Perusing different blogs, I came upon this article on The Huffington Post, "Obama Skipping African-American Event, Stirs Controversy." I clicked on the title and read the article about the senator declining Tavis Smiley's invitation to attend the annual The State of the Black Union conference held in New Orleans this year. When I went back to read some of the comments, I could not believe the level of vitriol directed at Mr. Smiley from supporters of Sen. Obama. It was like I'd thrown a bloody piece of meat right in the middle of a school of sharks.
The animus expressed towards Tavis Smiley had me scratching my head wondering, "Why in the world can't Obama supporters be FOR their candidate on the issues without caustic attacks on those who may or may not be for him?" I thought "not tearing people down" was one of the keystones of his campaign.
I'd not heard anything about this tiff until I read it on HuffPo. After so many versions of what happened kept popping up - each one larger and larger, I tried to find out if Tavis had addressed it in his own words. And he did. Here's the link: http://www.blackamericaweb.com/tavis/021408.html. I offered it in my comment on HuffPo saying, "At least when you chew him up and swallow him whole, it'll be based on his own words. Whether you like him or not, believe in what he's doing or not, what's going on here is certainly not the best of us - or is it?"
I received an interesting comment to my comment from an on-the-fence Obama supporter. Here's the text:
"I for one am not an Obama supporter...yet, I prefered Edwards. And just looking at the link you posted makes my blood boil. Exactly where is blackamerica located? What is it's population; it's system of government? I checked the CIA factbook and couldn't find it. Apparently it's leaders appoint themselves and include all black people as it's citizens by default without there consent. Put I am quite certain that the present election is no being run to be the president of blackamerica. Besides from what I see it's a dictatorship anyway, always telling it's citizens what to think and do."
I firmly believe in everyone's right to have an opinion and this comment required I have mine. So I replied:
I posted the link as I said, because if you like him or hate him at least complain based on the straight story, not something you heard. Michelle Obama was never offered as a replacement speaker as everybody here keeps saying. That it made your blood boil is totally on you, it is what it is - his explanation.
You checked the CIA factbook - cute. Try the declassified FBI factbook then, there's plenty information there. Black America is in the neighborhoods being gentrified; it's in those stores where they're followed around like they're stealing and they just walked in; it's in those homes where there are two hardworking parents unable to earn a living wage but are accused of being slackers; it's in those homes where single, hardworking mothers are raising their children and being called welfare mothers or worse because there's no "father" in the home; it's in those neighborhoods where decent, affordable housing does not exist; it's in those places of employment where the often over-qualified are seen as affirmative action hires; it's in those places where the go-fast boat owners bringing in the drugs serve less time, if any, than the street hustlers they hire to peddle their dope; it's in those public schools in horrible states of disrepair with old books and 30-40 kids to a class at times; it's in those neighborhoods where Driving While Black will still get you pulled over; it's in those banks where my interest rate will be higher than yours though our credit scores and incomes are the same; it's in those churches which still are the most segregated places in America; etc., etc., etc.
But as has been stated over and over again, we are not a monolith. But it does include all those Black Americans of African descent whose common bond is the color of their skin. Don't misunderstand me, there are some of us who'd prefer to forget the least of us, but it includes them too, don't get it twisted.
There are leaders for some who feel the need for them. That is hardly Black-specific. That what you see is a dictatorship always telling it's "citizens" what to think and do is your right, however I submit that after hundreds of years of slavery followed by Jim Crow and James Crow Esquire, Black America has a right to want to tell their own stories, share their own insights and offer their own solutions just as the immigrants who came to America ON the boat rather than IN the boat.
I preferred Edwards as well, voted for him in my non-primary in FL. Why? Because he at least had the courage to publicly acknowledge all of the above without fear of retribution (though retribution is exactly the reason I feel he's watching this race instead of being in it) and demand accountability for the mistakes that have been made in this country (that demand thing didn't sit too well with the status quo). I agree with the poster who said there are no easy answers and no, a day-long conference will not solve all our problems, but let's not pretend that electing a Black man for president will either.
The comment, along with the hundreds posted under the afore-mentioned article, seems indicative of the thoughts of many of his supporters (and almost-supporters). I came away from their comments feeling they somehow think electing the senator will confirm the irrelevance of "Black America" and the issues many of us still face; like he'll magically stir us all up in that old "melting pot" and Voila! We'll have a nice bowl of soup with everything forgotten and nothing having been done about any of it.
First of all, I prefer a bowl of tossed salad to a bowl of soup any day. I kind of like the distinct taste and look that each of my ingredients brings to the bowl. And secondly? After Jim Jones, that Kool-Aid thing just ain't that great.