Tavis Smiley is furious that President Obama has not done more to combat racism in America, and that anger was on full display Monday night. On his self-titled PBS program, Smiley unleashed a pair of long-winded leftist rants barely disguised as questions to his guest, Dr. Tricia Rose from Brown University.
Rose, who directs Brown’s Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, had suggested that Obama was incapable of ending structural racism in America by himself. Hearing that, Smiley erupted: “[I]f you’re right about this, then what the heck is the value of us celebrating a black president?” [Video below. MP3 audio here.]
Apparently Smiley had rather high hopes when President Obama was elected. He continued:
"But all of this hoopla about his being the first black president, if it doesn’t redound to you in some meaningful way when your back is to the wall and your babies are being shot dead in the streets, if it doesn't redound to you in some meaningful way at that point... what is the value of having a black president?"
It seems a bit dramatic to wail about “babies being shot dead in the streets.” Trayvon Martin was not exactly a baby – not in the same way that Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s victims were babies, but then abortion is a sacred cow for the left, even when it's done in a way that targets poor black neighborhoods.
It is clear that Smiley wanted Obama to be a crusader for the black community, a sort of hero who could start a nationwide conversation about race that would eventually end racism in America. He wanted Obama to be the president of and for black people, but instead, Obama has just been a president who happens to be black. But to the extent that Obama hasn’t fought for the interests of the African American community, he is not black enough for taxpayer-subsidized host Tavis Smiley.
In a separate, longer rant, Smiley expressed his frustration with the president’s response to the Zimmerman acquittal using an interesting simile: “[T]he president's statement -- let me just be frank about how I feel about it. His statement about this was as weak as pre-sweetened Kool-Aid.”
Smiley chastised Obama’s refusal to lead America in a “real conversation about race,” despite getting repeatedly “slapped upside the head” by racially charged incidents. The host fumed: “He is no longer up for reelection. He is safely in a second term, and yet we still get this milquetoast statement out of the White House about this when the majority, the most loyal part of his base, which is African American, is now looking to his administration, to his justice department to do something about it.”
It was almost painful to watch Smiley come to terms with the fact that President Obama is not the black activist Smiley had hoped he would be when he was elected.
Below are transcripts of the full rants:
TAVIS SMILEY: There are two things that have struck me as interesting over the last 24, 48 hours about the path forward with regard to the Obama administration and black people and the issue of race and this case. Number one, African Americans now have to rely on an African American attorney general, the first African American attorney general if this case is going to have any additional life. Now I could be wrong about this; I pray that I am. I don't think that’s going to happen. The irony is, for all the jumping up and down, for all the celebrating, for all the speaking in tongues, for all the adulation and adoration of this administration, black people are now, who care about this case – and not just black folk, people across the board, but since we’re talking about black folk in particular – African Americans now are in an interesting position of having to rely on a black president and a black attorney general to do something about what happened here and I don’t think it’s going to happen for a lot of reasons, including some legal reasons, which we won't get into right now. But the point is I don't think it’s going to happen, even though that’s who they have to rely on. Secondly, though – that’s an interesting irony to me. But the second thing here is that the president's statement -- let me just be frank about how I feel about it. His statement about this was as weak as pre-sweetened Kool-Aid. Now black folk who drink pre-sweetened Kool Aid will understand exactly what I mean by that, but it was weak. Now, it was politically correct, but as much as Barack Obama has tried to avoid the race question in his first and second term, he keeps getting slapped upside the head with all of these cases and these incidents that open the door that give him an opportunity to lead America in a real conversation about race. He’s punted that opportunity every single time. He is no longer up for reelection. He is safely in a second term, and yet we still get this milquetoast statement out of the White House about this when the majority, the most loyal part of his base, which is African American, is now looking to his administration, to his justice department to do something about it. And everybody’s doing that with bated breath. That’s a commentary that was way too long, but I want your thought – and I admit that, but again, I can’t be dispassionate about this at this point because I am a black male and I have seven younger brothers who are black males, and so forgive me for that little speech. But the point here is I want to get to your take on, since you went there, how our body politic, and specifically the Obama administration, responds to this ‘cause this is not just an isolated incident.
SMILEY: Let me push back on that in two regards. Number one being, if you’re right about this, then what the heck is the value of us celebrating a black president? Just say he’s the first person of color. But all of this hoopla about his being the first black president, if it doesn’t redound to you in some meaningful way when your back is to the wall and your babies are being shot dead in the streets, if it doesn't redound to you in some meaningful way at that point, number one, what is the value of having a black president? And number two, when it served his purpose during the campaign to have a talk about race from Constitution Hall, I believe, in Philadelphia, but certainly it was in Philadelphia, when it was to his benefit to talk about race in the campaign to try and put some distance between him and Jeremiah Wright, he gave what many still regard as the most brilliant speech of his political career about race. So he did talk about it back in the day. So my question – I'm not asking him to do anything – I’m not asking him for a higher standard. I’m not asking him to do anything I wouldn't ask another president to do. Bill Clinton had a race commission. So I’m not trying to be unfair to the president, I’m just saying you have talked about race before, and if you are the president and you are the best person to help usher us into a conversation about this, why not do it?