Why Steve Harvey is wrong for calling West & Smiley ‘Uncle Tom’

by Dawud Walid

One of Blackamerica’s Kings of Coonery and Buffoonery Steve Harvey recently in an angry diatribe used the term “Uncle Tom” referring to Dr. Cornel West and Tavis Smiley’s Poverty Bus tour, which has been critical of President Barack Hussein Obama’s economic policies and militarization. Harvey even stated that West and Smiley must be paid by outside interests (presumably Republicans) to afford the bus tour.

Harvey like other Black personalities is missing a fundamental point, appearing to be blinded by identity politics.

Uncle Toms don’t challenge or speak truth to power. A Tom connotes that he or she curries favor to the powers that be to get along or sell out their own. And since some of the policies of Obama that West and Smiley criticize are in the interests of corporate America, whom Harvey has skinned and grinned for, as well as the military industrial complex, I don’t think that West and Smiley are serving those entities interests.

Those who criticize and critique Obama should not be painted as sell-outs or committers of cultural treason. In fact, criticizing Obama is actually what he needs. He has to know that he cannot take the Black and working class votes for granted, which are the groups (as well as American Muslims) that overwhelmingly voted for him in 2008.

From a spiritual perspective, the final prophet of Islam, Muhammad (Prayers & Peace be upon him and his family) gave lessons regarding this issue.

The first relates to a man who questioned Prophet Muhammad asking, “Is it from tribalism that a man loves his people?” Prophet Muhammad replied, “No, but it is from tribalism when a man supports his people when they are doing wrong.”

The second relates to when Prophet Muhammad told his followers, “Help your brother be he wronged or a wrong-doer.” His followers inquired, “We know how to help the wronged, but how do we help the wrong-doer?” Prophet Muhammad replied, “Stop him from doing wrong, and that is how you help the wrong-doer.” Obama has continued and even extended many Bush era policies that have hurt poor, working class people, further eroded civil rights and increased American militarism abroad. Those who say that we should ignore his role in this just to get a Black man re-elected for a second term have allowed racial affinity to blind them to the deterioration of their own people.

 Though I do not agree with everything that West and Smiley say, attempts by Harvey and his ilk to stifle debate by launching attacks upon Black authenticity of critics of Obama are much more revolting. Moreover, such attacks are counterproductive for the long term interests of the people.

(Dawud Walid is a leading voice for Muslims & Islam in Michigan. Read more of his blogs at http://dawudwalid.wordpress.com/)