Monday, February 25, 2008

Selling Out

Y'all know this weekend in New Orleans they had this little thing called the State of the Black Union hosted by Tavis Smiley.

Smiley invited several black "leaders" and politicians to discuss topics of interest regarding the black community. Regular citizens were invited to attend for free to rub shoulders with the elite and make sure the crowd looked good on C-Span.

Only it turns out the event wasn't really free.

Now, there wasn't actually an admission fee. But, every attendee had to register online to get into the New Orleans Convention Center. And that, as they say, was the catch.

See, Tavis, being the wily business man that he is, required prospective attendees to fill out extensive questionnaires to register. Not only did these surveys ask for individuals' addresses, phone numbers and email addresses, but they also required much more detailed information.

Attendees had to list how many times they ate out every week, which restaurants they ate at, how much money they made, which auto insurance company they used and a host of other questions that clearly delineated their income levels and spending habits. In fact, if a prospective attendee left any question blank, they were promptly told they couldn't register.

Now, some of you may wonder how this qualifies as an admission fee. Well, as a friend of mine explained it to me, those surveys were likely converted into detailed mailing lists that Tavis either provided free to his sponsors (lovely companies like McDonalds, Allstate and Wal-Mart) or sold to other interested parties looking to tap into the black market. In fact, Tavis most likely kept some of the info for himself in order to better market his next self-help book or video for the black community. After all, there was some fine print that said that if you signed up all your info became property of Mr. Covenant to do with as he wished.

According to my friend, just for the names and addresses alone Tavis could get $5-$10 a head. Considering there were thousands of folks at the conference, that's no chump change. But, the real money is in selling specially culled lists to those individuals looking to get the best bang for their marketing buck.

If you're State Farm looking to attract new customer, you ask for all the individuals who use another insurance company and make sure they get a nice call from a telemarketer at dinner time. Or, say you're a credit card company look for some new suckers, I mean customers, now you know who loves to shop and how much money they make. Whether by selling part of the list or the whole thing, Tavis has an opportunity to make a pretty penny off those individuals who were looking for enlightenment on the state of the black community.

Now, I don't know about y'all, but I find it funny that the same man who was quick to call Obama out for taking black people for granted or trying use our votes to win the election without addressing our issues is pimping out black people to the highest bidder. There is something a tad bit unseemly about a man who pretends to be putting on an event for the edification of black folks when he's really trying to assemble a valuable mailing list on the cheap.

You know, Smiley and several elected officials spent a lot of time complaining that their Negro bona fides had come under attack because they supported Clinton instead of Obama. They noted that it was ridiculous for black people to expect each other to think and act in lockstep.

They were right about that.

But, they missed the point that black folks weren't mad at them for thinking differently, they were mad at them for co-signing the despicable racist tactics of Hillary's campaign. They were mad at them for being willing to sell out our community for funding for their pet projects. See, black people have far too much experience at being used not to be able to pick a hustler out of the crowd, and the only thing we hate more than a hustler is a hustler who tells us he's bilking us for our own good.

So, the next time Tavis decides to climb his ass up on his mangy, knock-kneed high horse I want everybody to know that all his grand talk about being a caretaker of black interests is bullshit.

He done already sold us out.


Anonymous said...


Big Man said...

Thanks for the comment, I appreciate it.

The Christian Progressive Liberal said...

Co Sign!

Those comments about Tavis were spot on the money. We Black people do know a hustler when we see one because many of our own family members have schooled us on the hustle.

Tavis Smiley = Hater.

Unknown said...

Great points, great post.

Interesting though - when I first read the title of the post, I thought you might be writing about Randall Kennedy's "Sellout" book. I've read the usual review in the usual places - Salon, NY Times - but I was wondering what a blogger like yourself thought about the book...

Invisible Woman said...

Good post--hadn't heard of his marketing aspect before.

Raving Black Lunatic