A couple of weeks ago Rev. Al Sharpton and other prominent African Americans (including NAACP head Benjamin Jealous and Council of Negro Women President Dorothy Heights) were invited to the White House to discuss President Obama’s job bill. Afterwards some of them suggested that Obama would be better off not explicitly touting a “black agenda”. Both Tavis Smiley and Cornel West have attacked such a position, arguing that an explicit call for a black agenda is necessary given how hard blacks have been hit by the new economic normal (some have called it a “crisis” but this presumes that what we’re looking at is somehow temporary).
After the meeting, Tavis Smiley called into the Tom Joyner show, and strongly criticized what he understood to be Sharpton’s comments. Sharpton responded in turn, and this led to a heated exchange between Smiley and Sharpton on Sharpton’s radio show.
It also led to a thoughtful piece by Cornel West.
I had a chance to talk to Dedrick Muhammad briefly about this issue. Although I think there’s a tendency to take something like this and examine it through the lens of ego, particularly given the individuals involved, Tavis and West are on point.