barbarahowardweb.gifIsn’t it strange that those who make their living making fun of other people or ridiculing others or making nasty comments about them can’t stand having people do the same to them? 

Tavis Smiley made a name for himself as a political commentator and “leader” in the black community.   His regular appearance on the Tom Joyner Morning Show and BET, along with his yearly State of the Black Union and the Covenant with Black America brought him international fame.

His hard-hitting commentary on race and politics has been his calling card and has given him great status in the African-American community, particularly because he has blamed most of its problems on institutional racism and “substandard educational and economic opportunities for inner-city black youth.”

But his vitriolic rants about President George W. Bush and Republicans, particularly black Republicans, endeared him to his mostly black and Democratic audience.

Until recently, Smiley has only gotten criticism from Republicans like conservative talk show host Larry Elder and me.

I remember meeting Tavis Smiley several years ago, and after exchanging trite pleasantries, I complimented him on his success. Then I informed him that there were several of his positions with which I disagreed.

You would have thought that I had slapped him.  He looked at me with such disdain as if to say, “How dare you.” 

So I did to him what I normally do to those who are full of themselves. I walked away.

So imagine my astonishment when I found out that black folk had turned on him. Funny – they loved him as long as he talked bad about white folk and black Republicans.

But this time Mr. Smiley had crossed the line.  He had gone off script.  He talked bad about Barack Obama – big time.

And black folk talked back.  So much so that Tavis quit the Tom Joyner Morning Show.  Tavis said it was because of his busy schedule, but Tom Joyner said it was because he couldn’t stand the “hate from the black people he loves so much.”

Dr. Boyce Watkins, noted black author, social commentator and Blue Ribbon Speaker, wrote (see that “many African-Americans felt that Tavis Smiley’s love for Hillary Clinton, in conjunction with his disdain for Senator Obama, was a function of Ms. Daisy having paid off the help to get some good black support.”

Watkins said that it was wrong and “incredibly unfair” because Tavis Smiley attacked and tried to embarrass every black leader, especially Obama, for not showing up at his State of the Black Union forums.


Wow!! How quickly they turn on you.  Funny how it didn’t matter how nasty Tavis Smiley got with Republicans or whether anything he said was true or not.  

But when he accused Obama of the “maltreatment” of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, among other things, the black folk who normally hung onto Tavis’ every word came after him with a vengeance.

He finally got what he dished out and couldn’t take it.  He couldn’t take the same hate that he gave out.  He couldn’t man up when he stopped getting the love.

Some even called him a coward. You know, it takes courage to stand in the midst of criticism. 

Example: Tavis Smiley talked bad about John McCain, but McCain showed more courage than Tavis Smiley did.  Courage is going to the Lorraine Motel on the 40th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s death, knowing you were going to be booed.

Tavis Smiley couldn’t stand to be booed, so he packed up his little toys and went home.

“Isn’t it strange there are kings and queens and clowns that dance in sawdust rings and ordinary people like you and me, are builders of eternity. Each is given a book of rules, a shapeless mass, and a bag of tools, and each must make or else is flown, a stumbling block or a stepping stone.” –  Author Unknown.

Tavis Smiley tried to make a stumbling block for everyone who didn’t agree with him while building a stepping stone for his career.  Unfortunately, he built his ego out of straw that got blown away by the first ill wind.

Barbara Howard is president of Barbara Howard & Associates and the Florida state chair for C.O.R.E. (the Congress of Racial Equality).