Tavis Smiley and Dr. Cornel West – two of Black America’s least favorite Negroes right now – have embarked on what they call a “Poverty Tour”. My guess is they plan to criss cross America highlighting  the millions of Americans negatively impacted by the Great Recession. You know, judging by policy choices and enactments on Capitol Hill, I suppose their “tour” is supposed to give a voice to the countless number of Americans still waiting for that rising tide to float their boats.

Now of course given that their are currently 14 million Americans unemployed and a total of 25 million unemployed and underemployed. One can assume that with the nations recent greatest transfer of wealth, that folks would support such a gesture by Smiley and West. In particular, Black folks themselves would be welcoming of such a daunting task of traversing the nation showing the many Black faces not seen represented in the media, as the people affected by the economic meltdown which has left many with no other choice than to eat those Satan Sandwiches sugar-coated turd sandwiches with that extra helping of that not-so-secret fuck you french fries on the side.. But, as usual, some of my people are ignorant. Take my cousins in Detroit a few days ago for example. It seems a few of them were against the “Poverty Tour” making a stop last Monday:

DETROIT (WXYZ) – Detroiters have gathered at the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center to protest an event hosted by Tavis Smiley and Cornel West.

West and Smiley host a nationally syndicated public radio program and have faced sharp criticism for their stance against President Obama. They have launched an event they call the “Poverty Tour.”

Councilwoman Joann Watson is also coming under fire for letting them into City Hall and hosting the presentation.

Both Smiley and West told Action News reporter Val Clark that the event is not an anti-Obama tour, but do say they believe the President hasn’t done enough for the poor.

A spokesperson for the community organization “Detroiters for Better Government” says Detroiters will stand united against this event.

“We will not stand silent as Smiley and West criticize the man who brought us health care reform, one of the greatest accomplishments for the poor in our nation’s history,” says David Stephen. This event has nothing to do with the poor and everything to do with enriching Tavis Smiley. Detroit must send a strong message to Washington that although some elected officials may support this anti-Obama rally on government property, the people do not.”

Now I realize that everyone’s entitled to their opinions; and no, Black folk aren’t as monolithic as we’re perceived.; and no we didn’t all vote for Obama because he was Black – we love his white side too. But if this isn’t the most ignorant stuff I’ve heard coming out of Detroit since the internet smash “It’s So Cold In The D,” then I don’t know what is. Lemme keep it real with you: Detroit is the last city in America that should be against the “Poverty Tour”. Don’t let those Chrysler commercials fool you; shit is jacked up in Detroit. As a matter of fact, the state of Michigan lead the country in unemployment before the Great Recession. And to be totally honest with you. My wife is a Detroit native. In recent years, all of my in-laws (like all Black folks living up north have been doing lately) have moved south to Memphis because things are as tough as they are economically in the city of Detroit. They love Obama like I do, but I doubt they’s pack up next week and move back just on the strength of him signing the Affordable Health Care Act. Shit, they don’t even grocery store chains

This story of protests of the “Poverty Tour” last Monday had me shaking my head for the past few days. But then I woke up today and read what Steve Harvey had to say about it over at theloop21 and I was out done. This brother had the nerve to fo into a rant on his radio show last Monday, and basically called Tavis Smiley and Dr. Cornel West “Uncle Tom,” for conducting this tour which highlights poverty in America. Now I respect all that Harvey has done for the community, and his BET Lifetime Achievement Award speaks volumes, I’m sure. But where does this guy get the nerve to call what these brothers are doing as “Uncle Tom” behavior. If you ask me, to be quite honest, Harvey’s comments directed at Smiley and West comes off like “slave-catcher” behavior to me.

maurice Garland at theloop21 writes:

Earlier this week during his syndicated morning radio show, Steve Harvey went in on Tavis Smiley and Dr. Cornel West for their constant criticisms of President Barack Obama.

After reading an email from a listener who insisted that Smiley and West’s current Poverty Bus Tour was nothing more than a hustle, Harvey added his two cents blasting the duo for using personal vendettas to go out and sully the POTUS’ name.

“I was a huge fan of Cornel West,” he said. “[But] Tavis, I seen him coming a mile away. His anger started when he had a town hall meeting, President Obama couldn’t come because of the campaign trail and he sent Mrs. Obama. He has held that grudge every since.”

To West’s squabbles about not getting extra tickets to Obama’s inauguration, Harvey offered, “Have you ever been invited to the damn inauguration? Did Bush send for you? Did Clinton send for you? Did Reagan send for you?”

He continued, “You don’t have any real basis behind your dislike for this man…you keep masking it saying it’s not about hate. Then what is it about? Poverty existed before January 20, 2008. Where was your damn bus then?”

The Original King of Comedy, Family Feud host and suit designer didn’t stop there. After reading Smiley’s request that Obama join him for “a roundtable for two or three days on poverty,” Harvey joked, “Who in the hell got 2-3 days for your ass? I ain’t got time to sit down with your monkey behind for two, three days, let alone the President of the United States. We got three wars going on, the economy crashing and we going to sit down with Tavis ass for three days?”

Harvey ended the rant insisting that somebody is paying Smiley and West to produce the Poverty Tour, asking “where are you getting the money for these buses?” But not before performing a skit where he said he was the president of UTLO.org (which stands out for “Uncle Tom Look Out”) and that he spotted an “uncle tom” driving a bus.

“Make sure you don’t get on the poverty bus,” he mocked. “Because if you ain’t po’, when you ride the bus, you become po’.”

The problem as I see it, is that Harvey, much like many Black folks, cannot separate criticism of policy from the symbolism of Barack Obama being America’s first Black president. Instead, they take constructive criticism of policy as a personal attack, and a reason to make ad hominem attacks. I could be wrong, but wasn’t there a report recently that surmised the economic reality of people of color in America today? Isn’t it by now a well known fact that the recent debt ceiling deal will further marginalize members of an already marginalized and vulnerable group – that would be, working poor and unemployed folks, of whom most are disproportionately women?

Checkout the audio from Steve Harvey:

I guess it’s too much to think about these things when you have a successful radio radio, television, and literary career pimping Black women with garbage that appeals to their media driven feelings of despair and loneliness. Yeah, highlighting the plight of the dispossessed is bad. But being married two or three times and giving false hope and advice to single women? Umm, not so much.

Listen, I don’t know how much the economy has negatively impacted Steve Harvey. But you can best believe that his Black ass isn’t struggling like the “regular person” in Detroit, and other cities across America. While a large segment og the Black community is struggling to stay afloat, or keep pace with white folks who are twenty times wealthier than we are as we continue to lose what little wealth we’ve accumulated for centuries. It’s a wonder just how we got free back in the days when a few brave souls among us had the courage to say: “Fuck this shit, we ain’t gotta take it anymore!” Not sure if that’s a direct quote from Harriet Tubman, but hopefully you’re intelligent enough to understand unlike a certain horse-teeth-having, ugly-loud-suit-wearing, bald headed, not-so-funny Negro named Steve Harvey, who’s content with us sitting at the back of the bus.

In closing: you can be Black and love Barack Obama all you like; you can seek to protect the symbolism of his presidency all you want from racist attacks. But when you do so, do remember that though he is a Black man with a beautiful Black family. The status quo in America he represents? They damn sure ain’t Black; nor do they sit around worrying about finding jobs. Besides, when exactly did Black folks speaking truth to power become a bad thing in America? After all, don’t we celebrate the birthday of a Black man who got killed for doing the same thing?

Alloew me to make one last point: the poor and “new poor” among us are voters, and are important. In case you didn’t know, nn 2008, Obama won 73 percent of the vote of those earning less than $15,000 a year, 60 percent of those earning between $15,000 and $30,000 and 55 percent of the vote of those earning $30,000 to $50,000. Those were his widest margins of victory of anyincome group and helped to propel him to victory. And as much trouble he is in currently, with the chances of re-election becoming interstingly tougher. Today, there are more people below the poverty line than in 2008; and I’m pretty sure president Obama is going to need all the help he can get in 2012. He might not be able to have a successful push for job creating legislation given the strategy of the GOP. But, he cannot afford to look the part of a defeated lame duck, and expect to win in 2012. It happened to Jimmy Carter, and it can happen again… But y’all don’t hear me tho.

Recommended Reading: In Defense of Tavis and Cornel

  • Norm

    good stuff! I agree with your point that “Harvey, much like many Black folks, cannot separate criticism of policy
    from the symbolism of Barack Obama being America’s first Black
    president.” Surely Black people should be at the front line for drawing attention to poverty. Guess which group has the highest percentage of its members living BELOW the poverty line? Right, Black people. And with Black unemployment on pace to exceed 20% by Nov 2012, guess who should start making noise? Right again! Black people.

    Finally, guess what group is joining the ranks of “poverty” faster than any other? The same group that suffered the greatest “loss of wealth” due to the sub-prime fiasco. A scheme where Black people were specifically and directly targeted by the management of major, global banking entities. Now those homes are gone. So to sit quietly while someone is pissing on your back and telling you it’s rain .. to me is more “Uncle Tom” behavior than speaking truth.

    Never liked those clown suits anyway..

  • This testosterone fest is not accomplishing a damn thing! 

    Barack can be criticized about his policies and the lack of policies. This goes with the job of being the POTUS. If we cannot speak like this then we might as well not vote because we are being discouraged from fully participating in the political process.

    However, I am not impressed with a remix of the same old conversation.  We know who is poor, why they/we are poor, we understand what is not happening up on The HIll to help us-so unless this is a planning meeting to do something-what’s the point?

  • It is indeed the same old argument. However, it’s worse now more than evr. My fear is that without sa push to create jobs, Barack Obama will face an uphill battle trying to get re-elected next year.

  • That’s a good point about how the housing meltdown disproportionately affected Black folks. But I suppose none of that happened. Or they believe the hype about folks living outside of their means and buying more house than they can afford.

  • Bogoa2000

    Enjoy reading this truth.

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  • Who the FUCK is Harvey any fuckin way?!!

  • Henry Macwhirr

    I agree. Steve Harvey is not the only fellow been played for a sucker by the Wall Street folks that created the Obama phenomenon. People who are defending Obama’s actions just because he is slightly black need to be reminded of something. They should be evaluating Obama’s presidency based not on the color of his skin, but on the content of his character.

  • radd civil

                                    TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF…..

  • Anonymous

                                                    TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF…

  • MzAppletini

    I agree with your point as well.  It’s unfortunate that we’re made to feel speaking out is a betrayal of Obama.  Do you think the Latino or Gay communities would give him a pass if he was Latino or Gay?  I doubt it.  If not now (when we supposedly have one of our one in the White House), then when??  Do we have to keep silent until there’s another non-Black in the White House??

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  • Words from the biggest Tom of all.

  • Hop7169

    Well if whites don’t look out for poor blacks and black officials are not obligated too. Then what the hell are we voting for. Its the 21st century and we are still at the back door waiting for leftovers and scraps. Remember Obamas black because whites don’t except you if you have one percent other in you. Everybody’s talking about a health care plan that dosen’t take affect until 2014. Keep fall for the color game. I agree with these brothers fully and seems like they are the only civil rights leaders left. Big Al has completely sold out  thinking this is his best and last chance at a political career, so he’s kissing a lot of ass. I commend these brother at least someone still looking out. As you can see we are our on worst enemy. Detroit has become a shit hole of america since the factories have closed crime infested high black on black crimes and you bastered want to protest someone standing up for you. PLEASE!!!

  • Anonymous

    Aww, the High Inquistor of Coonville is trying to call a spade a spade? Somebody toss his ass a mirror. Steve Harvey is the Sylvia Browne of relationship experts: he can tell folks the same old shyt they’ve heard and they’ll think it’s a sieve of wisdom. 
    Good point though. People are so involved in what Obama represents that they can’t critique him as an individual. Almost every time I’ve been in a debate with a fellow brotha or sistah the first thing they talk about his status as the first black POTUS rather than his terrible compromises and failure to address the needs of our people. Until they can see Obama realistically, I doubt they’ll ever understand how serious this situation is.

  • Anonymous

    Terrific essay, Rippa. Very little I can add other than Harvey made some Indian jokes once that pissed me the fuck off, so confirmation that he really is an asshole is music to my ears.

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  • You are absolutely correct: people are way too enamored with the fact that Obama is the POTUS. He is a black man. But, that does not make him exempt from criticism. While it is true that Tavis Smiley has a disdain for Obama, you can’t say the same for Cornel West. Cornel is doing what Cornel does. So, just let that be said.