Obama Supporter Ryan Mack Finds Common Ground with Cornel West: Why Can’t We All Work Together?

ryan-cornel Written By Ryan Mack, Author of Living in the Village
I was in the auto shop one day and overheard two mechanics arguing over the best method to fix a car. From the loud discussion it was clear there were two main problems …neither the fan belt nor the engine was functioning properly. 
The first mechanic felt the need to replace the fan belt first because it was a relatively easy fix which could be done in a manner of minutes.  The second mechanic felt the engine should be serviced first because it was a much larger issue and could take a few days to complete successfully.  It seemed to me to be a pointless debate because both issues needed to be fixed and if you neglected either issue, the car wouldn’t operate. Pride, ego, and an unwillingness to see the larger picture caused a very simplistic decision to turn into a debate that lasted much longer than it should and took them away from the single most important task at hand…fixing the car.
 This is what happens in the Black community far too often. We find ourselves in these petty arguments, filled with foolish pride and ego, which distract us from the most important task at hand…economic advancement for all.  When it comes to determining what is needed for the Black community, there are a many more issues than just two, but all should be given equal priority in our discussions for if any one of them is not addressed the economic advancement of the Black community will be obstructed. Whether your topic of choice is education, financial literacy, civic engagement, mass incarceration/social justice, health, parental obligation, entrepreneurship, mentorship, or whatever you choose to address…ALL are crucial to the forward advancement of our community and anyone who chooses to advocate on behalf of their particular issue must be respected.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Cornel West and discuss the State of the Black Economy on February 6th  ( http://www.thegreenespace.org/events/thegreenespace/2013/feb/06/next-new-york-conversation-state-black-economy/). Dr. West is in the news frequently and is very vocal about many issues including holding the President accountable for policies that impact the Black community. While we don’t always agree (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ryan-mack/an-open-letter-to-cornel-_b_860123.html), I continue to respect his work as well as the work of Mr. Tavis Smiley. Does the fact that I do not agree with him mean that I must now demonize his efforts? Absolutely not! We must understand that Dr. West and Tavis Smiley are doing what they believe should be done to fix the vehicle of the Black economy. They are doing their very best to address poverty and comprehensive economic advancement. In my eyes they are leaders, and should be commended for their efforts. Their efforts, my efforts and the efforts of many others are all necessary and should all complement each other.
I repeat, we don’t agree on everything, but to be a leader in my eyes does not require 100% agreement from me or anyone else.  Dr. West places a heavy emphasis on systemic or structural change and holding the President accountable.  On the other hand I am an advocate for personal accountability. So I have a choice…I can criticize Dr. West and Tavis Smiley for not talking about personal responsibility, or I can become the change I want to see in the world by placing the burden upon my own shoulders to complement their efforts.  As opposed to criticizing them, we can do what Dr. West and I did in our event and recognize that both of us have ideas on what is needed to move our community forward. Both personal responsibility AND systemic change are crucial for economic advancement and TOGETHER we fulfill a much needed void in our community. 
Complementing the efforts of others and therefore maximizing the positive impact we have on the community is how we must work together. We must never believe that every leader can be everything to everyone…this is a burden that is too heavy for any man or woman to bear.  The Black community must not assume the excessively convenient posture of the critic. It takes nothing to criticize the efforts, or the lack of efforts of someone else, but it takes real strength to step up and fill the void as you perceive it. Reaching out to others in a unified effort with the full understanding that none of us is as strong as all of us…that’s what is needed.  Together we can do phenomenal things that will never be accomplished if we attempt to move forward separately. 
So I say publicly that I respect the work of Dr. West, admire his determination and tireless effort to empower the community, and will continue to pray for his strength. I ask God to give me the wisdom to continue to complement his efforts or to support our communal efforts to move forward economically.  I pray that we all will not be so quick to find reasons to demonize others efforts; that we will continue to find reasons to uplift and support the efforts of others; that we will continue to strive be the change we want to see in our communities through the calling that has been uniquely designed for each one of us; and that we will always see the bigger picture that can only be achieved through unity.  In that place where you find common ground; you will also find community advancement, love, and God. 
Ryan Mack, President of Optimum and Author of “Living in the Village”
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Dr. Cornel West and Ryan Mack discuss “The State of the Black Economy”
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  1. Ryan, I hear what you are saying and I mentioned something similar in response to a recent interview of Marc Morial’s, when he stated the National Urban League was unlike other organizations in that they are not just talkers or a think tank, but rather doers. He went on to say, when you think of the Urban League, think of jobs; a misstep on his part, when African Americans have had the highest unemployment rate. Understand, it was, and is not, my intent to discredit the wonderful work that the Urban League does, but to emphasize, as you have so eloquently, that each organization has a different mission and role. Not only does the Black community need talkers, think tanks and doers, but much, much more. Equally important, we must collaboratively work as partners in harmony and in unity to solve the issues in the Black community, because ain’t nobody else coming.

    I also agree with your philosophy with regard to personal accountability. It starts with each individual, each family and has a rippling effect into the community throughout our nation and spreads over the world. I speak from experience. As a mother of three successful, now, adult children, when they were in school, I not only monitored and advocated their education, I taught them and reinforced their school lessons. I also monitored their activities; I knew their friends and they were involved in the community and in the church along with me. I even paused, my career to be there for my family.

    Imagine, though, what we, as a people, could achieve, if each family actually took care of their own, and there was commUnity. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Part of the breakdown of the Black community is social inequality and discrimination. That is not to say that we should be irresponsible by any means, as that only exasperates the problem. But if you are not educated, there are no jobs, no money to start a business, your community is inflicted with drugs, your parents are addicted or in prison, and another bomb filled with AIDS hits your community, it is a very grim situation. And then you have this Black man, come out of nowhere with a funny name, who claims to be a change agent and as soon as he gets into office he, too, ignores your community’s plight. I believe, and I could be wrong, that’s why Dr. Cornel and Tavis are upset, because they feel President Obama misrepresented himself to the Black community.

  2. With all due respect, Mr. Mack, blacks are not against what Dr. West is trying to do. Who is trying to stop him? The fact that he’s not effective isn’t something blacks can be blamed for. There’s universal agreement that blacks need jobs. This has nothing (or little) to do with why blacks have turned against Dr. West. He, himself, “stepped in it” when he accused the president of not wanting to see a free black man. Ed Shultz had Dr. West on his show to talk about what was wrong with Congress and how we could work together and
    Dr. West went off on an tangent criticizing Obama. You should have seen the look on Ed Shultz’s face. I haven’t seen Dr. West back on that show since. There’s something inside Dr. West (especially regarding Obama) that’s “eating at him”. He has a lot of negative energy. However, if he is trying to get something done, I don’t know who’s blocking him. Was the Dr. West Travis Smiley tour a success? If not, why not? It certainly isn’t because blacks hate them. There are enough people out there listening and are willing to work with Dr. West to get something done. You don’t need everybody. If his campagin was ineffective what makes you think its because blacks can’t work together? Do you think Dr. Martin Luther King or Malcolm X went without black criticisms? There will always be disagreements. You have to know how to work around it. However, if Dr. West wants to pull in more supports for his project, he needs to listen to you and be less negative.

  3. We can’t work together because we are messed up from our original purpose for being here. Being black is a sacred purpose. We are not in sync or order as people with this. So there we have us. A divided and fragmented group who are contaimnated with white folks’ agendas.