white. I mean you’re the guy who went on a “Poverty Tour” sponsored by Walmart.
That said, while you do provide some valid critiques every now and again, a whole lot of Black people still want to trade you in for Adele or Tim Wise. I don’t think that reality can be contributed to blind allegiance to President Obama. There’s a certain tone that comes with most of your commentary and a history between you and the president that makes everything you say come across as personal.
Only recently did you accuse the Obama administration of costing you sponsorship of your PBS program.
As you explained: "This administration does not like to be criticized. And the irony of it is, there's nothing I have tried to hold the president accountable on that my white progressive colleagues have not. They're labeled courageous critics, but if I say it, I'm an `Obama critic.' There's race at play in the very question."
Sir, who prepared this statement? 1990s era Jermaine Dupri and Puff Daddy ‘cause that sounds like the remix.
For the record, there has been plenty debate over white liberal criticism leveled at the president – including spirited back and forth over whether or not some of it can be attributed to racism. What’s more, I distinctly remember you throwing what felt like a temper tantrum over Obama not attending your State of the Black Union conference back in 2008. You told CNN at the time: “Now, I am not interested in demonizing him for his choice, but I do disagree with it."
So much for that. It’s been hard to get a nice word about President Obama from you ever since. One can't help but to wonder if POTUS had sought your counsel or attended your conference...would you be so critical? Is your problem the way he operates, or that he does so independently of you.
In response to your claims, Tom Joyner recently said the following on his radio program: “Tavis, here’s the problem: Your sponsors are pulling out because you don’t have numbers. That’s your problem. You don’t have a platform. You’re losing affiliates; you’re losing sponsors; not because someone is plotting against you.”
Say ‘oops upside your head.’ Say ‘oops upside your head.’
Worse is the Robin to your Batman, Cornel West, taking hyperbole to new and desperately low levels with claims that Obama is a “global George Zimmerman.”
Given you two often speak with sometimes overinflated sense of selves, I presume your legacies are important to you. Well, using the death of Trayvon Martin as another means of spewing vitriol against President Obama is a sure fire way of tarnishing what little good is left attached to each of your names.
I, for one, don’t think that President Obama is above criticism, but it’s understandable why not many of your own want to hear it from you. Maybe hire a ghostwriter?
Michael Arceneaux is the author