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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Black Leadership, Black Self Hatred, and The Obama Campaign

I Just finished reading an article by Darryl Fears in the washingtonpost.com. In the article he talks about Tavis Smiley, the bestselling author of the "Covenant With Black America," and how Tavis is being "hammered," "barbecued," and is "catching hell" from black Americans for suggesting that Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) made a major mistake by declining to speak at the State of the Black Union event that Smiley plans to host next week in New Orleans.

Here is the article and my thoughts, highlighted in red. Based on what I'm reading and hearing, Tavis is another Black Crab hating on Obama. UPDATE: Here is a link to my BlogTalk Radio Show. Sorry about the call in from the Rednecks.

Black Commenter, Criticizing Obama, Causes Firestorm
Darryl Fears, The Washington Post

Photo of Tavis Smiley

"There's all this talk of hater, sellout and traitor," Smiley said to me in a telephone interview. Smiley even mentioned getting death threats, but wouldn't elaborate. He said his office has been flooded with angry e-mails. "I have family in Indianapolis. They are harassing my momma, harassing my brother. It's getting to be crazy," Smiley said.

AAPP: If this is true, this regretful, inappropriate and unlawful.

Smiley's problems started early this month after he invited Obama to speak at the State of the Black Union, an event Smiley founded nine years ago. Held annually during Black History Month and broadcast by C-Span, the event gathers a Who's Who of black intellectuals, pundits, activists, entertainers and politicians to discuss and brainstorm about where black America is and where it is headed. This year's topic is "Reclaiming Our Democracy, Deciding Our Future."

The State of the Black Union has grown into a key event for black people since its start, but as Smiley has discovered, Obama's presidential run is far more highly regarded.

As the first black person to have a legitimate shot at a presidential nomination, defeating Sen. Hillary Clinton's rich campaign juggernaut, Obama is virtually a third civil rights movement, the manifestation of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream. His candidacy has produced a fervor in black America born of centuries of wanting. Nearly every black vote that Clinton thought was hers at the beginning of the race has been siphoned by Obama.

Each of the presidential candidates were invited to speak, but only Sen. Hillary Clinton accepted. Clinton is desperate to bolster her flagging campaign with a larger share of the black vote after losing all but a small percent to Obama. Smiley said he wants the candidates to focus on the issues that black Americans care about.

AAPP: Hillary is the only candidate who needs to convince black voters to stop voting for Obama and vote for her. Hillary will be glad take a few pictures with you Tavis. I'm sure Bill Clinton will be willing to show up too. He sure would be glad to tell some black jokes and make some more color aroused statements against Barack Obama. Maybe Hillary will bring out some other surrogates like Robert Johnson or Andrew Young. I'm also sure Hillary will also bring her new black female campaign manager around. If that won't work, maybe Hillary can dig up some family members of Lyndon B. Johnson to let black folks know how unimportant MLK was to the Civil rights movement. But then again, with Hillary in the house, talking black, giving her southern drawl, and a few photo ops, maybe you can get some photo ops for a new book. "Hating on Barack - My 11th hour effort to create discourse with black folks and Brack Obama."

If the blogosphere is any reflection, however, black America believes Smiley should check his ego. Commenters would much rather see Obama campaigning against Clinton in Texas and Ohio than at Smiley's confab in Louisiana, a state he's already won. Critics burned up Internet chat rooms, taking turns at denouncing Smiley. Pundit Melissa Harris-Lacewell, an Obama supporter, authored a biting anti-Smiley opinion on TheRoot.com (which is owned by Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive), entitled, "Who Died and Made Him King?"

AAPP: I agree, smiley appears to be involved in a little bit of old school self-hatred as far as I am concerned.

A fan of Smiley commented on one blog, saying, "Tavis, Ya Killin' Me, Man." An angrier writer headlined his comment, "This is just dumb." "This man is involved in the fight of his life for the presidency of the UNITED STATES, not black states," he wrote of Obama. "I don't know if Tavis got the memo, but Hillary is leading in Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania, where the governor said that his white folks won't vote for a black." Other comments would likely be blocked by Net Nanny and can't be printed on the Web pages of a family newspaper.

For Smiley, the tumult is a major turnabout. Until now he was a darling commentator in black America. His passion for the people endeared him to many. People listened to his commentaries on the popular Tom Joyner Morning Show, and snapped up so many copies of the "Covenant" that it made the top ten lists of the both the New York Times and the Washington Post. When Smiley talked, black people listened.

AAPP: I agree, at this point Tavis seems to be more to be interested in selling books, and being the "Journalism king of Black America." Although Obama may change his mind and attend, I'm with Obama on this one. Obama needs to continue to get busy and campaign where he need to get undecided votes. Don't listen to the self-hating black folk, even those who sell a lot of books and talk the talk.

"One of my friends said, 'you are being barbecued in the blogosphere,'" Smiley said. He told Black America Web writer Michael Cottman's that "I'm catching hell." In our interview, Smiley said: "This is the first time in my entire career that I have found myself in this kind of relationship with some folk in black America. I now know what it feels like to have the weight of the Internet world bearing down on you. Man, it's an eye opener when you get caught in the middle of it."

AAPP: look in the mirror Tavis, this election is bigger than you!

Obama's campaign said he called Smiley twice on his cell and office phones. Smiley said he returned the calls but got no response.

On the Tom Joyner Morning Show recently, Joyner brought up the controversy during an interview with Obama, relating how Smiley was taking heat for saying he thinks Obama doesn't want to talk about issues black people care about.

Obama chastised Smiley, but spoke as if the two were friends. "I'm going to have to call Tavis up and straighten him out on this," Obama said. He said he's addressed issues that Smiley cares about, such as health care and eliminating the legal sentencing disparity that allows judges to send mostly black crack cocaine offenders to prison with sentences that are five times longer than powder cocaine offenders who are mostly white and Latino.

Obama followed up with a letter to Smiley, dated Feb. 13. In it, Obama explained why he declined the invitation, saying that he needed to campaign in states that Clinton must win to in order to topple her candidacy.

AAPP: Hey Tavis, Obama is right, get over it!

"I will be on the campaign trail every day in states like Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin talking directly to voters about the causes that are at the heart of my campaign and the State of the Black Union forum such as affordable housing, economic opportunity, civil rights and foreign policy," Obama said in his letter. He had offered to have his wife, Michelle, speak in his stead at the State of the Black Union, but Smiley had declined. "I ask that you reconsider," Obama wrote. "Michelle is a powerful voice for the type of reach change America is hungry for."

Smiley responded in a commentary on the Tom Joyner Morning Show, condemning Obama's decision with his usual strong, passionate, rapid-fire delivery. He recounted the gist of his statement in the interview. "I think it is a miscalculation on his part not to appear and a missed opportunity."

AAPP: Hey Tavis Smiley, there you go with that, "I'm more important" than the people of America that Obama needs to convince to vote for him stuff. In the big picture of this campaign, your not as important, this time around. No photo op for you and Obama this time.

"I love Barack Obama and I love black people," Smiley said. "I celebrate his past accomplishments and I celebrate his future aspirations. I never wanted to stand in the path of his growth."

However, he said, "My job is to ask the critical question, to raise these issues and keep these guys focused. There are some people who are disappointed that I'm not jumping up and down saying, 'Vote for Barack Obama.' That's not my role as a journalist. That's not what I do."

AAPP: Whatever! Enjoy the kiss up and photo op with Team Clinton. This is nothing more than old school, black leadership self hatred against Barack Obama. Just another Crab in the basket.

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