The Tavis-Sharpton on air fight over whether or not President Obama was going to have a black agenda started out with a bang and ended with a whimper. What could have been one of the more substantial debates on the state of Black America, quickly disintegrated into a battle of the ego.
In one corner, Tavis ‘Less than Smiley’ and in the other Al ‘The Perm’ Sharpton. Smiley appeared on The Tom Joyner Morning Show and stated that some black leaders had begun “singing a new hymn” and hadn’t given him the sheet music to sing along. Some have said that Smiley was reacting to a recent meeting between Sharpton, Ben Jealous of the NAACP and others at the White House to discuss support for the Healthcare and Jobs bills from a Civil Rights perspective. It’s also possible that Tavis was upset about Sharpton’s recent New York Times quote where he said that “Obama was being smart not to ballyhoo a black agenda”.
Whatever the reason, Tavis must have hit the right button and got Al’s perm in a tizzy. And trust, I know from my pre-going natural — there is nothing worse than having your fresh perm get caught out in the rain.
Sharpton stormed into his afternoon radio show like a man on a mission retaliating against Smiley’s morning comments. Before long, Smiley called in to the show and in one of the most candid displays since Jesse’s castration slip, the two men started to throw down. With Smiley shouting out his upcoming conference like Funkmaster Flex on a mixtape and Sharpton getting into his Sunday morning at the pulpit upper range, the debate got heated.
Some coverage of this event has hyped this argument into representative of a major split amongst black leaders. In his piece on The Grio, Dr. Boyce Watkins pointed out that the fight between Smiley and Sharpton was part of “the great black divide” spilling over from the fallout after the Democratic Primary. But you have to wonder — if Hilary could get over losing the primaries and join Obama’s cabinet as Secretary of State, why are our black leaders who did not support Barack’s candidacy in the first place unable to find their own common ground to work and move forward. Frankly, I think this is nothing more than a grandiose argument about who is Obama’s BFF. As my favorite commentator Charles Barley would say, “These guys are lovers, not fighters.”
Ok so let’s be real. No one is coming to blows. Even if Smiley and the Perm were in the same studio, they were not going to get it crackin’. So then what is this? What round are we on again?
I think most people and I have lost count. I’ve come to a point now where I merge these squabbles in with the rapper beef and model catfights. It’s not that I don’t respect these men. They have dedicated years of their lives to furthering the work of Civil Rights and improve the lives of blacks in America. But honestly – Al Sharpton just got into a tweet war with Gilbert Areneas. If the Perm is going after people by @ replying them, I think we all are going to be a little less prone to take these outbursts seriously.
So what are most black people actually concerned with? Let’s see. Black America’s never ending recession?
At the start of this global financial crisis, Algernon Austin wrote in his report for the Economic Policy Institute, that Black America was trapped in a “permanent recession.” The report paints an abysmal picture of life for Black Americans “In the best of times, many African American communities are forced to tolerate levels of unemployment unseen in most white communities.” In a New York Times op- ed, Barbara Ehrenreich and Dedrick Muhammad write: from 2000 to 2007, as black employment decreased by 2.4 percent and incomes declined by 2.9 percent… That was the black recession. What’s happening now is more like a depression.”
Even in the years where most Americans experienced prosperity, Black America has still struggled to achieve success. The truth is that even when the nation as a whole comes out this recession, we will still have a long way to go.
To see the timeline of black unemployment throughout the recession check out www.timetoast.com.
The truth is someone needs to tell Smiley to chill and tell The Perm to relax. The truth is that both men are arguing for the same people, and hoping to bring them out of the economic, social and educational turmoil that is plaguing our community. Instead of the faux-beef, let’s move on to get the work done.