Who put Tavis Smiley in charge?Over the past two months African Americans have emerged as equal partners in a multi-racial, intergenerational, bipartisan, national coalition led by the most exciting political candidate of the past four decades, who also happens to be the first viable African-American presidential possibility in our history. So why is Tavis Smiley throwing a temper tantrum?
He is mad because Obama has not promised to attend Smiley’s “State of the Black Union” next week in New Orleans. At last year’s SOTBU Al Sharpton, Cornel West and others joined Tavis is roundly criticizing Obama for not attending. Where was Barack that weekend? Oh yeah, he was announcing his bid for the US presidency. This year, Obama is busy trying to win Texas, which has emerged as the firewall sate for the Hillary Clinton campaign. Obama wins Texas; Hillary goes home. But Tavis and company think Obama should spend precious hours chatting with them about their agenda?
Let me be clear. I respect the importance of the SOTBU. Tavis performs an essential public service by creating and reproducing a critical black counter-public through this event. The event is decidedly democratic because it is open to a true variety of black voices. Every year it showcases black intellect, commitment and ideological diversity. All this is great, but it doesn’t make Tavis the gatekeeper. It certainly doesn’t give him the right to act as King-Maker or in this case Queen-Maker.