President Obama’s harsh-sounding words to the Congressional Black Caucus to “stop complaining” naturally upset PBS talk-show host Tavis Smiley, who never fails to stop complaining that Obama isn’t liberal enough. "The president of the United States ought to consider more wisely the words that he uses when talking to Black folk as compared to others,” he asserted at the end of an interview with Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee on PBS Tuesday.
Incredibly, Jackson Lee told the conservative bloggers who liked this speech to "shut up and stop playing racial politics." For his part, Smiley was especially angry that anyone cheered Obama's rhetoric at the CBC event, suggesting people cheering the crucifixion of Jesus Christ as well:
SMILEY: Let me jump in now, because I do look at it in different ways, honestly and respectfully. Let me just start by saying there were people cheering and jumping up and down when they crucified Jesus, so the fact that people are jumping up and down, cheering, don’t mean that what’s going down is right. They cheered when they crucified our savior, number one.
Number two, would the – I’m going to ask you direct – would the president ever say to an audience of our Jewish brothers and sisters concerned about the plight, the crisis in the Middle East, “Stop complaining, stop groveling, stop crying?”
Would this president ever say to Wall Street, publicly, “Stop grumbling, stop complaining, stop crying?” Would he ever say to our Hispanic brothers and sisters on immigration and their concerns, “Stop grumbling, stop crying, stop complaining?” Did he say to gays and lesbians, “Stop grumbling, stop complaining, stop crying?” How does he get away with saying this to Black folk when he would never form his lips to ever say that to any other constituency, Congresswoman?
JACKSON LEE: Well, I will say this. First of all, you’re absolutely right. There were those who cheered when Jesus was crucified, and we have found that despicable from the beginning of history to this time.
I think familiarity is the answer to your question. The president came and put on the armor of brother and sister. I make no excuse for some of those comments as you look back and you wonder whether they were said in love, whether they were said to your brother who’s sitting next to you who’s been having hard times and you’re trying to pump your brother up or your sister up and you’re saying, “Come on, now, you can do better than this. We’re not complaining.”
My view of it as a legislator and an articulation of pain and complaint, I will still continue to articulate complaint, pain and despair.
Smiley unloaded his traditional line that blacks are too deferential to Obama when they should be demanding more government benefits for black people:
SMILEY: But here’s the other question, though, Congresswoman – who was he talking to? I’m asking this because, excuse my English, ain’t nobody in Black America been complaining. The problem is that too many Black folk, from the bourgeois elites down to everyday people, have been too deferential to this president. They’ve been too silent on the pain that Black folk are suffering. We’ve got to ask ourselves what is our pain threshold, what is the presidency worth, what’s history going to say about us and our deafening silence in this moment?
So when he says, “Stop complaining and stop grumbling and stop crying,” who’s actually been doing that? To my mind, ain’t nobody been saying nothing about our condition. (Laughter) So what’s he talking about?
JACKSON LEE: And you know the English language and the emotion of crescendo language. Now, I know that this language was actually in the speech, but I saw the degree of emotion that the president generated, and again, Tavis, I think it was all about being the captain and being in charge.
I think your analysis is right about the emotion and love, but I heard something just this past weekend which was I think interesting enough – we are in a unique atmosphere and historical time frame that none of us have ever been. Never had a Black president, an African American, never had the cultural differences that we see. So we’re all walking on thin ice, on no ice at all. What I would say to you on this is I feel no ways tired and took that no way as directed to me. Will I be out complaining tomorrow on behalf of my people? Yes. Will the Congressional Black Caucus be out complaining, if that is how it’s defined, challenging, charging up folk? Yes, we will.
Here's where Smiley and Jackson Lee turned on the conservatives, as PBS so often does with taxpayer subsidies provided by conservatives:
SMILEY: But Congresswoman, respectfully, here’s the flip side, though. If you’ve been online as I have been and you’ve seen all of these right-wing bloggers and websites and conservative websites. They are taking such delight in writing headlines, “Obama Tells Blacks to Shut Up and Get In Line,” “Obama Tells Blacks Stop Complaining,” “Obama Tells Blacks Stop Whining.”
They are taking such delight in writing those headlines. So here’s the question – are these really – I know what you mean, but are these really complaints or are these legitimate grievances? When the president situates these concerns that I view as legitimate grievances as complaining and grumbling and crying, and our opponents in the media and across the aisle, as you might say, take that kind of language as a complaint, as a grumble, as a cry, and not as a legitimate grievance. How do you advance the debate on those terms?
JACKSON LEE: Tavis, you have a wonderful analysis on this, and let me first say this – to all the bloggers, shut up and stop playing racial politics. It’s the old-line politics of pitting us against each other. That’s one thing, and I understand. I’ve seen some of those headlines as well, and I can’t wait to get to the floor of the House to challenge them on their pettiness and their opportunity that they have thought that they have been given for us to knock heads against each other. No, they are not complaints. You’re absolutely right. I took language that was utilized, but they’re not complaints. In fact, I don’t even call them grievances. I call them rightness.