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Op/Ed by Columnist Joel M.
Although there was a lot to take away, when the program had concluded and the final bars of Stevie Wonder’s impromptu, “We Have Overcome” faded, it left a feeling of disingenuous superficiality.
First of all, the three special guests of the evening were all men.
Yes, Reverend Sharpton had a great interview with Condoleezza Rice, but she wasn’t at the show to speak on the panel with the other guests. Her interview was pre-recorded.
Rather than prominently featuring a successful African American woman alongside Stevie Wonder, Magic Johnson and Tyler Perry, the women had their own ten minute segment featuring a couple of really nice, successful women you’ve never heard of.
He invited Lisa Price, a businesswoman who created her own line of beauty products, and Sallie Krawcheck, a former Bank of America executive, to share their experiences. Unfortunately, Rev. Sharpton never got beyond the simple acknowledgement that women still only make a fraction of what men earn for the same work. There was a real opportunity to unite a wide array of experiences and different perspectives; unfortunately there was no follow-through.
There were other suspect elements of the show besides this pittance.
One of the show’s guests, Sallie Krawcheck, happened to be white. Why was this woman on the panel? She didn’t say anything wrong or offensive, but by putting a white woman on the show rather than another person of color, we must ask ourselves:
“Whose voice was silenced for a white woman who worked on Wall Street to be able to speak?”
I again reiterate that I appreciated the show’s attempt to bring folks together who you wouldn’t associate at first glance.
It is, however, noteworthy that there was no representation from the LGBT community on the panel or in any of the interviews done that night. There are plenty of prominent LGBT African Americans who could have spoken on the panel: RuPaul, Angela Davis, Wanda Sykes, Frank Ocean, Azealia Banks, Sapphire.
Apart from this oversight on the part of Rev. Sharpton or MSNBC, the decision to highlight success stories, though uplifting, was irksome; 50 years after the dream, these one-in-a-million success stories neither provide an accurate reflection of the community, nor do they provide a roadmap for the future.
Ultimately “Advancing the Dream” only scratched the surface of the matter at hand; the state of the dream cannot be measured through tokenizing success stories be they the success of women, of African Americans, of Latinos or LGBT folks or anybody else.
We can appreciate the stories, experiences and advice offered by Sharpton’s guests, we can allow them to inspire us and push us forward into our future, but Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream was not that one day there would be wildly successful minorities in this country – singers, ball players, singers or presidents – but that all Americans would be born into the same opportunity so that we can truly live up to our nation’s promise.
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