Like most black people I used to like and admire both Tavis Smiley and Cornel West a great deal, but after they made public fools of themselves on the very day that Barack Obama announced his intention to run for president, I decided to do a little research into them instead of simply buying into the hype. Not long thereafter it started to become clear that their images were merely facades that hid highly ambitious, self-serving, and untrustworthy clowns of the worst kind, and that assessment is not based merely upon my opinion. The most cursory review of the facts will easily bear that out.

I found that Tavis is the most prolific corporate shill in the Black community, and he’s closely involved with some of the most exploitive corporations of working class people in the country. So I began to ask myself, how can his so-called concern for the poor and middle class coexist with his association with Walmart, Nationwide Insurance, and other corporate manipulators of the poor and middle class?


“One thing that caught my eye was the picture of Nationwide because it’s personal. Sharon’s sister was blind-sided by a drunk, uninsured motorist. Donna had been paying uninsured motorist insurance though Nationwide for years. Donna was barely conscious in the hospital when a Nationwide rep showed up with a document he told Donna to sign because it would pay the ambulance fees (about $4-5,000). Donna had broken arms, broken ribs and other major injuries. Donna barely scribbled her initials and the guy left. Several weeks later, when she got out of the hospital, her bill was in the tens of thousands of dollars. Required Physical would add thousands more, all within her policy limits. Nationwide refused to pay, citing Donna’s initials on what she was told was the ambulance and ER bills. Donna was unable to have physical therapy and had to file bankruptcy. Like Sharon, Donna is an American Indian (Cherokee), lives in the country and knew/knows nothing about lawyers. By the time we found out, Nationwide’s weird statute of limitations had run out and they were legally “off-the-hook”. Donna is crippled and debilitated to this day.

“Nationwide IS NOT on your side. They are scumbags to be avoided AT ALL COSTS! You have my permission to use this if you wish to help your community. Tom”

I also began to ask myself how Tavis could possibly claim to be concerned about the plight of Black people, and then seek to pad his pocket by promoting R. Kelly, a man who became more famous for his alleged appearance in a graphic underground video of himself molesting a 14 year-old Black child, than for his musical ability? Sure, Kelly beat the case, but the video is still out there, and it is what it is (read here).

And then there’s Cornel West, a man who’s literally made a career of spewing the depth of his love for his people to anyone who will listen, for a fee. With West, it’s always brother this, or my dear brother that, yet, as badly as we need educators in the Black community, he has never taught at a school that more than 1% of Black people could afford to attend in his entire career? If he loves his people so much, why isn’t he teaching third grade in the hood, or at the very least, instructing young people at one of the many Historically Black Colleges or Universities? Isn’t teaching poor and middle-class students prestigious enough for him? Doesn’t he love his people enough to want to see them well educated? I guess not, because while his incessantly running mouth says one thing, his behavior says another. It seems that he would much rather preach us a sermon than live us one.

While it seems that West can’t inconvenience himself to the point of busting a grape when it comes to helping to educate Black children, he wants us to believe that he loves the Black community so much that he was forced to join forces with Ralph Nader and help to elect George Bush in the 2000 election. Bush won by 537 votes. The Nader-West coalition peel off 97,488 votes in Florida alone. But, of course, West only hepled to usher in the Bush-Cheney era, and the misery that it brought to the Black community, in the interest of political chastity, you understand.

But as horrific as that episode was, for me, its hypocrisy is more than rivaled by West’s mere association with Tavis Smiley. In this latest coalition, West reminds me of a guy running down the street ranting about fascism after just having lunch with Mussolini. But many Black people can’t seem to see that, because they’ve been so bedazzled by the hype over Cornel’s resume that even though he doesn’t make a bit of sense most of the time, they assume that he must be saying something so profound that their limited education is causing them to miss the point. But what point could possibly be missing when a man advocates that you become so disgusted with the Bogeyman that you should go out and elect the Devil? Dumb is dumb, even if it comes from Princeton.

So my distaste for these two individuals run far, far deeper than their criticism of President Obama. The fact is, I’ve written several articles criticizing the president myself – as I do with every president – but I make sure that my criticisms are constructive, issue-specific, and I ALWAYS make sure that I afford the president all of the respect that he’s due. But the thrust of Tavis and West’s criticisms of President Obama are neither issue-specific, nor constructive. In fact, in the case of Cornel West, his criticisms are not only less than constructive, but they hover around a level of immaturity approaching The Dozens. So for the most part, Tavis and West are simply running around saying, “This guy ain’t no good and he can’t be trusted,” under the guise of being concerned about poverty.  But if you listen closely, after you get past all of the misleading rhetoric and disinformation, you’ll find that the  bottom line is, they’re campaigning for the Republicans as a cure for poverty, and you don’t get no dummer than that.  So we’re dealing with one of two things here – either they’re two turncoats, or they’re so dumb that they shouldn’t be allowed to hold a microphone.

Thus, their mantra about “attacking the messagener” notwithstanding, I’d like to hereby assure both, Tavis and West, and the world, that my raging distaste for them has absolutely nothing to do with their criticizing Obama. My distaste for these two individuals is a direct result of what I perceive as a gaping flaw in their character. So I am far less concerned about WHAT they’re saying, than I am about WHY they’re saying it. Because it’s the “WHY” that’s so toxic to the Black community.

I’ve been around long enough to recognize that as African Americas, we’re products of the very same racist environment as White people. As a result, many of us are just as racist toward other Black people as any Hillbilly, and that’s exactly what I see in Tavis Smiley and Cornel West. I’ve never forgotten the very valuable lessons that I learned from the FBI’s “Cointelpro” operation launched during the sixties to destroy the civil rights movement.

During that time the FBI scattered turncoats, snitches, and provocateurs all through the Black community to intice us to destroy ourselves. I was just a kid, but I learned something I’ll never forget during that period – always keep your eye on the ones who are always looking, acting, and talking the most militant. That’s why Cornel West immediately got my attention. I also learned that a good rule of thumb when dealing with such people is to ignore what they say, and simply watch what they do. In that regard, what are Tavis and West doing at this very moment? As we speak, they’re campaigning in the battleground states against Obama, and for the Republican Party.

So it has long since become clear to me that these two are not the least bit concern about poverty. They’re simply using the term “poverty”as a convenient metaphor to misdirect the people. You see, once their criticism of President Obama backfired on them in Black community, Tavis and West had to find a way to spread their anti-Obama message without generating so much heat. So they simply started using the word “poverty” as a metaphor for “Obama,” much like the Republicans use the word “welfare” as a metaphor for “Black people.” So now, instead of saying, “Don’t vote for Obama, they just use the word  “poverty” to IMPLY that Obama’s presidency is inadequate. It’s an old psychological technique right out of the Republican playbook.

You see, Tavis and West’s motives are exactly the same as Herman Cain’s, but they’re coming from a different direction. At least Herman Cain was honest enough to come at us as a Republican, but Tavis and West are so arrogant that they think the Black community is stupid, so they’re trying to use reverse psychology. Where Herman Cain’s message was, “Black people need to start voting Republican so the two parties will have to fight for their vote,” Tavis and West are playing us stupid in a different way. They’re using militant rhetoric in order to get us to cut our own throats. They’re trying to make unsophisticated voters so disgusted with Obama that they don’t vote – and as every sophisticated voter knows, every Democrat who doesn’t vote translates into a vote for the Republicans.  So like I said, it’s Cointelpro, revisited – the use of Trojan Horses to divide and conquer.

Tavis and West are currently wrapping themselves in the legacy of Malcolm, Martin, and every other historic Black figure they can think of in order to send the message that Obama’s not being Black enough. Yet, in doing so, they know full well that it’s impossible for President Obama to become more strident in pursuit of exclusively Black issues, because then, the Republicans would use it as a weapon to tear away his White support – and he can’t get anything done without White support. Just imagine what the Black response would be if a White President said, “I’ve got to put things on hold for a moment so I can do something for White people.” Black people would go berserk, but essentially, that’s exactly what Tavis and West are demanding that Obama do – but again, just like the Republicans – they’re making their demand in race related buzz words.

So Tavis and West have President Obama in a position where if he continues to be the president of ALL the people, as he should be, they’re going to divide his Black support; but if he caters to their call for him to pay special attention to the Black community, he’s going to have two problems – congress is going to dig in, so he won’t be able to get anything passed, and beyond that, it’s going to divide his White support. So instead of doing everything they can to help improve the condition of the poor and middle class (Black and White), Tavis and West are playing silly, self-serving little games to divide the people, help the Republicans, and promote their own meanspirited agenda.

So why are Tavis and West playing these games when they know it’s hurting both the country, and the administration of the first Black President of the United States?

It’s simple – for spite. As I mentioned previously, since Black people are a product of the very same racist environment as White people, many Black people have attitudes that are just as arrogant, condescending, and racist toward other Blacks as any White racist, and this is clearly the case with Tavis and West. They think that they’re above us, and that we’re undereducated and politically unsophisticated idiots that they can play to their advantage.

You see, contrary to what they would have you believe, these two don’t love Black people – they think they OWN us. They don’t see us as people. They see us as a commodity to be manipulated, bartered and sold. That explains why Tavis and West are so upset with President Obama. When he went around them to get our vote, as far as they’re concerned he stole something from them.

If you go back and review the video of Cornel West ranting over the fact that Obama decided to hold a press conference to announce his intent to run for President of the United States instead of attending Tavis Smiley’s “State of the Black Union” broadcast, you’ll notice a clear sense of entitlement (click here). West takes the position that when Obama failed to come on Tavis’s show, he turned his back on the entire Black community. I’d never heard such balloon-headed arrogance in my life! When was Tavis Smiley appointed the Grand Vizier of the Black community?
Tavis and West was clearly under the impression that they OWNED the Black community, and when Sen. Obama went around them to announce his intent to run for president instead of coming on the show and asking, “Mother may I?,” it constituted a slight to their authority, and a huge failure in protocol on Obama’s part. They obviously believed that the proper thing for Obama to do was to come on the show and ask for their permission to BORROW their Black votes. Who the hell do they think they are? Even now, they’re trying to force Obama to meet with them. We’ve got to bring these two down Earth.
This bears repeating. Tavis and West hate Obama because in their tremendous arrogance they feel like he stole something from them – us, Black voters. They felt that they had us in their pocket like a commodity to be bought and sold, and they were right. They were, and they or, making money off of us. Large corporations, like Walmart, would come to Tavis Smiley and ask, “How much would you charge to deliver the Black community to us?” And he would tell them. So while Tavis and West speak of “loving their people,” that’s not exactly what it is. They don’t see us as their loved ones – they see us as their whoes, and the evidence of that is glaring.


Tavis’ Solicitation To Corporate Sponsors (like Nationwide)

“Tavis Smiley builds brand identification and strengthens your corporate image. Sponsors benefit from the “HALO EFFECT” of being associated with PBS and NPR and its mission to make a meaningful contribution to our community. Nearly 85% of consumers believe such HIGHER-PURPOSE, CAUSE-RELATED marketing creates a positive image for sponsors. And almost two-thirds of PBS viewers and NPR listeners are MORE LIKELY TO PURCHASE the product or service of a PBS or NPR underwriter.”

As for West, the man is greedy, immature, and petty. He complained because “The guy who carried my bags into the hotel” got tickets to the inauguration and he didn’t. Wouldn’t you think that a person who fights for equality would love the symbolism of a worker getting into the inauguration of the President of the United States? But not Cornel, he felt slighted and insulted – he felt that he was BETTER than the HELP. And when Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry got the job with MSNBC. Wouldn’t you think a man who fought for equality would love seeing another intelligent Black female voice getting national exposure? But not Cornel. He made a public statement, calling her a liar and a fraud. How did that promote the interest of the black community? And is that the behavior of an enlightened intellectual? I don’t think so.

We’ve got to bring this kind of petty, self-serving, Black-on-Black racism to an end. That’s why it’s time to boycott Tavis Smiley, Cornel West, and any corporation, product, or media outlet that’s associated with them. After over 400 years of manipulation, it’s time to send one message loud and clear – THE BLACK COMMUNITY IS NOT FOR SALE! And we’re not going to tolerate ANYONE thinking that they can walk around with us in their pocket.

  • I stopped watching (and DVRing) Tavis Smiley’s show some years ago because of his seemingly incessant criticism of the President. Most black people know that a black President has to operate from the center left to get anything done. If we step back and consider what accusations would fly from the opposition if he targeted the black community, perhaps Smiley wouldn’t be such a critic. As for West, his over-the-top brother this and sister that is dated and lame. That language went out with the term “Negro”. And I fully agree with your assessment of Smiley and West’s dis-ingenuousness with what they espouse and what they actually stand for. I will not go see West on his speaking tour nor support any program they jointly present.

  • GrannyStandingforTruth

    Preach it! You nailed it! BTW, Eric, I always enjoy reading your articles.

  • GrannyStandingforTruth

    During the sixties, you may have been a kid, but you were very observant and wise kid. I was a grown woman back then and know firsthand that what you stated about the Cointelpro operation was the truth and exactly how it went down.

  • jusayin

    The continued bucthering of the english language, run on sentences and misspelled words in the above article only encourages other minorities to jump on the bandwagon of imbecility.

  • I’m so glad you said what I have been thinking since they came together in the name of “We’ll show Obama”. I never believed in them when they were solosits and I definitely don’t believe in them as a duo!

  • happy

    if all black people boycotted tavis and corneal tonight, would the live quality of black people improve tomorrow, a week, a year later?

  • GrowUp

    You’re the imbecile. Your comment has absolutely nothing to do with the subject matter. Go find a different forum to ignorantly comment on.

  • PokeHerCuntas

    yo-yo I am outta heah. I call bullshit on that nationwide story there has got to be more to it, imagine an Indian getting hit by an uninsured drunk driver and an insurance company visiting you in the hospital with bills that you just incurred..hospitals don’t bill you for ambulance and ER services if you haven’t even left the hospital yet dimwit. Barack is the one who thinks he owns everyone, he gave you record levels of poverty and unemployment and you still are going to vote for him. Moron.

  • They are not racist. They have a different point of view. All blacks don’t think a like just like all whites don’t. I love all my people even the ones I don’t agree with. For the record I agree with most of the things Dr West and Tavis say and have done for the black community. They are free thinkers….Not puppets.

  • @Eric L Wattree. Isn’t the ideal to get a piece of the pie. The companies you listed that sponsor Tavis employee more blacks and take more black dollars than any other companies. I don’t know a single black person that does not shop at Walmart……That is not really a bad thing. Should we only support and be supported by black businesses. No… They want to hold Pres Obama accountable. He would never be in the white house with out support of the same people he bailed out. I find your name calling unproductive and childish. Critique the ideals or positions of the people Don’t call names…..

  • For the record, questionable sponsorship aside, I don’t agree with much in this article. I think that anyone who cannot “get” where Smiley & West is coming from hasn’t been paying attention. The truth is, there are corporate ties to the media. To that point, it’s wise to understand that Smiley is no different. But maybe if one can show me a truly independent black-owned media entity funded by nothing but grassroots supporters. If so, then I’ll kiss your ass on Main Street.

    The real irony of this post, is that while it takes both Smiley & West to task, both political parties haven’t said a peep about the poor. I’m sorry brother, nut Obama even said it himself the other day: you can’t change Washington from inside Washington — it takes people from the outside. This is as true today as it has always been. Whether you like it or not, theirs is in the tradition of democracy.

    No different from Dr. Martin Luther Kung Jr., if you ask me.

    Lastly my brother: it’s disingenuous to say that they’re campaigning for Republicans. If they are, it would be nice if you can provide evidence to support what you say. If not, then I’m afraid that you’re guilty of the disinformation that you despise.Which you failed to show and prove, BTW.

  • Anyone willing to accept the presidency should be willing to accept criticism, it goes with the job.

  • jusayin

    I’ll be back.

  • jusayin

    martin luther kung? Get a dictionary chump.

  • I love the article..Thank You!!!

  • jusayin

    Don’t judge me according to your ignorance. I see that your a person of ignominious origin. I like this forum quite well.

  • Great piece Eric!

  • re: “I see that *your* a person of ignominious origin.” …

    –Since you’ve opted to derail, by citing grammatical errors as a way to troll and all, I figured I’d point out that you’ve used *your* [used to describe something as belonging to you] in the wrong context. I believe the word you want is YOU’RE [the contraction of YOU ARE]… as in, “I see YOU ARE a person of ignominious origin…”
    You might want to make sure YOU’RE up on YOUR homophones before you try to crucify someone for their grammar mistakes.