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Soooo, I get a little preoccupied with the cares of life and turn my head for a minute and look what happens.   A couple of prominent black leaders and commentators decide to start beefing with each other.  Tavis Smiley and Al Sharpton egos have collided in a absolutely delightful and entertaining manner.  Tavis jumped it off with this commentary on the Tom Joyner Morning Show Feb. 23, 2010

It’s just really hard not to hear it as an ego driven, self righteous screed. Tavis opens up talking about how he chooses to stand with poor black folk and makes some allusions about taking up his cross. He then basically calls out a number of prominent black folk (Al Sharpton, Ben Jealous, Charles Olgletree, Valerie Jarret, Mark Morial), several of which participated in a discussion with the President at the White House about jobs. He calls them out for giving the President a pass on having a black agenda. He accuses them of misleading black folk by not pressing for a black agenda from our first black president. Then, he goes another step further to announce that he’s calling for a meeting where these called out black folk can come to explain themselves.

The way he presents it, its the Obama apologists team vs. his black agenda team, which includes names like Cornel West, Farrakhan, Barbara Lewis and others. It is amazing to watch Tavis position himself as the designated black accountability moment facilitator for black America and announce this meeting and his invitations to it as though it’s a forgone conclusion that they will show up. But it gets better when Sharpton gets wind of this commentary and calls in to the TJMS show to answer the charge that he’s just singing Obama’s tune.

Sharpton emphatically denounces the charge that he or any of the people in the meeting are actively selling the idea that no “black agenda” need be pursued by this President.  Tavis decides to respond and calls in to Sharpton’s radio show the next day to beard the lion in his den.

Political Season Post Battle Analysis: Rhetorically and factually, Tavis got his clock cleaned. He’s wrong on the merits. Sharpton didn’t say that the President shouldn’t have a black agenda. Didn’t happen.  Sharpton effectively called him on his hubris in trying to place himself in a position to hold black leadership accountable based on his opinions and ideas. Sharpton is missing the boat here too though. For all Shapton’s claim to keeping it real, he is not saying a word about how this administration is sold out to the financial sector for example. Too busy being on the WH invite list and rubbing it in Tavis’s face.  In the end, neither of them has the right of it when it comes to holding the President to some measure of accountability. Tavis is consumed with a self righteous crusade to force the President to pursue a blatant black agenda. Sharpton would have us to believe that he is simply smarter than Tavis and can balance accountability with collaboration in order to be effective, but thats hard to swallow with an administration so sold out to Wall Street, on which point Sharpton has no commentary. I’m willing to bet Sharpton isn’t going to practice any accountability that gets him put off that White House invite list. You know, the one Tavis is permanently off of, though apparently the Clinton’s still roll out the red carpet for him.


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