Maybe you didn’t notice while going about your post-almost-government-shutdown weekend, but MSNBC’s Ed Schultz (not to be confused with Hogan’s Heroes’ Sgt. Schultz) and Rev. Al Sharpton did a whole special thing on black folks. And, today at theLoop21, we found a convenient way to summarize all the important nuggets from that conversation so you can sound smart to your church friends while not worrying about all that complicated consumption of television news.
Don’t worry. Besides the fact that a white talk show head hosted a discussion exclusively about black folks, you didn’t miss much.
We understand that dedicated uppity black folks feel obligated to watch such programs. So, it is our pleasure to dutifully report that if you’ve ever watched any of Tavis’s State of the Black Union conferences, C-SPAN coverage of an NAACP or Urban League event or even gone to a well organized Martin Luther King, Jr. Day program at a local high school, you didn’t miss that much.
Some low flying big-ups to Cornel West and Jeff Johnson for trying to make it lively. But, the fact is that there just isn’t that much going on that isn’t already depressing and that we don’t already know.
Here’s a minute-by-minute replay:
First, can’t have a mainstream Black Agenda show without Jeff Johnson, Sharon Hunter, Marc Morial and Al Sharpton waxing about MLK.
19:00 – Pulitzer Prize winning writer Sharon Hunter manages to mention Nene Leakes and Oprah Winfrey … in a discussion on the recession. Moving on …
23:00 – Everyone should take a shot of Cruzan rum and Coke whenever the phrase “We Gots to do better” is used. Jeff Johnson alone would’ve gotten me drunk in this segment. Ed Schultz comes back from commercial break with a discussion of Healthcare with Velma Heart, Robert Traynham of RollCallTV, Cornel West and Al Sharpton
31:00 – “A Republican party [that is] mean-spirited and coldhearted which is just a right wing version of the wallstreet oligarchs and corporate plutocrats.” Every time Cornel West speaks, it’s time to pass around a collection plate.
32:00 – Velma Heart, famous for voicing “I’m tired of defending Obama” now wants you, her friends, family, neighbors and future employers to know that she’s not a GOP campaign tool and that she actually supports Obama. Someone must have changed their phone number.
35:00 – Sharpton and West are getting into it, about to come to blows. By the way, are we the only ones noticing Cornel West wears the exact same black scarf tie and shirt combo – like Charlie Brown’s black and yellow stripes? Waiting for the papparazi money shot of West winding up at Trinidad carnival, thugged in Akademik tee, Hawaiian shorts and Ray Ban sunglasses.
42:00 – Commercial break then same panel and a weird 5 minute mini bio of Rev Al Sharpton. A mixture of In the Actor’s Studio and This is Your Life. It disrupted the flow of conversation, and if you’re going to spend air time talking about Sharpton, where’s the footage of his run for Mayor of New York or President of the United States?
51:00 – With Obama as proxy, Sharpton and West debate where fault lies for little progressive power in the Congressional Black Caucus and other outlets when it comes to policy.
This degenerates into an “Ivory tower” versus “The Streets” fight, but it’s a real one. Sharpton argues that many of the same black members of government and academia who accuse Obama of not standing up for civil rights and the poor were the same ones bojangling for Bush’s war policies. Best Quote of an Increasingly Interesting Night goes to Al Sharpton: “If you SCARED, say you SCARED – but, don’t blame that on Obama!! Ya’ll making excuses for people who been there 40 years and ain’t done nothing – now they wanna blame Obama!!”
So Ed shuts off a really good discussion about activism to bore us to death with a discussion on education. Boring in the sense that nothing ever gets done with that. Discussions about education in the black community always devolve into fights over teachers or parents. Can we get a panel composed of successful teachers who have accomplished great things talking about schools that have improved? It’s not news anymore that tons of black men and women don’t graduate from high-school.
The second hour was pretty much a series of speeches about absent policy discussion and solution finding. Which begs the question: so, why were we here, again? There goes the player-hating groans of black pundits, commentators, activists and intellectuals consumed with self-righteous rage that the MSNBC booking producer didn’t call them. And while we can applaud MSNBC for its sudden recognition of a large black viewing audience that – yes – wants a black host for one of their persistently white-hosted programs, we have to wonder out loud if this helped any. African American lives aren’t really changed and most white people won’t care one way or another.
For the future, let’s figure out a better model for substantive discussion . Rather than endless diatribes on where ‘black folks’ are, let’s talk about solutions that have worked and can take African Americans where they could be.
The article originally appeared on TheLoop21.com under the headline “Move Over Housewives! MSNBC Presents The Black Agenda Reality Show.”