First There Was Tavis, Then There Was Tom

By Gary A. Johnson

I don’t know what to make of nationally syndicated radio show personality Tom Joyner.  I don’t consider Joyner an intellectual lightning rod, however, the morning deejay also known as “The Fly Jock,” reportedly has approximately 8 million listeners to his radio show.  If those numbers are correct, then Joyner’s radio show reaches one in four black American adults.  This commentary is about Joyner’s blog post a few months ago that has recently been getting mainstream media attention.

I have decided to separate Joyner’s philanthropic and fundraising efforts for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s) from this commentary.  His work in that area is unparalleled.

Joyner’s syndicated radio show is part news and a lot more entertainment in my view.  That being said, Joyner continues to make news headlines with an old blog posting (July 2011) where he essentially told Black America to vote for President Obama simply because he is black.  Whoa!  Joyner’s position does raise some political and philosophical issues.

In 2008, the election of a black President of the United States of America changed the political landscape.  What happened to evaluating a candidate based on his or her record of performance and how the issues outlined in the campaign impact you and your family?  To his credit, Joyner stated that we are all not “like-minded,” but went to write that we need to have a common goal in this election and that goal is to make sure that President Obama is re-elected.  Joyner understands that we have the right to vote for whomever we want; he just thinks that not voting for President Obama is not a good use of your vote.

There is something about Joyner’s stance that doesn’t sit well with me.  Joyner is not alone.  Former syndicated radio host Bev Smith, reportedly has urged listeners to vote for President Obama based on his race.

Does Joyner and company realize that President Obama did not win the 2008 election based on the black vote alone?  Blacks voted in record numbers, but a whole lot of independent voters of all races, cast their vote for him too.  Voting for President Obama just because he is black is a very dangerous and slippery slope.  Some of my colleagues are ready to throw Joyner under the bus for this position.  I have him resting comfortably in front of the rear wheels of the bus while the the motor is running.  My foot is on the brake and the transmission in 1st gear.

What would the Freedom Riders and the hundreds of other black and white civil rights leaders of the past have to say to Joyner if they had the chance?  I wonder if they would agree with his position.

The reality is President Obama was able to win the historic election in 2008, not solely because blacks turned out in huge numbers, but because many whites, Latinos and other races supported him as well. To suggest that blacks support him just because of the color of his skin is just wrong. It’s dangerous. Tom Joyner has done a lot for the black community and I won’t throw him under a bus, but I am very disappointed by his comments rallying blacks to support President Obama on the basis of his race. Blacks should support Obama because they agree with his stance on the issues and that he best personifies their needs. I would urge each voter to take the time to do some research on where all the candidates stand on the issues that affect you the most. If President Obama is the one whose views are similar to yours, then vote for him come November 2012.

If you look down the proverbial “re-election bench” you will see the Rev. Al Sharpton (who has a television show on the MSNBC network) suited up and echoing the same message.  During the dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial in Washington, DC in October 2011, Joyner and Sharpton were saying that President Obama should be judged not on the content of his character and policies but rather on the color of his skin.  WTF?  When you vote for President Obama because he is black, doesn’t that fly in the face of those in the civil rights movement who marched and died for us to have choices and the right to vote?

My very unscientific poll reflects that not everyone is on the Tom Joyner bandwagon.  If you injected President Obama with truth serum I’m not sure he would say, “Vote for me just because I’m Black.”

In his blog Joyner writes:  “Let’s not even deal with the facts right now.  Let’s deal with just our blackness and pride – and loyalty.  We have the chance to re-elect the first African-American president, and that’s what we ought to be doing. And I’m not afraid or ashamed to say that as black people, we should do it because he’s a black man. There are a great number of people who are against him because he’s a black man. That should be enough motivation for us to band together and get it done. We have the chance to re-elect the first African-American president, and that’s what we ought to be doing. And I’m not afraid or ashamed to say that as black people, we should do it because he’s a black man. There are a great number of people who are against him because he’s a black man. That should be enough motivation for us to band together and get it done.”

How about assessing this President based on what he inherited coming into office and how he has performed for example in the areas of foreign policy, the economy, health care, managing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan while in office?  As adults our assessments will differ but at least we have the chance to consider a number of situations.  I would suggest that all citizens ask themselves the following question:  “Am I better off now than when President Barack Obama took office?”  Some will say, “Yes” and others will say “No.”  If you answered, “No” to this question, and you believe that President Obama has underperformed, there is nothing wrong with evaluating the President’s performance and deciding that in order to improve your circumstances you might vote for someone else.

Black unemployment is 16.7 percent, the highest it’s been in almost 30 years.  You may determine that voting for President Obama is in the best interest of you and your family and cast your vote for him in 2012.  The point I’m trying to make is that all of us should take the time to think and evaluate all the factors that matter to us and cast your vote accordingly.

Click here to read Tom Joyner’s commentary.

Gary A. Johnson is the Founder & Publisher of Black Men In a popular online magazine on the Internet and the Black Men In Blog. Gary is also the author of the new book “25 Things That Really Matter In Life.” 

7 Responses to “First There Was Tavis, Then There Was Tom”

  1. Dalton B. Davis Says:

    My first visit to your site. And the first thing I see is someone I know being, shall I say, dufferbummed with a sledge hammer. As it stands, I agree with both points of view. After all, until 2008, African-Americans HAD to vote for a Caucasian presidential nominee like the rest of America. Sure, no doubt, many in the unprecedented numbers of African-Americans who voted for Senator Obama did so because he was African-American. Who could blame them? It was an historical moment in time.

    And if you will recall, the Nation’s media outlet immediately speculated (and blamed) African-Americans for voting their so-called “skin color.” And the “pundits” still hammer away at this point thinking that African-Americans can’t see what the GOPers and Tea Partiers are doing in denying President Obama the high kudos he would have, and in some instances, have earned. Certainly he has made some mistakes, read the polls incorrectly, hired some backstabbing advisers, but generally, he has wanted to and has done right by the American populace. Even the 38million who voted for Senator McCain. So here we are a year out from the 2012 Presidential election, and the question is not whether you, I , and the country are better off today than 4 years ago? We should really be asking, “will my neighbor, the Country and I be better off 4 years from now if the Republicans take control of the Senate, the Presidency – while retaining power in the House of Representatives. Because if the past 3 years are any indication, we are doomed to be rammed down a path of national destruction on many levels. That’s why I understand Tom Joyner’s statement: President Obama needs as many votes as possible. From all Americans – whatever their reason(s). And for those who “policy” argument not to vote for him….especially African-Americans, then you have bought into the bile spewed by the National Conservative media and right-wing pundits who will do, and are doing their level best at suppressing the African-American vote. I, for one, wish more African-Americans would leap off their duffs and get involved politically ala 2008, for all elections. Someone controls the budget that hires and fires dog catchers (Animal Control).

    Another point: nearly 850,000 African-American males are linked into the Criminal Justice (don’t make me laugh) system. Most will never ever get to vote again…not even for that mythical “dog catcher.” But I digress.

    Let me say something in your defense; those that think President Obama’s so-called “policy deficiencies” are what created the depression-era unemployment in our community. And as such does not deserve to have our vote in 2012. Hogwash! Former President Bill Clinton enacted laws and policies that were detrimental to the African-American community, and too many of us worshiped the ground he trod. And to invoked the legacy of the icons of the Civil Rights Movement in the fray seems misplace. No doubt, we should be judged by the “content of our character” as the Great Minister espoused. But in this case, as mentioned previously-the governmental policies put forth by President Obama have nothing to do with his character in a negative way, but all about his skin color: The Birther Movement. Secret Muslim leanings. “Take their country back!” I hope we don’t fall into the trap that has been laid before us. And that African-Americans vote for the re-election of President Obama. More importantly, if they have been paying attention, they should rush the voting places and vote Democratic for every local, county, state, and national office on the ballot. No matter that candidates race, ethnicity (remember Latinos are not a race), gender, or age. This election is do or die for our Nation. And quiet as its kept, it IS all about race, gender, age and ethnicity. And who gets to share in the crumbs left for the bottom third of Americans. Where African-Americans always seem to reside.

    • Very thought-provoking reply and well stated. Let me be clear, that as the writer of this commentary, I am NOT one of those people who have concluded that the President is not worthy of my vote due to the current state of the economy and his administration’s management of the economy. I do like your take on the question of: “Are you better off now than you were 4 years ago?” Looking into the future as you have suggested is definitely a question that we should all ask ourselves and answer. So an additional question is: “Will my neighbors, the country and I be better off 4 years from now if the Republicans take control of the Senate, the Presidency – while retaining power in the House of Representatives? Fair enough.

  2. We can’t vote ‘only’ based on race. We have to vote on performance while in office. The ‘facts’ are that when Democrats had the majority on Capitol Hill, they did NOT side with the President. Bills that should have passed died. What does ‘that’ tell the nation? I would say more than 20 percent Black unemployment would be a cause to get rid of any candidate, Black or white. Obama had his choice and instead of dealing with us, he supported homsexuality, gay marriage, gays in the military, and a corrupt US Justice Department “While the band played on!” He even loaded his cabinet with mainly white folks who gave him bad advice WHICH HE TOOK. At the end of the day? Have to vote for someone who will inspire the business sector to create jobs. Since we won’t invest in our own communities, we are–unlike the Asians, Indians, Germans, Jews and Italians–at the whim of Washington. Obama needs to go, period! He had his chance…and burned the bridge with US on it!

    • Dalton B. Davis Says:

      Mike. I fully understand your frustration with the POTUS. But consider this point: ALL the media was, and has been waiting for him to do something overtly directed toward our community. And their response would have been, and will be, that he is partial to African-American. To your point about inspiring the Business community to create jobs, from my point of view they are doing their level best to not hire African-Americans. The headlines support this: “The unemployed need not apply!” Then there are those ads that state: “Credit Checks required of all new job applicants.” Guess who make up a large portion of the unemployed and Americans with not so perfect credit scores: African-Americans. Another factor in this whole 20-30% Unemployment in our community is “Us!” Now I know many don’t want to face that fact, but education is the key. And too many of us do not and have not put in the time as a “village raising a child” that we have allowed too many of our kids to fall behind by not raising enough hell. One MUST be prepared to seize an opportunity when it presents itself – whether others want you to have it or not. For examples, There are hundreds of thousands of jobs in the Health Care sector all over this country, but they require education.
      Finally, Black against Black progress has its roots in Slavery. We have always been pitted against one another. Asians, Jews and Indians have exploited, no plundered is a better description, of the extraction of our communities wealth because of this “Crab” mentality. What to do about that? You and I would be rich men if we had the answer. And Lastly, the Constitution mandates that Congress pass the bills that create jobs, etc. NOT THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. In short, President Obama or any president for that matter can not pass legislation that would help the Poor , Middle class – any Americans. And with a Republican-controlled House, President Obama is powerless to solve the Jobs crisis in America. I am sure he has seen the error of his ways. We need to elect a Democratic-led government in 2012, hopefully with the Democrats in name only who have helped the Republicans block any attempts by Mr. Obama to create jobs. Remember: their vow is to make him a one-term President. If they win this battle, we will be again be voting for a Caucasian President who will not have our best interest at heart. And we will still be the, “last hired, first fired”.”

  3. […] First There Was Tavis, Then There Was Tom ( […]

  4. Mr. Bromont Says:

    Just now reading this article, I am on the late freight.
    I will keep it short and to the point here.
    There were a lot of white guys who comment to me and around me,
    “You voted for Obama because he was black and you are black?”
    Thus I had to retort,
    “You did not vote for him because you are white and he is black?”
    “Only in America.” Who am I quoting here?
    nuff said

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