The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

14 February 2012

Tavis Smiley, Cornel West Feast On Overt Racism


Inflammatory, Divisive Words Spill From Show

Using terms like "vanilla side of town" and laughing hysterically at a "kill whitey" joke, racial divisiveness took center stage during Sunday's edition of the Smiley & West Show. Airing mostly on NPR stations, the program is heard weekly.

Hosts Tavis Smiley and Cornel West seemed particularly unconcerned with who might be listening as actor / comedian Garrett Morris had them in stitches over the fate of "whitey".

Yes, Morris is a funny guy and has been doing that kind of schtick since the seventies. But they enjoyed the crack just a bit too much.

Can you imagine jokes about killing black people airing on NPR?

More inappropriate by far was West's reaction to a disturbing incident in The Bronx, where an unarmed 18-year-old was shot to death by a police officer in his grandmother's home. The officer entered the home without a warrant and many unanswered questions remain.

But here, most likely to inflame tensions, "the vanilla side of town" (wherever that might be) was needlessly interjected into the conversation.

Both quotes have been placed together in the clip below:

CORNEL WEST: If the same thing happened on the vanilla side of town, among the upper-middle class white brothers and sisters, there would be a major outrage and in fact we’d probably get some comment from the White House, we’d get comments from the governor. We’d get comments not just from the mayor, but from a whole wave of people who for the most part are silent about these things and it’s just sad and ridiculous that we have to deal with this kind of double standard.


GARRETT MORRIS [GUEST]: Bill Duke and I and some other people we did a thing called "slave ship" and so when we were improvising with, you know, Imamu and Gilbert Moses and the NAC and places like that we did more improvisation that was for real about problems of addiction and stuff like that.

And so we didn’t have a lot of comedy and our improvisational space went from 'hate whitey' to 'kill whitey,' which is a very small space.

WEST: Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

TAVIS SMILEY: Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! A very small space, that’s funny!

Interestingly, however, Smiley & West continue to pound away at Obama for what they see as inaction on key issues affecting working people and the poor. Even the "vanilla" slam was partially directed at the president. So there is more than one agenda on display here.


  • Keep up the good work. I enjoy reading your posts.

    I enjoyed Garret Morris on SNL and while I didn't find his comments offensive, I did find the response by Tavis and Cornel very illustrative. Cornel West is a sad excuse for an intellectual and a pathetic example for the black community as a whole.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 14 February, 2012 19:27  

  • I suppose now that we live in a society where "beat-downs," brawls, and "polar bear hunts" are common, we can't be too surprised about this. After all, we all go around saying "the n word," as if we were kindergardeners, but "cracker" is joining the other common, offensive words like "pimp," "ho," and "bitch." Kinda shows who's in charge. It's like that old joke where if a martian came down and saw the dog walking around, with the man scooping up his poop....

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 20 February, 2012 18:54  

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