Column: A tale of two cynics: Obama, Harvey share views on slavery

Column: A tale of two cynics: Obama, Harvey share views on slavery
February 19
00:00 2015

By Bill Turner, Guest  Columnist

President Obama and popular game show host Steve Harvey both spoke briefly, but profoundly, recently about the subject of slavery in America.

The difference between their views was Dickensian: the best of times/the worst of times, wisdom/foolishness, belief/incredulity, light/darkness, hope/despair.

President Obama’s point was a no-brainer; Harvey’s was brainless, at best, and perverse, at worst.

Speaking before the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, Mr. Obama reminded Americans – the vast majority of whom are Christians – that terrorism is not something exclusive to some followers of Islam.

“Slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”

The outrage from some Republicans over the president’s remarks, predictably, approached calls for his crucifixion.  Mr. Obama’s constant critics chafe most when he cautions against the belief that the USA is superior when compared with other countries.   He may just as well have used Scripture to make his very sophisticated point: “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone.”

Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmer, a Republican, said the president’s remarks were “the most offensive I’ve heard a president make in my lifetime,” adding, “He has offended every believing Christian in the United States.” The right-wing sharks on Fox News and the echo chambers known as conservative think tanks gathered for their habitual Obama feeding frenzy.

On the same day of the president’s comments, comedian Steve Harvey was asked by a white woman on his show for a strategy to handle her discomfort when she is engaged by “somebody who wants to talk about the past.”

Of all the people, themes, events and milestones along the long arc of history that Mr. Harvey could have latched onto, he suggested she respond to history buffs by telling them, “I don’t really care for slavery!”

But, he couldn’t stop there; maybe because the laughs were too stimulating, he pranced around the set and went on to say, next, “I don’t give a damn about slavery.”

His studio audience erupted in laughter and seat-bouncing applause.

What a great, spontaneous, one liner; a belly-shaking zinger that marks the spot of a polished funnyman. But, what if in his wisecrack Mr. Harvey had used the word Holocaust ins

tead of slavery?

Would it have been as hilarious?  Would he be on television mouthing some feeble expression of regret?

Undoubtedly, more people viewed Harvey’s shaky shot at sarcasm than those who saw or read what President Obama said about slavery and Christianity.

With the exception of a few black-oriented Internet sites, the report of and reaction to Harvey’s monkey business neither made the national news and nor was it the subject topic of commentators.

Steve Harvey not only trivialized slavery, but he disparaged and dishonored those whose hands once picked the cotton

that K&G Fashion Superstore uses to make the suits they target to young black men,

using his name as brand.

Mr. Obama will be remembered for the bravery and courage it took to hold the mirror of slavery up to a self-righteous crowd of cynics and skeptics.

Slavery will be long remembered after

Mr. Harvey is enshrined in the hall of jesters, of foolish men who will say anything for a laugh, for a dollar.

Good for clown Steve Harvey, however, that his slave-held ancestors were Christians who will forgive him, just as they did those who held them in slavery.

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