HipHopWired contributor and headstrong Black intellect, Dr. Boyce Watkins had a meeting of the minds August 19th with the honorable Reverend Al Sharpton over several topics. The Black figureheads engaged listeners on Sharpton’s radio show on 1380 WAOK particularly touching on President Obama’s health care reform plan, the president’s reaction to the Henry Louis Gates Jr. Case, and the reinstatement of NFL quarterback, Michael Vick. The Reverend posed a question to the intellect asking his opinion on the president’s consideration to remove “public option” out of the reform bill. He poses the question saying:
“If public option is out, does that kill reform as a real reform?”
To which Dr. Watkins responds:
“I don’t think it kills the ability of it to be real reform, I think it’s a compromise that I didn’t necessarily want to see happen. If you look at what’s happened with the president and his ability to do the impossible. I don’t know what’s more impossible. Him being elected the first Black president or trying to reform a system that is incredibly flawed and filled with so many individual interests. You can’t imagine somebody being able to do that, a lot of people’s careers have been ruined for trying to take on this system. So I applaud the president for doing that. I think that at this point we have to stick to the guns, keep our eye on the prize and that is that there are millions and millions of Americans who can’t get insurance. People who are limited by preexisting conditions that are uninsurable, millions of Americans go bankrupt because of medical bills. So my big question with health insurance has always been, what are the hospitals going to contribute to this? What are the pharmaceutical companies going to contribute this? That’s the most profitable industry in America or at one of the top three and it’s because they charge a lot of money for drugs that shouldn’t cost as much as they actually do cost.”
Dr. Watkins continues on to say that people are using the escalating health care reform debates as an excuse to attack the President, actions he calls, “Un-American”.
“l think there are people that are really trying to use healthcare reform as a way to really cripple the president. They don’t really hate healthcare reform or the ideas as much as they hate the man that’s proposing these ideas. That’s just un-American.”
Then two figureheads move on, this time to July’s controversial Henry Louis Gates, Jr. case. The incident brought racial profiling to the forefront after the Harvard professor claimed to be arrested for being a Black man and reached a peak when President Obama took to his defense, a move Dr. Watkins disagrees with.
“I feel that he lost a lot of very valuable political capital during the Henry Louis Gates situation. I would have preferred that during that conference he focus on healthcare instead of standing up for his homeboy at Harvard University. Let’s be real, people think that Obama was speaking on race when he brought up the Gates case during the healthcare reform press conference but in my opinion it was more about one Harvard person standing up for another. Believe me if Pookie Jones got shot in the back during the healthcare conference, President Obama would’ve only been willing to say, that Pookie needs affordable doctors and that’s why we need healthcare reform. Obama wouldn’t have done what he did and you look at the polls, Obama lost a lot of support after that, and I think that was an unnecessary distraction.”
The Reverend agreed with his statement, in particular because of his participation in the Civil Rights movement. To add poignancy to his point, the reverend mentions a debate he had with conservative political commentator, Ann Coulter who tried to relate the 2006 Duke Lacrosse team’s rape indictment to Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s incident. According to Coulter, the lacrosse team’s case was racial profiling as well.
“A lot of us that fought the racial profiling cases, that made it part of the American lexicon in the 90s, clearly understand the definition because we helped define it. I was debating Ann Coulter on CNN and she said, that Duke University was racial profiling. How was Duke Lacrosse racial profiling? First of all it was whites that were arrested and it was based on a complaint. No cop was riding by and picked somebody out. So it almost has become whatever you want to make it.”
After a few snickers and dismissing her brash claim, the two brought up the controversial reinstatement of Michael Vick to the NFL. Dr. Watkins is known for his support of Vick and made that clear by relating his treatment to that of a lynching.
“People think that I defended Michael Vick because I thought he was innocent. No I think Michael Vick is an absolute knuckle head but I think that the punishment must fit the crime. If I tell you I stabbed my daughter in the chest because she didn’t do her homework, the question is not whether or not homework is a good or bad thing. The question is does the punishment fit the crime. We saw this man get absolutely lynched by the public in terms of taking everything away from him. It was really a reminder of what they did to Black men 100 years ago for committing a crime or doing anything that white people found to be offensive. They took away this man’s entire life over something that should have had a far night ending to the debt he had to pay to society. “
Listen to Reverend Al Sharpton’s Interview of Dr. Boyce Watkins here: