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Yvette Carnell: A Final Word on the Tavis Smiley vs. Tom Joyner Controversy

by Yvette Carnell

My highest goal has always been to get to the truth of a thing, preferably as quickly as possible. When you have a platform though, thattom joyner and tavis desire for a brisk conclusion can hamstring you, allowing you to make indefensible assertions and breathtakingly flimsy arguments in real time.

During a radio discussion with Dr. Boyce Watkins regarding the rift between Tom Joyner and Tavis Smiley, I allowed myself to fall into that trap when I called Tom Joyner a “ridiculous” person. He is not, as a human being, ridiculous, and it is just as deplorable for me to attack Joyner personally as it is for Joyner to level personal attacks at Dr. Cornel West and Tavis Smiley.

The thing is, Joyner is flesh and blood, and he, like all of us, makes miscalculations, and reacts without thinking. One of the most unfortunate miscalculations came when Joyner called Dr. Cornel West, a respected professor, Tavis Smiley’s “side piece” in an opinion piece. Another came, in the very same article, when Joyner blamed Smiley for pundit Mark Halprin calling President Obama a d*ck. And most recently, Joyner leveled additional criticism at Smiley,  accusing the PBS host of being  “fascinated with his own legacy.”

Let’s be clear about a couple of things. A “sidepiece”, sometimes also called a side chick, is a s*xual partner that a  person maintains on the side, in addition to the partner in their committed romantic relationship. Mark Halprin, best known for the book ‘Game Change’, which he coauthored with John Heilemann, has been known to make snarky, even nasty comments, so nothing Halprin said about Obama had anything to do with a stance Tavis Smiley has taken. Both of these assertions are very unfortunate to Joyner’s argument, and both get at the core of explaining why I lashed out at Joyner during the discussion with Dr. Watkins.

You can’t just make things up because someone doesn’t agree with you. You can’t just insinuate a gay relationship between two men, especially two black men, because of your desire to buttress an argument.

I’m not lamenting Joyner’s criticism of Smiley because Joyner doesn’t share my view of Obama’s policies. I’m fine with that. What I’m not fine with is how Joyner attacks Smiley personally. What I’m not fine with is how Joyner’s comments stirred me to the point where I joined the fray, contradicted my own personal ethic, and attacked Joyner personally. I regret that. But this atmosphere is toxic, and since Joyner began this race to the bottom, I think it’s time he end it. Tavis Smiley is a complicated, some would even say compromised, man.  I don’t know him. I don’t know his heart, or what he’s “fascinated” with, and I dare say, neither does Joyner.

It’s time now for Joyner to reassess how best to employ his powerful radio platform. He’ll certainly continue to get cheers for taunting Smiley, who has been largely ostracized by Obama supporters, but that’s easy pickings at this point, and only beneficial if Joyner’s engaging Smiley on the issues. The real question is this: What’s the end game Mr. Joyner?

The energy from this rift in the black community will continue to reverberate long after Obama has exited the world’s stage. Joyner’s view has been narrowly focused on Smiley for four years, but now it’s time to open it up a bit, and  become more expansive and thoughtful as it relates both to Obama’s future legacy and Smiley’s appraisal of that legacy.  Joyner’s choice is a choice between continued recrimination, which serves no one,  and beneficial dissection.

Being human is about making mistakes, accurately assessing those mistakes, and then growing to embody the lessons learned from those mistakes.  I have no problem coming out front and admitting that calling Joyner “ridiculous” was an unfair criticism. Now it’s time for Joyner to reevaluate his criticism as it relates to Tavis Smiley. I would remind Tom Joyner that Tavis Smiley isn’t the only one with a legacy. Joyner has a legacy of his own,  and he should question whether  he really wants to be remembered as the guy who took the low road, and spent years using his powerful platform to ridicule his former friend for disagreeing with him. For my part, I can only hope to lead by example.

Yvette Carnell is a former Capitol Hill and campaign staffer turned writer. She is currently an editor and contributor to Yourblackworld. You can reach Yvette via Twitter @YvetteDC or on Facebook.

 

 

21 Responses to Yvette Carnell: A Final Word on the Tavis Smiley vs. Tom Joyner Controversy

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  3. ST

    February 4, 2013 at 6:58 pm

    The comment that Tom Joyner too has a legacy and would he want to be viewed as the man who took the low road is an important one. It applies to all those involved. With today’s technology, we need to think before we speak. Some things will never be erased and, quite honestly, a lot of this back and forthness appears childish. Not because of the points made. But due to the amount of continued needless wasted energy over disagreements. We are all going to be upset with what others say and believe, at some point. How far are you going to take it? Learn how to let things go. Constant animosity makes you appear small, ignorant and petty. Is this the public image their trying to project?

  4. makheru bradley

    February 2, 2013 at 8:32 pm

    Sister Carnell, I applaud you for your self-criticism and self-correction. Everyone can take a page from Stokely Carmichael, with whom I once had a conversation about the issue of people attacking his personality rather than the substance of his philosophy. He said that he never allowed himself to be lured into the trap of responding to ad hominem assaults. Dr. West could clearly learn a lesson from the late, great Kwame Ture.

    Joyner and Harvey are fundamentally entertainers. They should be viewed for what they are. Controversy drives up their ratings. Ad hominem works for them, but it cheapens the moral authority of Cornel West.

  5. Benign

    February 2, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    Please visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Table A-2 web page, go to Black or African American unemployment, study the numbers for the past 20 years, then come back and tell us why black people should be praising Obama. Afterall, there is something to be said about being employed. As much as we migh appreciate Obama, that appreciation will not purchase one loaf of bread. We need jobs. Obama and his administration has given blacks the worst economic news in more than twenty-five years. Don’t blame it on the republicans. The Obama got Obama Care passed without republicans. And, his record when it comes to black appointees is shameful.

    By the way The Tom Joyner Show has got to be the most racist media show in the history of the USA. Everyone, go to You Tube and listen to Paul Kelly’s “Stealing in the Name of The Lord.”

  6. blacjk jones

    February 2, 2013 at 3:25 pm

    Yvette i agree with you wholeheartedly but i also agree that you shouldn’t beat yourself up about it—because as humans we are a prone to all kinds of misnomers—you are to be commended for showing such compassion for the left and the right of the issue—Reality exist in both places ….PEACE!!!

  7. blacjk jones

    February 2, 2013 at 3:25 pm

    Yvette i agree with you wholeheartedly but i also agree that you shouldn’t beat yourself up about it—because as humans we are a prone to all kinds of misnomers—you are to be commended for showing such compassion for the left and the right of the issue—Reality exist in both places ….PEACE!!!

  8. blacjk jones

    February 2, 2013 at 3:25 pm

    Yvette i agree with you wholeheartedly but i also agree that you shouldn’t beat yourself up about it—because as humans we are a prone to all kinds of misnomers—you are to be commended for showing such compassion for the left and the right of the issue—Reality exist in both places ….PEACE!!!

  9. Unk

    February 2, 2013 at 2:12 am

    Yvette, I applaud you for being able to keep a level head. But please, don’t beat yourself up too much over Joyner. The fact is that ridiculous isn’t strong enough a word to describe that dude. Sure, I respect the media empire he’s built for himself. But he is totally unequipped to provide any rational dialogue on politics. His only two positions are to defend Barack Obama and to offend his black critics. He is clearly a man that has more emotions tied into the success of the president than he does the success of black America. I knew he lost it when he tried to get everybody to believe that Tavis is personally giving white political commentators permission to say negative things about Obama as if they needed a thumbs up from him. Next he wants you to believe that Tavis and Dr. West are sleeping together. He’ll say anything to disparage the man just because he has a difference of opinion on Obama’s role as it relates to the black community. Meanwhile, I don’t think Tavis has uttered Joyner’s name since he left his show. The most tame word to describe Joyner’s behavior IS ridiculous.

    The sad part is that he is far from being alone. Some of us have gotten ourselves into such a frenzy that we believe Tavis Smiley is next Idi Amin or Satin walking the earth. They swear he hates Obama or that he’s just jealeous of him. They claim he’s taking money from the tea party. They say he had a deal with Hillary and is mad because he didn’t get his cabinet appointment. Some even say Tavis is like Nino Brown when the cameras are off. They can’t prove any of these things, but it’s classic Obamite strategy to villify all Obama critics instead of dealing rationally with the criticism. When Tavis says he wants to help end poverty, the Obamites fought against him and his efforts. Some will even say it’s not the criticism but the way he does it. But even if they took Smiley and West off the table, they couldn’t name one strong (black) Obama critic whose criticism they accepted who hasn’t been publicly attacked. Again, clear signs of our emotional investment in a politician over a people.

  10. William

    February 2, 2013 at 12:12 am

    Well this I do know Tavis, has been down on the president ever since Mr. Obama did not show up for his (Tavis) State of the Union meeting. So Tavis has been attacking the president ever since then. Which is right to do if he wants to “seems a little personal to me but that’s just my opinion. One thing I can say the president has made away for black, white, and whoever wants to go on to secondary education they can do it if they want. Why are people not taking advantage of that? As we all know the president is having a hard time to get the Republicans to vote on any agenda he preposes. Because of partisian politics a lot of agendas the president would like to pass through Congress are not even getting a chance to be brought up more or less voted on. So some people can take “shots” at the president right along with Fox news and (Others) Friends, if they want to; it’s their choice. One thing stills stands there was a time we thought we would never get a Black president “yet along with a African name” but now our so-called black brothers and sisters want to keep taking “shots” at him. But be a “crab in the barrel” if ya want to; to each his or her own.

  11. Gcole`

    February 1, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    Ms. Carnell, Tavis Smiley can fight his battle with Tom Joiner, why are you so angry, they are both men playing in public media daily.

  12. Norman hensley

    February 1, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    I hate to see tavis,cornell and tom joyner insult each other.
    It makes the right wingers very happy.
    People like hannity,orielly,limbaugh and fox news loves this stuff.
    I hope tavis,cornell and tom joyner can make peice.

  13. Jhezrel V

    February 1, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    Yvette, you have truly entered an arena of which you know nothing about. Admittedly, you say, you don’t know Tavis Smiley and don’t know his heart. Implying if you did you’d be better qualified to speak on his motives. You also dare say that Tom Joyner does not either… This would be a bet you’d most certainly loose. There are lots of people who know TS personally, and know that his ‘heart’ is nothing like how he tries to display it, publicly. So, given you don’t know Tavis Smiley, and Tom Joyner does, you may be wise to stay out of it since your opinions are not based on any real knowledge of their personal situation. That’s just my opinion, and I am definitely someone who knows.

  14. Jhezrel V

    February 1, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    Yvette, you have truly entered an arena of which you know nothing about. Admittedly, you say, you don’t know Tavis Smiley and don’t know his heart. Implying if you did you’d be better qualified to speak on his motives. You also dare say that Tom Joyner does not either… This would be a bet you’d most certainly loose. There are lots of people who know TS personally, and know that his ‘heart’ is nothing like how he tries to display it. So, given you don’t know Tavis Smiley, and Tom Joyner does, you may be wise to stay out of it since your opinions are not based on any real knowledge of their personal situation. That’s just my opinion, and I am definitely someone who knows.

    • yvette

      February 1, 2013 at 2:45 pm

      Tom Joyner was perfectly fine with Smiley when Smiley joined him on the radio. They were like two peas in a pod, so Joyner obviously never had serious issues with Smiley before Obama’s ascent. And regardless of that, it’s time to let it go. These personal attacks diminish Joyner in ways I’m sure he never intended

  15. Mfuasi

    February 1, 2013 at 11:33 am

    Generally speaking, going by the many comments I read after articles, it seems that far too many Black people are quick to harshly condemn one another. The excessively negative emotionalism and name-calling seems almost volcanic, as if stored up over time and just waiting to gush forth. Stereotypically labeled and often self-defined as “an emotional people” should not preclude calm and rational debate.

  16. rosemary davis

    February 1, 2013 at 11:22 am

    Find something better to write about who cares about the riff between Joyner and Smiley both of them are puffed up with pride and jealousy and they both have diffrent views and opinions so what ever the feud is about it is up to them to hash it out not you, Boyce Watkins or the public.

  17. Rasheed7

    February 1, 2013 at 11:04 am

    I agree with the article… Im sorry, but I just get angry when I see buffoons trying to interfere with with serious scholars and real political discourse.

    Ive simply cannot respect Steve Harvey due to his ignorance and buffoonery… I saw him on a video acting like a dumb negro when talking about how he doesnt believe in science and astronomy…

    “I dont know nuttin bout no clouds of dust, and the sun”

    ^sounding like a straight up jack@ss …. Then the video contrasts Harvey’s disgraceful ignorance witha clip from neil tyson degrasse (the brilliant astrophysicist) who describes how the sun and planets are formed, and how the universe generally works..

    I mentioned that to say that these clowns are comedians….not serious social and political thinkers….

    These clowns are a couple of jokers who are heckling serious scholars like Cornel and a pretty good media/community activist in Tavis..

    its a total disgrace on anyone who takes these clowns serious

    • Alexander Ivory

      February 1, 2013 at 11:49 am

      I just can’t understand why we continue to look down on other people. In fact you were doing exactly what Yvette said we should stop. As a member of the “Mensa” society you should be able to comprehend what she was trying to articulate.

      • Wakeup

        February 1, 2013 at 3:45 pm

        @ Alexander Ivory, sorry but you misunderstood Rasheed7′s point. He’s trying to explain how its a tragedy when comedians who have not put much work and thought into knowing and understanding policy and the issues take a stern stance on them. These people have enormous platforms, with millions of followers. Hence, they should respect that more so than what they do. When they make their silly commentary about real issues or people who are dealing with real issues they should be more apt to deal in facts rather than make personal attacks. They are the ones who are creating this divide and they should be called out. If they are going to participate in intellectual conversation then they need to become versed in policy and the issues. If they are not willing to learn about the issues and policy then they need not say anything. Thus, Steve Harvey and Tom Joyner need to close their mouths, because their remarks regarding policy and the issues concerning black people and America is generally childish.

        • Rasheed7

          February 1, 2013 at 5:05 pm

          Exactly…

          And to compound it, these jokers arent even taking an actual stern stance on any policy.. They are simply defending a politician.

          It would be different if they actually had a policy position.. But they don’t.

          That’s just ridiculous. This isnt a game.