Last week, civil leaders from throughout the Black community came together in New York City to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network. While it was President Obama’s appearance at the organization’s gala that got many people talking, it was a debate between Sharpton and Dr. Cornel West that took center stage Sunday afternoon.

In a televised panel titled “A Stronger America: The Black Agenda,” Sharpton, West, were joined by NAACP President, Ben Jealous, Democratic Strategist, Karen Finney, TheGrio columnist Jeff Johnson, the National Urban League’s Marc Morial and journalist Karen Hunter, among others. The discussion was moderated by MSNBC anchor Ed Schultz- an odd pick for the cable news network whose midday programming is anchored by a female reporter of color, Tamron Hall.

When the discussion turned to the subject of Black leadership, Sharpton and West got into a heated argument on the role the first African-American President has played in the efforts to improve conditions among Blacks in America.

The scene of two black men arguing on television could have proved cringe worthy, but the dialogue between the two men seemed to be coming from a genuine place of concern and care. Both Sharpton and West have placed their communities needs at the forefront of their careers and their debate seemed driven by that prioritization than anything else. However, in a forum meant to bring together thought leaders from within the community, their disagreement highlights a major rift that has formed in with the ascention of Barack Obama from legislator to executive power.

President Obama’s administration has been criticized for not doing enough for Black people. It has been criticized for dealing with race only in instances where a higher economic class pushed an issue onto the President’s periphery as in the case of the wrongful arrest of Henry Louis Gates. But the President has also become a marker in a debate that it is unclear how he can contribute to: the varying views of his so-called obligation to fellow African-Americans.

Though heated, the debate is a necessary one if only to serve as a display of the myriad of viewpoints within the Black community concerning the role of its leadership in its future.

What are your thoughts on Sharpton and West’s great debate? Was it a civil disagreement or another show of nasty infighting? Give us your take Clutchettes- share your thoughts!

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  • Clnmike

    They needed a strong moderator to bring them down a notch and focus.

  • EH

    What started out as an interesting point of view turned out to be a crap on match. I can see being passionate about your views of the White House and the frustration of what’s not being improved upon, but common guys, this was rediculous. This became a personal attack on each others character. They threw jabs and underlying remarks about who is doing what and when.

    By the way… what was the question??? What is the Black Agenda? Did they ever get around to answering it?

  • gs

    And so it goes… the ushering in of the new golden age of “Jerry Springer style” political journalism ….seen right here on the Black Agenda. They knew EXACTLY (*exactly*) what they were doing when they put this foolishness together. The point of this whole segment was not to bring real light and solutions to “the black problems” but to “info-tain” white audiences away from tuning into the screaming matches seen on Fox news. The only difference is that its not on CSPAN 3.5 at 3am hosted by Tavis Smiley at some random HBCU where white people can conveniently miss it. Its just a shame that we can’t get it together long enough to be “solution-oriented” (*thanks ganstalicious*) enough so that the few well-meaning white people aren’t confused about where to send the check.

    • Demita C.

      THIS. Better than I can say it myself.


  • Richard J. Smith

    When any two people argue like this in public, it is impossible to tell which one is the fool.
    This was unseemly and unproductive behavior.
    And I would say the same of any two individuals on any topic.
    As far as Sharpton and West are concerned, in my opinion,
    nothing from nothing leaves nothing.
    Add in President Obama, and the sum is still nothing.
    Not that it matters, but I take great pride in being black.

    • kim