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The escalating black American political controversy that is orbiting President Barack Obama’s leadership style is now raging, following the remarks by comedian Steve Harvey that Cornel West and Tavis Smiley are “Uncle Toms.”

Specifically, Harvey was critiquing the Poverty Tour organized by Tavis Smiley and Cornel West, as well as their vociferous criticism of the president’s leadership, as it relates to the needs of the poor in particular.

Referencing Tavis’ suggestion that the president should sit down with him and West for two or three days to discuss poverty in America, Harvey said, “Who in the hell got two or three days to sit down with your ass?  I ain’t got time to sit down with your monkey behind for two are three days, let alone the President if the United States.  We got three wars going on the economy is crashing, and we going to sit with Tavis’ ass for three days?”  Harvey also alluded to a more sinister motive for the West, Smiley Poverty Tour asking, “Where are you getting the money for the buses?”

The black political rift began many months ago when Tavis Smiley and Al Sharpton traded political barbs on their respective radio shows, and it quickly escalated into a public confrontation on the radio airways.  The rift between the two men centered on a critique by Smiley that Sharpton was carry water for president Obama, and was letting him (the president) off the hook concerning advancing the “black agenda.”  Sharpton responded in kind to Smiley’s political critique, and the controversy quickly became politically airborne.

Enter Cornel West, a political confidant of Tavis Smiley, who is a controversial intellectual/political figure in his own right. The Smiley versus Sharpton political rift was taken to another level when Professor West took issue with Sharpton’s relationship with Obama, during a panel discussion on a popular MSNBC television talk show that ultimately deteriorated into a public TV spectacle.

Professor Boyce Watkins, founder of YourBlackWorld.com, entered the political fray following the MSNBC political spectacle, and positioned himself as a moderating voice, but was clearly espousing the Sharpton narrative and criticized Smiley’s point of view.  Interestingly enough, Watkins simultaneously seemed to modulate his political attack relative to West.

More recently, in the context of Steve Harvey’s critical political analysis of the West, Smiley Poverty Tour, Prof. Watkins delivered a political broadside attack against Harvey, among others.  Watkins said, “He (Harvey) ended his rant by saying that he spotted an Uncle Tom driving a bus and then Harvey accused Cornel West and Tavis Smiley of being “poverty pimps.”

Watkins continued, “While listening to Harvey, I could not help but get the impression that he’s concluding that by speaking on behalf of the poor, and challenging political leadership to modify economic policies, you are pimping the poor rather than helping them.  I guess that would make me a poverty pimp too, so perhaps I’d better just remain silent.”

“Steve Harvey is doing a good job of campaigning for President Obama. Harvey was recently invited to President Obama’s birthday party, putting him squarely in the camp of Black public figures that have been recruited by the White House to help discredit anyone who speaks ill of the Obama Administration. Rather than asking whether or not Smiley and West’s issues are relevant, Harvey, Tom Joyner and others know that it’s easier to simply smear the credibility of the messengers.  In American politics, character assassinations are typically preferred rather than actually dealing with the issue itself, Watkins concluded.”

This sophomoric serial political saga would be laughable if it were not a pathetic treatise on the state of black political leadership going forward.  The advent of black celebrity political leadership has infused infotainment, comedy and political sensationalism into the realm of serious political discourse and it compromises the legitimate political aspirations of the masses of black folk.

These competing black political leadership neophytes are in the process of squandering the political capital and opportunities associated with ascension of the first black American to the presidency of the United States.  Apparently, the unelected neo black political leadership is attempting to engage president Obama into a political accountability scenario.  However, they had no meaningful role in the making of the first black American president, other than the popularity contest of the general election, and an Amen…

As this writer recalls, candidate Senator Barack Obama defied the conventional political wisdom of the black civil rights leadership orthodoxy, both elected and unelected, and ultimately prevailed in a very contentious party presidential primary process.  Having won his party’s nomination with only esoteric black political support, coupled with his personal political sensibilities, presidential candidate Obama gave the multitudes of black Americans the opportunity to vote for him in the general election popularity contest.

Now, some notable and well placed prominent black political leader aspirants are attempting to corral the president into an agenda for black Americans and the poor.  What and whose “black agenda” are they speaking of?  The black civil rights agenda, or are they talking about the black political power agenda?  Likewise, what agenda for the poor are they referencing (White, Black, Latino, Asian etc), and have they advanced any written policy recommendations?  Or is it simply political rhetoric?

The president as well as the congress, respond, react to, and are animated by, “political power relationship groups” or individuals that represent respective political power relationship groups.  Real-time hardball electoral politics is not personality driven!  This writer suspects that none of the above mentioned prominent black Americans represent a real-time political power relationship group.  It appears as though the individuals that are engaged in this politically superfluous controversy are prominent within their respective genre.  And in some cases they are informally organized in disparate black groupings competing against each other for the ear of the president, fifteen minutes of political fame and an illusion of power.

The last time that this writer checked, there was no definitive black civil rights agenda, nor is there a cohesive political power group organized and raising money for the purpose of advancing that specific political agenda.  Likewise, there is no definitive black political power agenda in place with organized advocates raising funds to move that agenda.  There are only ad hoc political formulations with short life spans.  Therefore, what black agenda are they espousing that the president can address?

On the other hand, what political interest group is raising money, organizing and lobbying on behalf of poor people?  Are any of these vociferous advocates for black and poor folk engaged in any activities on the Hill, advancing policy positions on behalf of their target group?  Are they engaged in voter education and registration activities during and between elections?  Or is it only an exercise in black rap?

Some in the black community advance an argument that ninety-five plus percent of the black community voted for Obama in the general election, therefore the president must address the needs of his principal constituency.  Accordingly, the president must address our political demands!  Well, making political demands, and speaking truth to power without, organization, strategy, tactics and a budget for achieving specific short and long-range objectives is political power 101.  When all the pieces to the political power puzzle are in place, very little needs to be said on radio and television talk shows, or other intelligence gathering forums.

Relevant links:


Harvey Interview:



Written by gjamescadreusa

August 20, 2011 at 12:31 pm

Posted in Uncategorized