West and Coates should look East

cornel west ta nehisi coates

Can we not acknowledge that there are deep disagreements among us with our very lives and destinies at stake?

— Dr. Cornel West in Ta-Nehisi Coates is the neoliberal face of the black freedom struggle, Guardian, Dec. 17, 2017

Quoting Dr. Cornel West’s words seemed to be a good initial approach as I partially unpack his hit on Ta-Nehisi Coates in yesterday’s Guardian news site.

I think there are clear differences in the way many African descendants view the struggle for equality and justice.

And unlike some of you, I don’t necessarily have a problem with that.

My opinion is born from university days, when my dormitory director — an avuncular older Black woman with full-time spine of steel — concerned herself with one main goal: help to grow the leadership potential in the young predominantly Black men who resided in the dorm.

I was the dormitory president, which meant I interacted with the director — let’s call her Mama Kay for the moment — for extended periods on a near-daily basis.

My social views back then were far to the left of hers, and she made sure I knew that every time we spoke.

Her only concern was to develop strong Black men in the dorm.

Protests? “No agitation,” she said.

Colonialism in Africa? “Not my interest right now.”

Interesting response. But I’ll keep moving.

Malcolm and Martin? “Martin, and don’t bring up the other one’s name.”

While we exchanged our different points of view, her drumbeat of “Developing strong Black men in this dorm” remained steady.

How could I argue with that point?

Mama Kay and I found a way to work past our differences and help to create an environment that supported young Black men, myself included, in their journey towards leadership.

Through programs and other initiatives, we also created an environment that helped the dorm residents to explore broad viewpoints across the African Diaspora and beyond, which included inviting one of the university’s most left-leaning history professors to discuss world issues in the dorm lounge — a night where young and fiery spirits argued among themselves hours after the professor left.

My point is that opposing points of view are going to exist among African descendants, but that doesn’t mean unity can’t exist to address common goals.

I don’t recall Coates being very vocal about how President Barack Obama turned a sovereign African nation into a jihadist cesspool and did nothing after immediately learning that ethnic cleansing took place in the same country. History now shows that the “bomb to protect” citizens justification for bombing Libya was a fairytale. And then there’s that Syria problem. Plus, contrary to what Coates may think, there’s a wide gap in the world views of President Obama and Malcolm X.

But I also don’t recall Dr. West disowning his buddy Tavis Smiley for taking impoverishment loot from a bank with a reputation for predatory lending, among the institution’s other crimes against the poor. In my opinion, West should’ve cut off Minister Louis Farrakhan a long time ago — for the most obvious reasons, if you know what I mean.

I could write over a dozen posts that picks apart either Coates, Dr. West, or the people they’ve been drawn to.

But instead, I hope the two cats can unite around some common struggles. Lawd knows we have plenty …

song currently stuck in my head: “cause of it all” – howlin’ wolf

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