As the nation's first black president settles into the office, a division is deepening between two groups of African Americans: those who want to continue to praise Obama and his historic ascendancy, and those who want to examine him more critically now that the election is over.
Monday, April 13, 2009
Tavis Needs A Better Cheerleader
I hope Krissah Thompson has learned the meaning of the word reciprocity. For all her sticking her neck out and taking professional hits that have left her credibility questioned over her not-so-secret 'promote Tavis Smiley article' from last week, she lost a golden opportunity for serious and thoughtful commentary. In Blacks At Odds Over Scrutiny of President the question asked is whether Blacks place race loyalty over legitimate criticism of the President.
Her first mistake was in frequenting blogs that those who saw this article read. So we knew her to be misrepresenting those blogger/activists featured from the very beginning. After it has been revealed that she's lifted writings from other blogs, where the blog host specifically restricts access to copying content, Ms. Thompson just looks like a plagiarizer as well. So she already had the side eye from me before I even read this latest....work. Is it a fluff piece, prop piece or garbage liner as suggested by one of the bloggers who was misrepresented?
The title of the article is a legitimate question though that begs to be evaluated. Per the article:
Unfortunately Ms. Thompson never discusses the topic of the article and instead circumvents it. She continues on to cover Tavis Smiley and his book and how he has been (rightfully) lambasted for his obvious bias. She mentions the work of other bloggers/journalists/activists in an attempt to push them to be just as critical of the President as Smiley has been. Except Smiley's criticisms have largely been without merit, without specifics and are woefully one-sided. Arguing for the sake of arguing is just as foolish as blindly acquiescing to anything the President does.
I can't recall any high-profile opposition positions being levied against the Clinton or Bush administrations. Do you? Also Smiley has a huge conflict of interest with his corporate ties to companies that routinely exploit Blacks. His State of the Union event while somewhat entertaining for its cast of characters jockeying for tv time, is woefully ineffective in leading to any long-term change in the communities (such that they are) he claims to be serving. I mean after 10 years if you have nothing to show for your efforts, you can't be doing much.
So although many people may have read the article, it has been widely panned. There are many Blacks that are wearing Obama blinders who don't want to hear anybody talking bad about their "baby". It's the same mentality that cripples any progress at rooting out the criminal elements in many residential areas and addressing police brutality and railroading. It's why conflicts over innocent Black men getting shot are conflated by guilty criminals shooting the police. It's why the focus is too rigid by not including the sheer violence that Black girls and women have to face at the hands of those Black men remaining in those neighborhoods. Or the Black men killing each other as well.
We need political free agency to be able wield power effectively. Being a professional contrarian is not the way to go even if the short-term payoff seems worth it. That's not real power: it's paternalistic reliance on others to reward us for being "different". That reward can be given....and taken away. We can't demand accountability from others for standards that we're not willing to hold ourselves to. We haven't defined who our allies are nor identified our enemies.
We haven't built solid enough coalitions that can withstand a battering. We don't have consequences at the ready for a "betrayal". We're not prepared for the fact that our President is a politician first and foremost. There is no "race" loyalty or "fairness doctrine" and to expect Obama to offer that to a group of people whose very loyalty is questionable at best is just crazy. Remember the majority of Blacks didn't support Obama until after whites gave their seal of approval. That's not thinking out the box. Now to try to claim him as "one of our own" (whatever that's supposed to mean) looks very silly. If we think we've arrived we're in for a rude awakening. We've not crossed the finish line and are barely in the race quite frankly and failure to realize that is the biggest travesty.