August 16, 2011
August 14, 2011
By Yvette Carnell, Your Black World
One broad watermelon smile deserves another. So when I read on Yourblackworld.com that Steve Harvey had joined Tom Joyner in using his Benson-eque platform to both defend the White House and malign Tavis Smiley and Cornel West, surprise was not an emotion that befell me.
Both Harvey and Joyner are much too enthralled with their own proximity to power, too lost in the glow of gator tuxedo shoes, too bewitched by engraved invitations to President Obama’s 50th birthday bash to actually think before crowing about Smiley and West.
These two self-styled soul hipsters would have us believe that they have somehow magically transformed themselves from low brow entertainers to thoughtful political pundits. They haven’t.
And what we are now witnessing are the after affects and wreckage caused by men who doggedly refuse to engage in any meaningful self-reflection or collective race reflection. They don’t understand – or own- the fact that black suffering and the accompanying poverty are part of our inheritance and as such, must be dealt with in a meaningful way. In shorthand, this means that
Steve Harvey’s purchase of a new lime green suit doesn’t benefit the whole.
Smiley and West are merely making the argument that President Obama hasn’t used the ample resources available him to redress wrongs caused by those who engineered this crisis. Obama hasn’t put forth any meaningful plan to address how the poor will make up the gains lost by the recession or how they’ll regain their footing, let alone any hope of joining the narrowing middle class. That’s the crux of it. Harvey is free to offer an alternate view, but offhandedly dismissing Smiley and West as Uncle Toms just doesn’t pass muster. And neither does passing off misinformation as a thoughtful critique.
Here are a few examples of the nonsense that now passes as serious black commentary on black talk radio:
On his syndicated talk show, Harvey asked ““Who in the hell got 2-3 days for your ass? I ain’t got time to sit down with your monkey behind for two, three days, let alone the President of the United States. We got three wars going on, the economy crashing and we going to sit down with Tavis ass for three days?”
Here’s another quote, this one from the White House, “On Monday July 11th and Tuesday July 12th, the White House will host a Hispanic Policy Conference, bringing community leaders from across the country together with a broad range of White House and Cabinet officials for an in-depth series of interactive workshops and substantive conversations on the Administration’s efforts as they relate to the Hispanic community.”
Compare the 2-3 days the White House spent with leaders of the Hispanic community to the ½ hour Obama afforded NAACP’s Ben Jealous and the Urban League’s Mark Morial. I can only hazard a guess that either Steve Harvey is o.k. with this disparity or he wasn’t aware of it. But if you’re going to be about the business of offering a political critique, a thorough examination of the facts is required.
Speaking of facts (or lack thereof), Harvey blusters on that Smiley and West “don’t have any real basis behind your dislike for this man…you keep masking it saying it’s not about hate. Then what is it about? Poverty existed before January 20, 2008. Where was your damn bus then?”
But this discounts the fact that there were an ample number of liberals, especially black ones, who made it their business to criticize the impact of Bush and Clinton’s policies on poor people. Now however, the chorus of black and principled activists has largely dissipated due to the pressure imposed by folks like Joyner and Harvey. So, in effect, Smiley and West are filling a void left by a once principled group that abandoned their principles in favor of Obama absolutism.
It should also be noted that West wasn’t kind in his criticism of George W. Bush. It was West who described hawks in the Bush administration as “evangelical nihilists — drunk with power and driven by grand delusions of American domination of the world”. The idea that West is a Johnny come lately of sorts who only recently jumped into the political fray just doesn’t hold water when viewed within a full political context.
Don’t get me wrong, I admire Steve Harvey’s philanthropy. His work with young men is a standard that all black male celebrities would do well to follow. But we’re at the crux of something huge now. The top 1% are administering, almost daily, devastating blows to the poor and middle class, and the question we’re all asking is whether Obama will hold us down while they strike the final blow or stand up to the bullies on our behalf. If Harvey and Joyner have something to add to this discussion, I’d love to hear it. But if they’re content to just clown Smiley and West with the rhetorical equivalent of “yo’ mama” jokes, then they should get back to their day jobs. The world of serious commentary just doesn’t need them.