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Saturday, November 28, 2020

Self-serving Tavis Smiley needs a dose of soul searching

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I am certainly a fan of freedom of speech. It’s actually something that I hold in high regard, not just because I’m a journalist at heart, but also because everyone should have the right to say what they feel – even if their feelings are polar opposite from mine.

Even in instances where I have a difference of opinion from someone, I still welcome their perspective. If for nothing else, it makes for good conversation and affords me the opportunity to see how others think.

But I must be honest, if a person has a perspective that simply does not make sense or has some sort of a mean agenda associated with it; my patience and willingness to intently listen eventually wanes.

That has been the case with my views of commentator and author Tavis Smiley. My patience and a good portion of respect are gone for Smiley.

Over the years I have watched Smiley go from a balanced public speaker who offered credible and thought-provoking perspective to his analyses to a bitter man who has used his platform to unjustly attack people who, in his opinion, have treated him in a bad or disrespectful manner. It almost seems as if he has had some sort of breakdown over the years that has caused him to speak in a vindictive and erratic manner. Though a breakdown would be a good escape goat, I think Smiley’s true problem is an overinflated ego. When people haven’t done what he thinks they should do, that ego gets bruised and Smiley gets angry. The way he “repays” the “wrongdoers” is he publically talks about them under the guise that he is holding them accountable.

Accountability is a marvelous thing that we all should be held to, but the said conclusions need to be derived from a thorough and fair judgment system. Public accountability cannot hold a personal vendetta.

Smiley’s “accountability standards” of many celebrities and national figures have been based on his personal feelings for those people. That’s why I have a problem with Tavis. He is abusing his platform to display an agenda that is biased and personally-spewed. In doing so, he is not giving the public what they signed up for. As a result Smiley has lost many supporters and sponsors.

He is becoming a crazed, angry Black man who plays the victim role very well – it is everyone else’s fault that sponsors are not advertising, his radio broadcasts are being dropped, and some of his television programs such “Smiley & West” that he co-hosts with Princeton Professor Cornel West, are being cancelled. Everyone else is wrong and he is right…according to Smiley, anyway.

A consistent critic of President Obama, Smiley now contends that the White House “is quietly and systematically” wrecking his initiatives “by pressuring corporate sponsors to drop their support” for Smiley’s projects.

Smiley told the Associated Press that select members of the Obama administration have conspired against him and have successfully convinced sponsors to stop supporting his ventures. When asked, Smiley never named any of the White House staffers who allegedly committed the offense.

With all the more pertinent issues that the White House has to deal with, I doubt the president or any of his designees have had time, or even a desire to plot against Smiley. It is insane to think otherwise. Smiley is just not that relevant to the White House.

There has been no information that supports Smiley’s claim, however, WBEZ, the Chicago station that aired “Smiley & West” issued a statement that explains its reason for cancelling the duo’s show.

“The show had developed much more of an ‘advocacy’ identity, which is inconsistent with our approach on WBEZ,” said a spokesman. “The goal is to present public affairs content that is reasonably balanced. We feel that Smiley & West had become a departure from this approach.”

It would be wise of Smiley to just take a chill pill and calm down a bit. Perhaps if he looks at the man in the mirror objectively he will get a clearer perspective of what is actual reality and what isn’t. However, based on his inability to do that with other people, I am not confident he can or is even willing to do it with himself.

You can email comments to Shannon Williams at shannonw@indyrecorder.com.

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