An Open Letter To Tom Joyner


By Raynard Jackson

I have known Tom Joyner (nationally syndicated radio host) for many years. We are not hanging out buddies, but we have always enjoyed talking and joking with each other.  He is an “old school” soul who has done a lot of good in his life.  But, in recent years, his very public fight with Tavis Smiley (journalist) and now Cornel West (college professor), threatens his standing in many communities (not just the Black).  So, I decided to use this week’s column as an open letter to Tom.

Tom, it is well documented that you and Tavis Smiley (and now Cornel West) have had a very public falling out with each other.  I have not been privy to all the details of the dispute, only what is being reported in the media and through some of our mutual friends—but I have no first hand knowledge of anything; so my comments will be offered with that as my backdrop.

Word on the street is that the falling out started during the presidential campaign in 2008.  Tavis was clearly not a big supporter of Obama’s and was more of a supporter of Hillary Clinton’s.  You were unabashedly quite vocal in your support of Obama.

So, after Tavis resigned (or you fired him from your radio show—I don’t know which one is more accurate), I thought the beef between the two of you would be over.  Boy, was I wrong.

Last week you continued your public feud with Smiley and West and raised the rhetoric to an unhealthy level.  To lay the blame at their feet for what Mark Halperin called President Obama is a bit of a stretch.  This is what Joyner said, “But I’m even more disgusted with Smiley and West, two brothers who I did have expectations of – and thought I knew. These two have done much worse than what Halperin has done because they set the tone for it, opened the door to it, and must take much of the blame for creating a climate that would make a white, professional journalist feel comfortable verbally and vulgarly attacking the first black president of the United States.” (for the entire quote, go to http://www.blackamericaweb.com/?q=blog_inner/29954/1573138/Cheriewhite/1).

Halperin is editor of Time Magazine and a regular guest on MSNBC TV network.  Last week, on live TV, he called President Obama a “dick.”  He was immediately suspended indefinitely from the TV network (he did issue an apology).

Well, Tom, I could make the same argument against you about your blind support for Obama. It is well documented that I, as a Black Republican, voted for Obama in 2008.  I was hopeful that he could and would deliver on the promises he made as a candidate; but just as important, use the historic nature of his presidency to bring a different perspective to some of the issues that have plagued the Black community.  This is what I hear in West’s criticism of Obama.  Smiley seems more angry and hateful and therefore I kind of tune him out.  But West’s criticism is in sync with what I have been writing in my columns for the past two years.

So, Tom, can you really make a thoughtful argument for Obama’s reelection without injecting the name of Bush, Republicans, or racism?

Can you justify why Obama would meet with Marc Morial, Ben Jealous, or Al Sharpton, in February of last year to discuss the high unemployment rate in the Black community?  These are three people who have never created one job.  Did you not find this insulting?  Do you think the president would have met with non practicing Jews to discuss Judaism?

Can you explain to me why you and the president support amnesty for the estimated 30 million illegals in the U.S.?  Especially when around 7 million of these illegals will enter the workforce and compete with other low and under skilled people (mostly Blacks).  If you are concerned with the high unemployment rate in the Black community, how then does this make sense?

Can you explain to me why you and the president are spending so much political capital pursuing a gay rights agenda even though most Blacks are against it?

But, when it comes to issues of particular concern to the Black community, the president’s response is, “I am president of all of America, not just a narrow special interest group.”

Where has the president expended any political capital on behalf of issues of particular interest to the Black community?  So, the gays get all sorts of gay rights, Hispanics get a Supreme Court Justice, amnesty, and the D.R.E.A.M. Act; and Blacks folks get “I’m president of all of America.”

So, Tom, while you have done a lot of good in your life, especially with raising $ 55 million for Black college students, this does not give you a pass on your moral obligation to educate your listeners, not indoctrinate!

You are without doubt an apologist for Obama, but the worst thing you can do is continue to lead your audience into blind support for the president.

In your profession, if you don’t deliver certain demographics, you get fired.  Next year Obama will face a similar standard.  I challenge you to lay out your argument for Obama’s reelection based on substance, not race.

For you to continue to spew misinformation or incomplete information to your audience is more damaging than anything someone with a white hood over his head has ever done.

If you truly believe in liberalism (as you claim) when will you allow a free flowing exchange of information from both parties to take place on your show and in your town hall meetings?

You have made a name for yourself in the area of education, but when will your bring that reputation to your radio show?

Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a D.C.-public relations/government affairs firm.  He is also a contributing editor for ExcellStyle Magazine (www.excellstyle.com) & USAfrica Magazine (www.USAfricaonline.com). 

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8 Responses to “An Open Letter To Tom Joyner”

  1. Jeff the Interpreter Says:

    A dog (dawg) in the fight.

    This cliche has been used to absolve or detach oneself from a debate or position on issues that otherwise would be their chance to participate. We as Black people have been willing to sell our vote for some face time with a front runner because; A: we don’t like backing losers and B: at the end of the day we owe our forefathers and fore mothers the responsibility and obligation to vote even when it wasn’t in our best interest. How many no named, back of the pack political candidates did we ignore because the political industrial machine overwhelmed us with glamor and promises through a mass media onslaught? Yet, every 4th November we line up out of respect for the dead and indifference to the living to vote somebody who stopped by our church, ate at our restaurant, invited one of our notables to dinner or played the saxophone.

    This brings me to the feud between Tom Joyner, Tavis Smiley and Cornell West. This made for radio psycho drama has been played out in commentary and sound bites, blogs and twitter, webpage posting and barbershop banter to draw lines in the sand on a beach we don’t own, near a ocean we dare not explore. Tavis Smiley, the town wordsmith, hammered out functional devices for bringing to the fore the issues that really do matter for Black people. Tavis has and have great love for Black people and is willing to forego access and compromise to make it his calling to keep issues that should be hot on the agenda of Black folk on the list and in the face of anyone seeking power, let me pause to say I am no huge fan of Mr. Smiley but I learned enough from him about passion to stand up for my principles and fight what I believe in, even to tears. Dr. West is another representative of the intelligentsia that is possible and rich in our community, while I am at odds at his position to speak all things Black and profound but haven’t given up his lofty position at Harvard and Yale to teach at say…Howard or Hampton is a horse of a different color but yet I cannot for the life of me doubt that Dr. West loves his culture, his people and his race. Tom Joyner is another brother with who can give workshops on philanthropic pursuits, his many contributions both to individuals and institutions that support growth and development is beyond reproach and will do what is necessary to promote the good in our community. So what do we make of this unlovefest? Absolutely nothing! All have sinned and fallen short of the lessons learned from the past, Had Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. actually joined in meaningful collaboration with El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz would we had come out of the human civil rights revolution with property ownership, political power and community wealth, Had Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Dubois merged their talented tenth perspective with the bootstraps work ethics, would we not only had gone to Black universities but owned and have the wherewithal to sustain them with untold wealth. Had Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass sat side by side on the dais as Black troops march into the civil war, would we had come back from this sacrifice of blood, sweat and tears with more than a promise of forty acres and mule.

    Fighting, sniping, and turning our backs on each other helps the Bachmans, Palins, and Gingrichs of this political season get away with rhetorical murder of our history and our contribution to the improvement of this country. When we should be actively campaigning against Boehner, Cantor, Mitch McConnell, in their home districts, on their turf to put up a candidates that can participate in the political debate in order to bring out their racist agenda for the failure of this President at the expense of this country’s standing financially and morally then we are wasting our human capital and squandering our future. When we fail to see the pitfalls of pulling each other down at the peril of our next generation who will be multicultural, have a broader global perspective and almost no sense of unifying history that breeds accountability to our past heroes and sheroes then this mess is a waste of time. We finally have a dawg in the fight, we’ve always had a dawg in the fight, can we for once unleash this dog in the right direction instead of pointing him to the audience and saying sic’ em.

  2. Everett Says:

    Firstly, thanks RJ for your challenging insights. I have recently found Black Men in America and am pleased with its content and direction. Regarding the feud between three good brothers in the fight (though I have had some issue with Tavis’ tacit rhetoric on President Obama), on the surface it would seem that this chasm reflects differences of opinion and or approach to the struggles of black people. Yet, as I consider the ignorance by the President’s administration of the most intractable and therefore important issues facing people of color, I am less concerned about their differences and more concerned about why Obama, who flowed into office with the complete affirmation of black folk and “other” folk alike, has not substantively given more than ancillary consideration to those issues they, each in their own way, continue to bring to light.

    RJ, I think you know these guys on a more personal level, but as a “relational outsider” let me say a few things about these men. Firstly, I was upset with Tavis about some negative comments he made on his own show about President Obama during his presidential run and thereafter; not because I didn’t think Obama should be criticized but because he hadn’t been here long enough to do anything. The mess Bush left had to be fully examined and addressed I felt even before Obama’s “new agenda” could be set on the table. The former has not even been completed yet due to the complexity or depth of the mess he and largely the Republican Party created. Yet, at this stage of the game I expected a little more…no much more balance on how this administrations priorities would be determined and executed. Racial loyalty is no reason for a free pass when your problems go as unaddressed as before the “great black hope” came into office. As a result, Obama’s policies make Tavis’ assertions “righteous.” Said policies have a negative affect upon black folk who thought their ship had come in. Many are no doubt thinking: “if a black man can’t/won’t address at least some issues affecting his people then there truly is no hope!” I might add that white folk have tried to do what black folk have done. They have voted in politicians with the “whitest” agenda whom they thought shared, supported and would address their needs only to find themselves in many cases on the outside looking in. At the base of their rejection is the reality that today it is less about racial pride and more about class; witness the Republican position about protecting corporations and other “rich” white folk from changes in tax structures that would cause them to pay more while only giving cursory attention to the needs of poor and middle class whites, the elderly, etc. Yet those same white folk think that the Republican Party somehow gives a damn about them perhaps because of their whiteness!!!! Not!!!! That’s a story to deep to open but suffice it to say that black folk are to some degree experiencing the same thing with Obama right now. I don’t know enough about Tom, but he is greatly lauded by our community and others so I must assume his is on his J-O-B for our benefit. Yet, as we approach President Obama’s 4th year in office and consider what his administration has done to alleviate some of our specific ills, I would caution Mr. Joyner to carefully examine whether Mr. Obama deserves our support going forward. In addition, I would have need to tell him that the three of them would be so much more formidable as they hear each other’s voices/positions and find the common ground that makes them a more effective approach (as the blogger/commentator JEFF said above) to the things that plague us. And because many of these ills are no longer about race but class, “others” will also be enriched by extension. I love Dr. West. His contributions to black society and the world from an intellectual aspect are priceless. His passion for his people is without question. I find RJ’s challenge about Dr. West’s not working in HBCU’s somewhat misplaced. Consider this, the big three (Harvard, Yale, Princeton) were schools we could not even be considered for at one time, let alone places that would dare hire the fire that is Mr. West. And now that he’s accomplished that and so many other things that enrich us as a people, that’s the only thing you could find to challenge him on? Really RJ? He has spoken at so many places and written on the topic of so many things that directly or indirectly address the failings and triumphs of black folk. He’s “staying in his lane!” Wherever he is at it has not clouded his judgment about who we are as a people and what is important to us going forward. Finally, life is not over for him, perhaps the moment will still come. I’m wiling to give him a pass on this! (for now) LOL. As for Morial, Jealous and Sharpton, they are the people BLACK FOLK have anointed as leadership; at least as far as Al Sharpton is concerned. I love Rev. Sharpton because he’s willing to take on injustice in substantive ways. If not him, where are the other leaders you have in mind that Pres. Obama should be noshing with? O wait, you’re a “black” Republican (not sure how the differentiation is valued). I don’t remember the Republican party doing anything for people of color since I, in hindsight, mistakenly voted for Reagan with my first opportunity to vote in 1980 honestly thinking “trickle down politics” would be there for us…still waiting….Yet I must say I embrace many of your assertions toward Mr. Joyner and your criticisms of Obama’s policies as furthering impotence of all sorts among people of color. Yes, I need the big three to come back together that an agenda that’s real might coalesce. Tavis’ town halls and accompanying plans/books were an exciting start but haven’t seemed to go anywhere. Perhaps a revisit is in order. And there are other good ideas out there floating in soundcloud oblivion. At the end of the day, you nor I would be foolish enough to vote for anything the Republican field is putting out there…what should a “colored man” do…but again thanks for the insight RJ — keep doing what you’re doing.

  3. Well said, RJ…Well Said. Can’t improve on it, and won’t detract from it. A firm ‘Right On!’.

  4. Symone Neal Says:

    I am so sick and tired of Black people putting down President Obama. I am equally sck of those who assume he owes the Black community something. He is the President of the United States, a country that shouldn’t even be called united, because we are divided on so many fronts. President Obama got his job just as all before him with the hope of making a difference for all citizens of these United States. He came into the presidency with high expectations and much enthusiasm for change. Why shouldn’t all Americans be insured, have decenct housing, jobs, and the right to live as they choose. As for the illegals, how dare we; a country founded by terrorist, murders and theives, say it is wrong for anyone that wants to be a part of this country illegally. Everyone but Africans are illegal, Indians are our forefathers, all who entered the Ellis Islands, the Gulf Coasts, the Atlantic, or any where else, is and always will be an illega. We are a country of hipocrates. Let gay people live the way they choose, We all must give an account to God for our actions, we cannot judge lest we be judged. Tom Joyner, Tavis, Cornell, and yourself, whatever political beliefs you follow, are men who have the power to positively impact all human beings, not just Black ones.

    As a Black female, I get sick of people saying that Blacks are always underepresented, lack jobs, housing, and continue to get harrassed by law enforcement. We bring alot of things on ourselves. Republicans have done nothing for us as a whole and Democrats seem to insisist that we can never be self sufficient so they fight for programs that keep us downtrodden and dependent on the government. Black parents must stand up and take their rightful place as the head of their families. They, not the government, daycare, foster care, neighborhood, dopeman, television, or the video game are the most important influence on Black children. I listen to Tom when I am able, I love his generous nature, but it doesn’t stop with his show, his spirit wants Black people to be treated fairly, and not to be left behind in the daily race to get ahead in America. Tavis and Cornel are scholars with words and visions, but their lack of faith in President Obama for no reason, is misguided, No one can honestly say that Hilary could be doing a better job if she was in there right now. Her time will come when God says it. I look around my city; a place where there is poverty, finacial ruin, and drugs/crime, and lack of education; for some this is the everyday norm. Idisagree with any politician white or black who just wants a title. Too many things need to be done for us here in the Delta of Mississippi, but no one comes to our rescue, our schoolslack adequate resources to teach students and those students who are fortunate enough to get college degrees, are more likely to take those degrees elsewhere than Mississippi. We have so much that needs to be done, so our Black brother fueding, solves no problem. Racist like to see us at each other’s throats becasue they firmly believe that divided, we are conquered. We must find a common ground and stand together asa people. Political party can not be a dividing line that seperates us. We need good strong leaders making a difference in the lives of those who will control our future. They need someone to lead them by example; not talk the talk.

    I realize I rambled, but I am so upset by the direction all this has gone. You are all good men so remember someone is always watching.

    Thanks for listening,
    Symone

    • The High Priest Says:

      What you described as rambling is completely understandable. This was a solid response to this commentary. You made a lot of great points. Collectively we must be more responsible as a people across cultural lines because we are all in this together.

  5. According to the Census In the 60s white households earned double of black households. In 2011 the Census says white men earn 20 times that of a black man!!

    The barometer for success in America is based on how much you earn!

    Even though he has been in office for only two years President Obama has fallen short when it comes even pretending he is trying to make it an “Even Playing Field.”

    The President is a talented and articulate man. He walks the walk (black) but he does not have the street sense or common sense that I thought he had coming in.

    Keeping it real—how can he alone create an “Even Playing Field” when 1% of all Americans control all the wealth? Come on man!

    I am as proud as the next black man or woman that I lived to see a Black President but the buck stops at the White House.

    Please say something pretending that you know what’s going.

    President Obama lost me when he did not veto the bill saying Senior Citizens would not be allowed a cost of living increase for two years—that was a death sentence for most us.

    In the meantime the price of everything think has gone through the ceiling!

    The real slap in the face came when he rescued the folks who are responsible for this fiscal charade—-COOPERATE AMERICA (banks, Wall Street, Chrysler and GM).

    Now they are telling all of us to kiss their jackasses!

    The Player Hating taking place between Tom Joiner, Tavis Smiley, Cornell West, Ben Jealousy, Al Sharpton and others is par for the course in the black community. May God help us all because we stand no chance with man!

  6. Death Clean up…

    […]An Open Letter To Tom Joyner « Black Men In America[…]…

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