Tavis Smiley's Book, "Keeping the Faith"

Of course, I knew that people watched my show, that they would buy my books, and that they would come to hear me if I was speaking somewhere. So I was aware that I had some followers. But when I got fired, it became clear to me that Black people saw me as someone they cared about, someone who tried to represent their best interests, someone who was genuinely concerned about the plight of Black America. Their immediate response was "We're not going to stand for this." That's what I love about being Black: when our backs are to the wall, we come together as a people. When one of us is targeted unfairly or unduly, we go to bat for one another.

Consider the reelection of Marion Barry as mayor of Washington, D.C. Here was a man who had been caught on videotape smoking crack and trying to bed a woman who was not his wife, attempting to run for another term as mayor of a major U.S. city. And he won! Many said the reason he won was that Black folks were crazy — how dare they vote Marion Barry back into office. The more sophisticated, however, realized that Black folk in the D.C. area saw the government create an elaborate sting operation to nail Marion Barry — and use their taxpayer dollars to pay for it. And they suspected he was nailed because he is Black. So their vote became their voice and they reelected Marion Barry.

Black love is Black citizens reelecting Marion Barry as mayor of Washington, D.C., when he didn't necessarily deserve their votes. Black love is Black people cheering and rejoicing the day that O.J. Simpson was found not guilty, even though O.J. hadn't done much of anything for Black people. Black love, in its essence, is the awesome capacity and the uncanny ability to love someone in spite of themselves — in spite of their shortcomings, in spite of their mistakes, in spite of their lapses in judgment, in spite of their deserting their community and not giving back to it once they leave. Black love is forgiving.

When I say that Black people have a tremendous capacity for loving others in spite of, I'm not just talking about their ability to love their own, but also the ability to love others in spite of. One can make the case, given the historical relationship between Blacks and whites in America, that Black people love white people in spite of all the things that have been done to us. Think about how Black folks had to love America, in spite of the fact we were considered three-fifths of a person, when we fought alongside whites in the Civil War to help America resolve the issue of slavery, even though many of the soldiers were enslaved themselves. We fought in both world wars as well as the Vietnam War; sometimes we came home missing leg and limb, only to be treated like second-class citizens. Yet we learned to love this country in spite of this. To this day, we are still, through amendment, through protests, through boycotts, and through the ballot, trying to make America live up to her truest ideals. We love this country, we love our people, in spite of and not because of. That's what Black love is.

Although so many Black folks in America detest the programming offered by BET, they have shown their love and support for founder Bob Johnson because he was the only one out there attempting to bring certain issues about Black people to the forefront through the use of mainstream media. So they loved him in spite of and not because of.

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