Gemna Holmes: If Tavis Smiley was White, Wells Fargo and “Ghetto Loans” would be Front Page News
- This is the third in a series of posts about Tavis Smiley and Wells Fargo, sponsor of the State of the Black Union (SOTBU). Everyone is in uproar about Wells Fargo employees calling loans to black mortgage holders “ghetto loans” and the disdain they showed for the customers they made the most profit from. But the media, especially black media, has been very silent about the role Tavis Smiley played in helping stack this ill fated deck of cards that has plagued the black community in several major cities.
- When Mr. Smiley first partnered with Wells Fargo in 2005, he was a TEACHER of economic empowerment and assembled seminars around the country as the keynote speaker for wealth building. Press releases filled every major news outlet inbox and black newspapers were infected with faxes stating Mr. Smiley’s desire to teach the principles of home ownership as the key for breaking the cycle of poverty in the African American community. All this knowledge was given at no charge to trusting black folks. This was the golden ticket to obtaining the elusive piece of the pie via Mr. Smiley’s recommendations.
- Mr. Smiley stated he was “thrilled” to help black folks achieve their dreams but now that many of them have found themselves in a nightmare, where is he? Has he spoken out against the “ghetto loans” statement by Wells Fargo employees? Has he demanded accountability that he touts must be part of helping President Obama be the best President he can be?
- Has he applied that same scrutiny to Wells Fargo now that their sins of omission and commission have been exposed by their employees? Mr. Smiley’s messages are often woven with biblical terms to give his messages of empowerment a spiritual halo; so I will take a page from his book, has he washed himself in hyssop to amend for his leadership initiatives with Wells Fargo that has caused financial harm to people of color?
- We should not be shy about asking these questions of Mr. Smiley. But why is black media afraid to question one of their favorite sons about the role he played promoting Wells Fargo to the African American community? Could it be they are part of the problem as well? I am keenly aware of the balance between the news and advocacy and recruiting advertisers and sponsors but we should not be ostriches when it comes to a story of this magnitude. For those who used Mr. Smiley’s conferences/events as promos to keep themselves in the mainstream media eye as “leaders” of the African-American community, they are eerily quiet on this subject. Many are giving the vibe that this is not their problem.
- What’s that sound I hear from the media? Being a pest control operator, I know it all too well…crickets.
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Previous posts at Gemna Speaks about Tavis Smiley and Wells Fargo:
Tavis Smiley Holds Barack Accountable, but Who Holds Tavis Accountable?