On Lupe, Tavis, Cornell & Barack

by • January 24, 2013 • Featured, LatestComments (2)1531

This past weekend Lupe Fiasco was in Washington, DC to perform at an Inaugural event. While there he performed his anti-war manifesto Words I never Said featuring the lyrics “Gaza strip was being bombed Obama didn’t say sh*t”. After repeatedly performing this song to the crowd’s dismay Fiasco was removed from the stage. This coming after Tavis Smiley provided a Sunday morning commentary on the Obama presidency just a day before the President was inaugurated. On top of all that Dr. Cornel West laced into President Obama for using Dr. King’s bible when West felt as though the President’s governance would have Dr. King spinning in his grave. These three are not new critics of the President. Fiasco has gone so far as calling the President a terrorist.

These three in particular have been routinely criticized by other African-Americans as “haters” without valid points or with personal axes to grind. West famously and publicly bemoaned that he wasn’t invited to the first Inauguration after campaigning so hard for President Obama. Smiley has been aggressively critical of President Obama since the President did not make a personal appearance at Smiley’s State of the Black Union event in 2008. Fiasco has made inconsistent statements and erratic music (Lasers!) that caused many to tune him out with regards to his political views.  We may be easily able to disregard these three, but the quick dismissal of them begs the question, is there a place for a black progressive critique of President Obama?

When we have seen them, the critiques have immediately been shut down. Many deride Fiasco however his statements about the President and war lie in more truth than fiction. President Obama has issued more predator drone strikes (the unmanned airplanes that are remotely controlled) in his first four years than George W. Bush did in his entire eight years. The positive is this takes American bodies off the battlefield, the negative is best explained in dialogue from the hit television show Scandal; “the problem with precision air strikes is that they aren’t precise.”  Thus we see a drastic increase in the number of innocent civilians murdered by the Obama administration’s secret kill list and drone program.

Fiasco may have his flaws but his questioning of the President on the topic of peace seems to be a legitimate one. Why then are he and ostensibly his critiques so quickly and effortlessly dismissed. Smiley & West have collectively been beating the drum about poverty for seemingly the entire second half of the President’s first term and will undoubtedly be fighting that fight during his second term as well. Having already acknowledged there personal disagreements with President Obama we then have to look at the merits of their arguments. Poverty has indeed risen, we see nearly one in five children (or about 20%) of America’s children are impoverished. The official poverty rate is nearly 15% totaling about 50 million U.S. residents. We continue to see workers wages stagnate or drop meanwhile corporate profits have rebounded nicely from “The Great Recession”.  With this great abundance of evidence West and Smiley are still thought to be “haters” who are jealous of the President and all that he has accomplished.

I have no doubt Smiley and West are grinding some sort of personal axe. But even when I mute them, the sad and painful statistics of poverty and income inequality speak far too loud. The initial shot to the economy was done by much of the deregulation of the Clinton administration and continued in the Bush administration. However the most recent statistics have been the doing of the current President Interestingly enough President Obama campaigned against then Sen. Hillary Clinton using the phrase you can’t keep putting the same people in charge and expecting a different result. Meanwhile once President Obama was elected, the economic team he put together to solve the nation’s economic problems were rehashes from the Clinton administration. President Obama often is cited as saying a rising tide lifts all boats but what we are finding is that recent rising tides have only lifted the boats of those who already had money.


So what of the black progressive critique of the President. In many ways one has to ask themselves can a black person publicly critique the President and be supported by others in the black community. Or is the occasion of a first black president still so magnificent that when someone does critique President Obama black Americans will rush to the President’s defense and find fault not necessarily with the critique of the President but with the character of the person doing the critique. We know one thing, Lupe Fiasco, Tavis Smiley & Dr. Cornel West and their critiques of President Obama will never been taken seriously by black Americans. The question is will anyone else’s.

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2 Responses to On Lupe, Tavis, Cornell & Barack

  1. I agree with you on all of the above. I think it’s unfortunate that many African-Americans want to whitewash Obama’s administration and legacy. It’s possible that they do this in a hope that there will be other Black presidents or it’s possible that many just feel fiercely protective over the first biracial president. 

    Many people feel caught between a rock and a hard place because they feel like criticizing President Barack Obama is not just criticizing an individual… it’s criticizing the “experiment” of electing someone who isn’t a rich, Caucasian man. 

    My major issue with the majority of the progressive critics isn’t the content of their statements, it’s their method. For example, Lupe’s decision to go on an anti Obama rant in Washington, DC during inauguration weekend only ires people; it doesn’t move them to action. It seemed like more of a publicity stunt by a stellar lyricist with subpar record sales. 

    I hope that as time passes, people will feel more comfortable being forthcoming and honest about their opinions of the totality of Obama’s record. He needs progressive voices, not just antagonistic conservative ones to remind him of why the majority of Americans elected him. 

    Excellent post Mr. Baker. 

  2. Aweatherington Aweatherington says:

    Great food for thought Mr. Baker. Let’s see if I can be equally as cogent as you were in your analysis. First up, President Obama is President of what most consider to be the most powerful country in the world. That said, given the context that comes with the position, the President’s creditability on peace and poverty are both severely compromised. The President’s job is to keep things running smoothly. So let’s talk about these “things” he is overseeing. Capitalism. To put it lightly he is presiding over an economic system that wasn’t exactly designed for poor people, particularly institutionally–in fact it preys on them. I do agree that the President could and should make poverty more of a priority, however I can see how that could have been a bit difficult given the recession he inherited and the bank & auto industry he had to tend to. In my own humble opinion I believe stopping poverty has much more to do with the people than the politics. It’s a way of life that most of could easily adjust to, but perhaps the President needs to provide that template so that folks would know what they had to do. I believe the key to unlocking poverty isn’t in any one policy, I believe it will come from an collective effort of people wanting to end it. What would we define as “poverty” anyway? We’d really benefit from making a national standard of living if at all possible. Furthermore, I’d challenge that its not the President alone who doesn’t care about poor people. There is one of him, and 300 some odd million of us. Shit if poor people banned together there would be less poor people– just saying. 

    So now let’s talk about peace. Drone strikes are totally unacceptable and I don’t condone people getting killed in any instance, let alone innocent bystanders. It is my understand that drones were implemented as a war tactic in America’s “war on terrorism” but seeing as though “terrorists” look a lot like you and I, America has failed at that mission ( killing Bin Laden) included. As President, Obama must be accountable for the blood on his hands. As critics we must ask ourselves when peace needs to be pushed aside, if at all. That way we know folks counter-position. Critiques are fleeting without offered solutions. 

    I absolutely believe there should be room for the President’s decisions to be examined and critiqued, and anyone who says otherwise, I’d say, isn’t credible. I am in no way being an apologist for the President. He, just like the rest of us must be accountable for his decisions and I assume how one views him will likely be a unique one. However, as I channel the best of my own inner human I see that when it comes to using your moral/empathetic/peaceful eye to make these critiques on the President one could be wasting their time. You can’t really expect/want outcomes out of a system that wasn’t designed to deliver that product. At best it’s like trying to eat your spaghetti with a spoon. While I agree that these are ABSOLUTELY valid critiques I think we need to start evaluating the seat more than the person who sits in it.

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