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Tavis, Al and Unconditional Love


Dear, Black America,

I’m writing this letter to you because I have something personal I need to say. Yes, I’m posting it as a blog, and anyone who wants to read it has access to it, but that’s okay. Because I know – and you know – I’m talking to you.

Mainstream media has been hounding me for a quote regarding the Tavis/Rev. Al situation, and I haven’t agreed to respond publicly because I don’t discuss family business outside of the family.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here it is in a nutshell. Two weeks ago, Tavis came on the TJMS in his old time slot to announce he was having a televised discussion with black leaders who he felt were not holding President Barack Obama accountable enough. He specifically called out Rev. Al Sharpton, Dorothy Height and Professor Charles Ogletree, claiming that when they had the chance to address the president about failing to have a black agenda, they let him off the hook. He told our audience that Rev. Al and Charles Ogletree had agreed to appear oat his event. Both Rev. Al and Professor Ogletree called the show almost immediately and said neither had agreed to be part of the panel Tavis spoke of.

Later that day, on Rev. Al’s radio show, Tavis called in, and Rev. Al let him know how offended he was to be put on blast about something that wasn’t true. He said he’s never given the president a pass and holds him as accountable as he would any other president. You can hear all of it on BlackAmericaWeb.com.

Now, this morning, Tavis will return to our show to update black America and whoever else is listening, and Rev. Al is scheduled to call in afterward. What either will say is unknown to me. But here’s what I hope.

I hope that somehow, someway, Tavis will realize that if he is ever to gain the love and respect he once received from black America, he will have to find it in his heart to show love and respect for the president. It’s just that simple. And there’s a big difference in saying you have love and showing it.

Love is unconditional – or it should be anyway. That’s why I can be upset and disappointed with Tavis and some of the decisions he’s made over the last few years, but still love and respect him enough not to turn my back on him.

When I hear and read about the hate people have for Tavis right now, it makes me sad. Because I know that if Tavis knew how to get out of this situation, he would. But it’s not in him to do what needs to be done, to recognize he has gone down a wrong path, and his only real option is to turn around.

I believe the beef Tavis has with President Obama is personal, and only the two of them know what it’s really about. For all I know, it could stem from a pick up game of basketball where the president didn’t choose Tavis to be on his team. Whatever the problem is, I can’t change it. And you can’t either.

So, I make my appeal to you, black America: Don’t use your energy to spew hate against a brother that you know deep inside is in a bad situation. Use your energy to help black leaders – including the president – find solutions to some of the issues that are plaguing our community. Use your energy to solve some problems on your job, in your church, in your neighborhood and in your house.

Tavis isn’t the only black leader or public figure that wasn’t in support of President Obama. Early on, Rep. Maxine Waters, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Al, Rep. John Lewis, The Urban League’s Marc Morial, Radio One’s Cathy Hughes and a whole lot of you were questioning his credentials, his ability and even his blackness. Most black politicians began to see that their constituents were feeling Obama and decided to reconsider their positions. And I’m not mad at any of them. They are in office to represent the people who put them there. They realized, in the words of the mighty O’Jays, “you got to give the people, give the people what they want.” And you’ve go to realize what they don’t want, too.

I wish Tavis would also realize what the people DON’T want. And the rule is simple: They don’t want you criticizing President Obama in public. Ever. It may be unfair and unrealistic, but it is what it is.

Whether anyone wants to admit it, this thing black America has for the prez ain’t no ordinary love. It’s about one step below worship. It’s special. It’s personal. And it’s unconditional.

Fighting against the president is a battle Tavis will not win. I wish he would concede, but I don’t think he will. So, we can continue to fan the flames and push his buttons, but I can’t see how that does anyone any good.

We will never all agree with each other all the time. We’re all human, with different opinions, needs and desires. But we also have a lot in common, and that commonality should be enough to remind us that in-fighting is non-productive, divisive and kind of embarrassing. The spotlight is on us right now, and I don’t like what’s being seen by the world.

This morning, one man has to reach out to the other and say, “My brother, let’s recognize that we need to come together and work together to get on about the business of black America. If I offended you, forgive me. Now, let’s move forward and make a difference.” Right now, that’s the kind black leadership we need.