Op-Eds Speaking Truth to the Powers-That-Be
Dr. Cornel West, author and professor of African American Studies at Princeton University, and TV/radio talk host Tavis Smiley have created a lot of debate by criticizing President Obama’s leadership on a nationwide “poverty tour” that will take them to 16 poor communities across the United States.
It is interesting that Dr. West and Tavis Smiley started their tour in August. It is the same month that the bodies of three civil rights workers who had been killed by members of the Ku Klux Klan, with the aid of local sheriffs, were found in 1964. In 1965 the Voting Rights Act was signed and five days later the Watts riots started.
It is also notable that West and Smiley started their tour in Obama’s hometown of Chicago.
Tom Joyner, also a nationally syndicated radio host with a large following, has had a public falling out, first with Smiley and now Dr. West. Apparently the falling out started during the presidential campaign in 2008. Smiley was clearly not a big supporter of Obama. Joyner was.
It certainly is no secret, either, that this past April on MSNBC Al Sharpton and Dr. West went toe-to-toe over President Obama’s focus, or lack thereof, on the Black agenda.
Sharpton, who was later given a show on MSNBC, took the position that most Black leaders, except for Obama, are silently doing nothing for the black community. West called Mr. Obama no more than a “black mascot” for the wealthy.
According to Dr. West, the poverty tour, “is not an anti-Obama tour.” He and Tavis Smiley seek to draw attention to and highlight what they believe is lack of effort by both the president and Congress to address the needs of the Americans hardest hit by the recession.
Unemployment is at 16% in the Black community.
As an African-American woman looking at my elders duke it out in the media, I am truly frustrated. There are not that many leaders in our community who garner national attention.
In the infamous words of Rodney King, “Can’t we all just get along?” If they can’t get along, for goodness sake, is it necessary to air dirty laundry for all to see?
I started off as a strong supporter of then Senator Barack Obama. I walked precincts, posted fliers, knocked on doors arranged and attended community meetings. I was looking for change, hoping this president would do what no other had: Use the historic nature of his presidency to bring a different perspective to some of the issues that have plagued my community for generations.
When it comes to issues of particular concern to the African American community, the president’s response is: ‘I am president of all of America, not just a narrow special interest group.’
Special interest group? Every President that has sat in the Oval Office has been the “president of all of America,” yet they have attended to their own “special interest group” in some way or fashion.
I wasn’t expecting Obama to order reparations, or anything that spectacular. I was certainly expecting my community to garner some type of political capital, as were many other African-American volunteers and supporters.
Where has the president expended any political capital on behalf of the Black community in areas of our particular interest? Jobs, improving justice for our people in the legal system, and improving civil liberties are all important issues to us.
The LGBT community gets all sorts of gay rights. Hispanics got a Supreme Court Justice, immigration amnesty, and the D.R.E.A.M. Act
What do Black people get ?
‘I’m president of all of America.’
I continue to support our President, but it certainly isn’t blindly. It just seems that Dr. West, Travis Smiley, and Tom Joyner should be working together and at some point with President Obama; not causing factions to be developed in our community.
Without a leader, we face more of the divide and conquer that has got us nowhere.