Paperback ð Race Matters eBook Þ

Paperback ð Race Matters eBook Þ

Race Matters [EPUB] ✻ Race Matters Author Cornel West – Capitalsoftworks.co.uk In this essay collection many of which have previously appeared in journals West the director of Afro American studies at Princeton author of several books addresses a number of issues of concern to b In this essay collection many of which have previously appeared in journals West the director of Afro American studies at Princeton author of several books addresses a number of issues of concern to black Americans the LA riots after the Rodney King verdict; Malcolm X; Clarence Thomas Anita Hill; black street life These topics are all timely yet timeless in that they represent the continuing struggle to include African Americans in mainstream American political economic social life without destroying their uniue culture The essays have the feel of a fine sermon with thought provoking ideas new ways of looking at the same old problems They can be uickly read yet take a long time to digest because of West's uniue slant on life Already well known in scholarly circles he's increasingly becoming visible to the general public This book should make his essays accessible to a greater number of people Library JournalPrefaceIntroduction Race MattersNihilism in Black America The pitfalls of racial reasoningThe crisis of Black leadership Demystifying the new Black conservatismBeyond affirmative action euality and identityOn Black Jewish relations Black sexuality the taboo subjectMalcolm X and Black rage Epilogue to the Vintage edition.


About the Author: Cornel West

Cornel Ronald West is an American scholar and public intellectual Formerly at Harvard University West is currently a professor of Religion at Princeton West says his intellectual contributions draw from such diverse traditions as the African American Baptist Church Marxism pragmatism transcendentalism and Anton Chekhov.



10 thoughts on “Race Matters

  1. Kevin Shepherd Kevin Shepherd says:

    Full disclosure I don’t come to “Race Matters” from an insightful and enlightened place I was raised in an all white town infamous for the 1907 lynching of James Garden by all white parents who used the “N word” on a daily basis without the slightest hint of reservation or remorse Although it was off the books long before I was born our uaint little hamlet once had a ‘sundown law’ meaning it was illegal for any black person to be within city limits after sunset No joke Henryetta Oklahoma look it upThat said I never inherited the genetic mutation that made a person despise another person on the basis of their skin pigmentation and neither did my siblings That’s not to say I didn’t have a lot to learn I was “diversity deprived” until I graduated high school in 1980 Having rarely ever been in close proximity much less in conversation with a black human being I said and did all those stupid fucking white people things none of us should ever ever say or do NOTE to Grooms my friend and bunkmate from boot camp 1980 Co 174 if you’re out there man I’m soooo sorry and thank you for not punching me in the face which you had every right to do every time I touched your hairSo here I am 57 years into a life that started out on the wrong side of history hopefully a little wiser still a work in progress looking to Dr Cornel West for if not answers at least the right uestions “no democracy can survive no matter how strong its markets are without a serious public life and commitment to fairness and justice” Dr Cornel West 2001My preconceptions of ‘Race Matters’ were pretty far off the mark For one thing Dr West is almost as critical of the political left as he is of the political right almost For another he doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to the shortcomings of past and present black leadership There are no disingenuous allegiances or sacred cows here Be you Jesse Jackson or Booker T Washington Cornel West is going to hold you accountable West sees US political machinery operating in two camps 1 “Liberal Structuralism” promoting childcare programs full employment access to healthcare and broad affirmative action practices and 2 “Conservative Behavioralism” promoting black business expansion self help incentives and non preferential job practices Both camps come with their own set of problems and both West insists fail to grapple with the central issue of American racial disparity cultural nihilism“Nihilism is to be understood here not as a philosophic doctrine that there are no rational grounds for legitimate standards or authority; it is far the lived experience of coping with a life of horrifying meaninglessness hopelessness and most important lovelessness” This nihilism West maintains is manifested as a collective angst brought about by immersion in a culture of white supremacy that degrades and devalues black worth black intelligence black ability and black character “we must delve into the depths where neither liberals nor conservatives dare to tread namely into the murky waters of despair and dread that now flood the streets of black America The liberalconservative discussion conceals the most basic issue now facing black America the nihilistic threat to its very existence” Think about this for a second this is Cornel West circa 1993 He talks about the pitfalls of racial reasoning still a problem He talks about the crisis of black leadership still a problem He talks about the phenomenon of black conservatism inherently problematic He talks about the skewed distribution of wealth an exponentially bigger problem now than it was in 1993 Black sexuality black rage black antisemitism All of this could be easily gleaned from the headlines here in 2020 None of this is resolved none of this has subsided most of this has escalated “Malcolm X’s deep pessimism about the capacity and possibility of white America to shed their racism led him ironically to downplay the past and present bonds between blacks and whites For if the two groups were as Martin Luther King Jr put it locked into “one garment of destiny” then the very chances for black freedom were nil This deep pessimism also rendered Malcolm X ambivalent about American democracy for if the majority were racist how could the black minority ever be free?” History has shown I believe that Malcolm’s concerns were than justified If you think I’m being overly pessimistic consider this David Duke a white supremacist convicted felon former KKK Grand Wizard neo nazi Holocaust denier got 55% of the white vote and 69% of the white “evangelical christian” vote when he was elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives “We are at a crucial crossroad in the history of this nation and we either hang together by combating these forces that divide and degrade us or we hang separately Do we have the intelligence humor imagination courage tolerance love respect and will to meet the challenge? Time will tell None of us alone can save the nation or world But each of us can make a positive difference if we commit ourselves to do so” Cornel West Princeton 1994


  2. Michael Michael says:

    A series of smart essays on race class and gender in America Race Matters passionately critiues the imperialist state and calls for a just society liberated from oppression In neat prose scholar Cornel West breaks down complex concepts for academics and lay readers alike from the multilayered rhetoric of Malcolm X to Black sexuality's fraught relation to American racism culture and politics West writes clearly about historical injustice and collective trauma without oversimplifying any of his subjects; he views each through an anti racist feminist lens that fully reckons with the nation's destructive foreign policy and his emphasis on the inseparability of institutions and behaviors allows him to mount powerful arguments against liberalism and conservatism Many of these ideas have now entered the mainstream but they're lucidly expressed here and well worth checking out First published in the early '90s and recently released the author's most famous work seems especially relevant for a time when neoliberalism's driven the world to the brink of ecological and social collapse


  3. Jenna Jenna says:

    Race is the most explosive issue in American life precisely because it forces us to confront the tragic facts of poverty and paranoia despair and distrustCornel West's Race matters was published twenty seven years ago and yet it is still relevant today Unfortunately not much has changed in those almost three decades Mr West digs deep into the American psyche and our culture of white supremacy seeking ways to change He points out the problems of both the Right and the Left when it comes to upholding systemic racism Most women I've read who write about race issues embrace intersectionality but I haven't read many men who do Cornel West however consistently reminds us that in any discussion of race issues we have to see the uniue ways in which racism affects different people such as Black women and those in the LGBT community The same is true of feminism we cannot get anywhere with euality for women if we do not address the specific challenges of Black women Brown women trans women lesbian women etcMr West is a professor and his writing is at times dense and dry Because of that this is not the easiest book I've read on race studies though it is important I'm not sure I understood everything he was saying and some parts of the book seem written to and for other Black menDoes that mean that women or white people shouldn't read the book? No absolutely not It is a book for everyone intent on learning and doing the work of anti racism There is so much insight in this book and many topics of discussion If you decide to read Race Matters try to find the twenty fifth anniversary edition  In it he adds a new introduction That was my favourite part as Mr West relates the specificities of the book to current events He affirms that America has followed the route of all empires in human history machismo might insecure hysteria and predictable hubris Like all empires the American Empire has been unaccountable to its victimsTrump is both a symptom and a symbol of the meltdown of America Not the cause We liberals like to think he is an aberration He is not He is as American as apple pieUntil and unless we do the hard work of dismantling systemic racism in this country America will further decline It's up to liberals to try to fix it because the Conservatives would rather continue laying the blame on the shoulders of people of color rather than where it belongs on white Americans As Mr West asserts To engage in a serious discussion of race in America we must begin not with the problems of black people but with the flaws of American societyThis discussion is long overdue


  4. Kevin Kevin says:

    Finished reading this as the George Floyd murder and protests are unfoldingPreamble The US has the most nuanced propaganda Necessary Illusions Thought Control in Democratic Societies How else can the richest and most well armed empire in human history convince enough people of its “freedoms” while even at home it literally has the highest incarceration ratehighest prison population 2 million and no universal healthcare? Freedom for capital while the surplus population are free to rot It’s easier to look away with the barriers of race The New Jim Crow Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness class The Divide American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap and historical amnesia A People's History of the United States While my focus has been on the structures of political economy where the abstractions of accumulation and dispossession obfuscate systemic power relations I still try to read other perspectives so as not to rely on a rigid basesuperstructure analysisThe Good For the “superstructure” of cultural analysis I figured it was time to read West as I’ve followed his many diverse public outreach appearances His chapter “Nihilism in Black America” made the point that “culture” is very much part of the structure and Liberals who focus on the structures of welfare reforms have avoided this because they assume a “rational” selfish individual thus missing the nihilism in need for social identitymeaningself worth as well as avoiding Conservative’s narrow individualist values A key theme is transcending the Liberal vs Conservative trap ie Liberals are not Leftradical West uses this in “Demystifying Black Conservatism” where he escapes the merry go round of Liberals vs Conservatives by presenting the much compelling radical structural critiue of the failure of Black Liberalism a Black Liberalism was based on the post WWII Keynesian class compromise that relied on economic growth for redistribution via welfare b International competition ie GermanyJapan OPEC stagnated US growth by the 70s; economic structural transformations to revitalize capitalist profits deindustrialization and mechanization of Southern agriculture expanded surplus labor esp black c This economic unraveling of the Liberal class compromise combined with the mass consumerism of militarismsexualityindividualism contributed to the moral breakdown of community Other chapters crisis in black leadership need race transcending racial reasoning ie black authenticity vs moral reasoning Black Jewish relations need for moral credibility instead of ladder climbing black sexuality myths and Malcolm XBlack rage I found Malcolm X A Life of Reinvention useful to contextualize The Autobiography of Malcolm X Next Steps1 History of racial bribes The unraveling of Black Liberalism outlined above is a brief snapshot of the US raceclass relations including a long history of divide and conuer to prevent mass revolts This includes the creation of whiteness during slavery dividing Populists unity to set up Jim Crow Nixon's Southern Strategy which set up War on Drugs mass incarcerationdismantling welfare esp Reagan and Clinton The New Jim Crow Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness 2 Financing of racism Systemic power profits from remaining hidden Much like how much of capitalism's wealth was and still is built on violent plunder and trade in narcotics Wall Street built its wealth on financing the Slave Trade The Business of Slavery and the Rise of American Capitalism 1815 1860 The wealth of crime is not something that time naturally heals Wall Street remains embedded in systematic racism froma The history of segregation and later redlining The Color of Law A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America highlighted by black families prevented from home ownership which was the foundation for building the US middle class as part of the New Deal's National Housing Act of 1934b To recent predatory lending scams targeting later generations still trying to obtain home ownership liar loans targeting NINJA No Income No Job or Assets leading to the 2008 Subprime Mortgage crisis losing their homes while liars bailed out and profited Understand that the Democratic Party is just as beholden financially to Wall Street and systemic racism despite the surface level identity politics they play which makes them deceptive It takes both parties to build systemic racism 3 Global Context of Anti racism West mentions the Black Conservative support for US imperialist foreign policy is a reaction to “Un American” Civil RightsBlack Power movement making connections with global struggles Rebuilding the global context of resistance is crucial When West talks about the nihilism of the oppressed this speaks to the global colonies and indigenous in settler colonialism as well Thus challenges for self determination resonate far and wide This was the heights of MLK connecting racism with US capitalism and militarism protesting war on Vietnam and Malcolm X’s internationalism Of course black communists like Claudia Jones Cyril Briggs etc are further wiped from popular history This is why the histories of revolts from the perspectives of slaves and the colonized are so crucial and rarely read Vijay Prashad has been trying to make these Global South voices accessible Civil Rights movement with global decolonization More on global decolonization dive into global decolonization’s internationalism The Darker Nations A People's History of the Third World Russian Revolution and global decolonization Red Star Over the Third World Also Black Against Empire The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party The Common Wind Afro American Currents in the Age of the Haitian Revolution Modernity Disavowed Haiti and the Cultures of Slavery in the Age of Revolution Gerald Horne who West also praises has much in depth research on slaveryanti slavery’s global scope


  5. Zadignose Zadignose says:

    Cornel West would probably not be offended if I pointed out that he doesn't uite have the literary talent of a WEB Dubois Who does? He doesn't have the fiery character of a Malcolm X He comes across as someone sure of his ideas but humble as an individual His ideas are clear and generally well expressed though his presentation does have a kind of dry style like an academic essay assignment The book does not have the kind of rigor to ualify as an analysis and this isn't really philosophy It's a plain talking exposition of ideas largely asserted or assumed with a few explanatory examples and references to historical persons and ideas but it isn't really argued out Mr West does his best to play fair by staking out ground that might bring together the right and the left ie he aims to be non partisan though ultimately it's clear that he's coming from a Marxist perspectiveFor my own purposes I'll try to note some of the controlling ideas that define the various chapters okay bullet points The problems of black folks go beyond the narrow focus of liberals and conservatives on social structure or behavioral problems First it's not an either or as structure and behavior go together and influence one another second because cultural factors exist outside of political and economic structures eg family churches etc and most importantly it's time to face up to the psychological factors of lost hope and spiritual nihilism that dominate the lives of the poorest and most despairing people We need love self respect integrity leadership and values that go beyond the commercial values that have come to dominate Black folks can't let the struggle simply be about getting black men the kind of power and dominance that white men have to the detriment and neglect of black women gay black men and lesbians and race identity and black nationalism can't trump moral and social issues of class poverty and human dignity Black folks shouldn't be hornswaggled into supporting someone like Clarence Thomas who isn't ualified to serve on the supreme court who doesn't represent black interests who cynically plays the victim of racism to secure his own position and achieve his own ambition while condemning others for exploiting race and support him just because of racial reasoning ie he's black so hold together and support him even in the face of abuse of black women Anita Hill and Thomas's own sister whom he falsely blamed for welfare cheating Supporting such an unualified individual represents an insecurity among black folks who unconsciously accept that we can't do better than this Black intellectual and political leadership are at an all time low ironically due to the emergence of a larger black middle class having gone from something like 7% to 25% of the black population with the middle class seeking white acceptance and affirmation and pursuing their own individual betterment as defined by America's commercial values Meanwhile what's really needed is community level leaders and grassroots organizers rather than leaders competing to become the voice of a national leadersavior New black conservatives have emerged at least in part due to failures of liberals to directly address the real problems and to find an answer to the destructive despair and nihilism Affirmative action is still supportable because racism is still real and present the black folks who want to end affirmative action are the ones who have already benefited from it but they want to win legitimacy among their white peers and pragmatically even if the issue relates to class than race and gender one can enforce rules that give opportunity to minorities and women but if you just throw it down to trusting employers to use fair hiring practices with no accountability racism and sexism can come back with a vengeance while employers claim color and gender blindness There's no evidence to suggest racism in hiring has really abated Black anti semitism and Jewish racism against blacks are destructive to both interests they have a long history coalitions and cooperation should be fostered and there are many reasons for recent conflict between Jews and blacks including the rise of political conservatism among Jews their opposition to affirmative action their social and political rise in America which outstripped the rise of blacks in the same time the failure of black leaders to strongly condemn black anti semitism the fact that blacks are somewhat blind to the very long history of European violent anti semitism plus Jews support unjust practices of Israel regarding Palestinians while blacks don't understand the Jewish sense of urgency towards self preservation ie both blacks and Jews are caught up in racial reasoning rather than larger issues of social justice heck there's to thisAnd in an effort to conclude my summary by addressing the final two topics Black sexuality is a taboo topic that should be addressed openly and not feared if progress is to be made Mythology about black sexuality is damaging Fear and fascination with black sexuality and especially interracial sexual relations are at the core of racial conflicts Black people confront many contradictory problems relating to how they may be degraded or made to feel ashamed or dirty while at the same time being objects of sexual fascination for white folks Black folks have to be proud not ashamed and at the same time willing to accept a variety of expressions and sexual identities without enforcing images of machismo on all black men Men and women must rise together Healthy sexual relations should be embraced whether intra racial inter racial hetero or homosexual At the same time the author cautions in several places about the harmful effects of the commodification of sex instant gratification culture and hedonism Maybe I'm not getting this uite right so I'll just uote the final thoughts on this topic from the book As long as black sexuality remains a taboo subject we cannot acknowledge examine or engage these tragic psychocultural facts of American life Further our refusal to do so limits our ability to confront the overwhelming realities of the AIDS epidemic in America in general and in black America in particular Although the dynamics of black male sexuality differ from those of black female sexuality new stylistic options of self image and resistance can be forged only when black women and men do so together This is not so because all black people should be heterosexual or with black partners but rather because all black people—including black children of so called mixed couples—are affected deeply by the prevailing myths of black sexuality These myths are part of a wider network of white supremacist lies whose authority and legitimacy must be undermined In the long run there is simply no way out for all of us other than living out the truths we proclaim about genuine humane interaction in our psychic and sexual lives Only by living against the grain can we keep alive the possibility that the visceral feelings about black bodies fed by racist myths and promoted by market driven uests for stimulation do not forever render us obsessed with sexuality and fearful of each other's humanity There's also a fair amount about Malcolm X The author saw a lot of unfulfilled potential in Malcolm X whose strong expression of rage was focused on a psychological transformation in black people but who tragically could not live long enough to mature and examine the implications of his approach The author saw Malcolm X as starting to transcend national boundaries and overcoming some of the unfortunate tendency of Nation of Islam to respond to white nationalist power by adopting the same underlying formula ie by focusing too much on white power it ironically kept white culture as the dominant force and turned black nationalism into a reactionary movement The author believed Malcolm would have gone beyond this in promoting black pride on its own terms speaking out with appropriate rage to white abuses but not allowing white culture to define the movement He also commented on the fact that still young Malcolm in his orthodox Muslim phase could not yet transcend racial reasoning enough to be able to see the broader social justice issues ie he could not criticize the patriarchal oppression of women and the anti democratic culture of Arabia while he experienced the positive humanizing experience of being accepted as a black manNow this is all my sloppy effort at summarizing I probably misrepresented something and if you've read this far and think I got something wrong tell me


  6. Kent Winward Kent Winward says:

    25 years later it is disheartening to realize that this book is still completely relevant The current WestCoates feud is explained pretty well when you realize West is pushing a much progressive and radical agenda than Coates Also West takes a much broader and accurate approach to issues of race seeing them as a subset of larger economic and political issues Economic ineuality and corporate power only enable the continued racism and bridging the gap on these larger issues with others eually situated like most of us is the only way anything will be different when the book is reissued for its 50th anniversaryOn a side note West's analysis on the Anita HillClarence Thomas debacle is the best I've ever read and it explains much of what happened even though I lived through all those debates as a baby lawyer


  7. Maya Maya says:

    Race Matters published originally in 1993 is a book of its time but also greatly applicable to 2011 Cornel West writes a series of essays covering the topics that most affect African Americans in American culture such as identity gender despair sexuality black Jewish relations how the political left and right have attempted to bring repair and how they have fallen short the effects both Martin Luther King Jr and Malcom X had on the black community and where the African American community stands todayThere is argument that Race Matters is not a scholarly work While this may be technically so West’s treatment of these issues comes not only from his own experience as an African American who has been witness to the difficulties of living as a black man in a predominantly white society but also is informed by his education as a theologian and as a professor at both Harvard and Princeton West covers issues that occupy the minds of both blacks and whites but often are avoided; from the devastating long term conseuences of slavery and America’s inadeuate attempts from the political left and the right to correct ineuities to the effect white American culture has had on black identity and how crisis of identity has left many African Americans vulnerable to the viciousness of corporate greed and a market driven culture He writes “most of us remain trapped in the narrow framework of the dominant liberal and conservative views of race in America which with its worn out vocabulary leaves us intellectually debilitated morally disempowered and personally depressed The astonishing disappearance of the event LA riots from public dialogue is testimony to just how painful and distressing a serious engagement with race is Our truncated public discussions of race suppress the best of who and what we are as a people because they fail to confront the complexity of the issue in a candid and critical manner The predictable pitting of liberals against conservatives Great Society Democrats against self help Republicans reinforces intellectual parochialism and political paralysis” pg 2West himself believes uneuivocally in the dignity and preciousness of all human life and does not dissolve into hate or rage against white culture to bring healing for African Americans In fact while discussing Malcom X he does bring up positive aspects of Malcom X’s impact and care for his people but finds it “incomplete” and lacking in certain areas He brings a coherent and easily readable analysis of how we got to where we are now in white black race relations and gives a general prescription for both the white and black community of how to begin bringing repairIt is clear that discussing these matters openly can feel like a virtual minefield for white people and for African Americans can touch on pain that is generations old I am grateful for Cornel West’s work in that he lovingly but candidly approaches this extremely difficult topic in a way that allows me as a white woman to engage in this issue in a informed and free manner in the future


  8. Tylor Lovins Tylor Lovins says:

    This is the first Cornel West book I have read and in fact it is the first piece I have read fully on the issue of race As a white person spending my formative years in an overwhemingly small white town I was not exposed much to race issues There was some mention of slavery but it was something that was well in the past America having progressed since the Civil Rights movement In high school American history courses were largely focused on American foreign affairs especially American wars I hadn't heard much at all about black history College changed this uite a bit I had no idea about the origins of the NAACP or the many difficulties faced by black people after the Civil War I came to this book with many hopes especially after hearing Cornel West speak in person The book though mainly a criticism of black leadership and contemporary prospects for black communities I thought it would be concrete in its outlook and philosophical in its implications it did not disappoint West talks about issues of contemporary racism by looking past 'racial reasoning' with 'moral reasoning' He also thinks that a contemporary prophetic black leader must be multicultural and international in his or her desire not just localized and pastoring a specific race His analysis of contemporary thought on the problems that black Americans face was especially helpful for me as he charts out a third way to understand these issues apart from conservative behaviorism and liberal structuralism 2013


  9. Jonfaith Jonfaith says:

    Humility is the fruit of inner security and wise maturity To be humble is to be so sure of one’s self and one’s mission that one can forego calling excessive attention to one’s self and statusThe inspiration for reading occurred to early this morning as my wife and I walked across he pedestrian bridge to Louisville That location is by the the most cosmopolitan location in the metropolitan area I wanted poetry in his argumentation though I concede that this is a primer for popular consumption My edition had new forwards and a new epilogue West's theses appear to have continued in the near thirty years since its publication a growing black middle class still has to conform to regulations of acceptance chiefly that black sexuality is left unspoken in polite society The growing black underclass struggling with nihilism and still awaits prophetic leadership self love and then need for class born alliances with other marginalized groups


  10. Erik Graff Erik Graff says:

    One had two thesis advisors for the MDiv program at Union Theological Seminary in New York Mine were Ann Ulanov representing the Psych Dept and Cornel West for Philosophy Since my thesis was about Immanuel Kant's influence on CG Jung and since my interest in the former had grown while my interest in the latter had diminished its emphasis was on Transcendental Idealism and my primary concern was in truly understanding Kant Thus I attended Cornel's class on continental philosophy and employed him as my primary advisor We hit it offAt the time I had no idea that Cornel was heading the DSA's division on racial matters We didn't discuss politics nor for that matter religion In those days he spoke and acted like a Princeton man not having yet adopted the avuncular southern black preacher style he employs today This book a collection of essays written subseuent to our acuaintanceship points however in that directionI read this mostly as an homage to Cornel His work particularly his work on radio in Ferguson and in the two Sanders campaigns has retained my attention over the years and this work has sat on the bookshelf unread for over twenty years It's uite dated though having lived through the events he discusses events like the Clarence Thomas hearings I appreciated the reminders and Cornel's perspectives So too I appreciate and recommend consideration of his efforts herein to bridge the gaps between black and white conservative and liberal


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10 thoughts on “Race Matters

  1. Kevin Shepherd Kevin Shepherd says:

    Full disclosure I don’t come to “Race Matters” from an insightful and enlightened place I was raised in an all white town infamous for the 1907 lynching of James Garden by all white parents who used the “N word” on a daily basis without the slightest hint of reservation or remorse Although it was off the books long before I was born our uaint little hamlet once had a ‘sundown law’ meaning it was illegal for any black person to be within city limits after sunset No joke Henryetta Oklahoma look it upThat said I never inherited the genetic mutation that made a person despise another person on the basis of their skin pigmentation and neither did my siblings That’s not to say I didn’t have a lot to learn I was “diversity deprived” until I graduated high school in 1980 Having rarely ever been in close proximity much less in conversation with a black human being I said and did all those stupid fucking white people things none of us should ever ever say or do NOTE to Grooms my friend and bunkmate from boot camp 1980 Co 174 if you’re out there man I’m soooo sorry and thank you for not punching me in the face which you had every right to do every time I touched your hairSo here I am 57 years into a life that started out on the wrong side of history hopefully a little wiser still a work in progress looking to Dr Cornel West for if not answers at least the right uestions “no democracy can survive no matter how strong its markets are without a serious public life and commitment to fairness and justice” Dr Cornel West 2001My preconceptions of ‘Race Matters’ were pretty far off the mark For one thing Dr West is almost as critical of the political left as he is of the political right almost For another he doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to the shortcomings of past and present black leadership There are no disingenuous allegiances or sacred cows here Be you Jesse Jackson or Booker T Washington Cornel West is going to hold you accountable West sees US political machinery operating in two camps 1 “Liberal Structuralism” promoting childcare programs full employment access to healthcare and broad affirmative action practices and 2 “Conservative Behavioralism” promoting black business expansion self help incentives and non preferential job practices Both camps come with their own set of problems and both West insists fail to grapple with the central issue of American racial disparity cultural nihilism“Nihilism is to be understood here not as a philosophic doctrine that there are no rational grounds for legitimate standards or authority; it is far the lived experience of coping with a life of horrifying meaninglessness hopelessness and most important lovelessness” This nihilism West maintains is manifested as a collective angst brought about by immersion in a culture of white supremacy that degrades and devalues black worth black intelligence black ability and black character “we must delve into the depths where neither liberals nor conservatives dare to tread namely into the murky waters of despair and dread that now flood the streets of black America The liberalconservative discussion conceals the most basic issue now facing black America the nihilistic threat to its very existence” Think about this for a second this is Cornel West circa 1993 He talks about the pitfalls of racial reasoning still a problem He talks about the crisis of black leadership still a problem He talks about the phenomenon of black conservatism inherently problematic He talks about the skewed distribution of wealth an exponentially bigger problem now than it was in 1993 Black sexuality black rage black antisemitism All of this could be easily gleaned from the headlines here in 2020 None of this is resolved none of this has subsided most of this has escalated “Malcolm X’s deep pessimism about the capacity and possibility of white America to shed their racism led him ironically to downplay the past and present bonds between blacks and whites For if the two groups were as Martin Luther King Jr put it locked into “one garment of destiny” then the very chances for black freedom were nil This deep pessimism also rendered Malcolm X ambivalent about American democracy for if the majority were racist how could the black minority ever be free?” History has shown I believe that Malcolm’s concerns were than justified If you think I’m being overly pessimistic consider this David Duke a white supremacist convicted felon former KKK Grand Wizard neo nazi Holocaust denier got 55% of the white vote and 69% of the white “evangelical christian” vote when he was elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives “We are at a crucial crossroad in the history of this nation and we either hang together by combating these forces that divide and degrade us or we hang separately Do we have the intelligence humor imagination courage tolerance love respect and will to meet the challenge? Time will tell None of us alone can save the nation or world But each of us can make a positive difference if we commit ourselves to do so” Cornel West Princeton 1994

  2. Michael Michael says:

    A series of smart essays on race class and gender in America Race Matters passionately critiues the imperialist state and calls for a just society liberated from oppression In neat prose scholar Cornel West breaks down complex concepts for academics and lay readers alike from the multilayered rhetoric of Malcolm X to Black sexuality's fraught relation to American racism culture and politics West writes clearly about historical injustice and collective trauma without oversimplifying any of his subjects; he views each through an anti racist feminist lens that fully reckons with the nation's destructive foreign policy and his emphasis on the inseparability of institutions and behaviors allows him to mount powerful arguments against liberalism and conservatism Many of these ideas have now entered the mainstream but they're lucidly expressed here and well worth checking out First published in the early '90s and recently released the author's most famous work seems especially relevant for a time when neoliberalism's driven the world to the brink of ecological and social collapse

  3. Jenna Jenna says:

    Race is the most explosive issue in American life precisely because it forces us to confront the tragic facts of poverty and paranoia despair and distrustCornel West's Race matters was published twenty seven years ago and yet it is still relevant today Unfortunately not much has changed in those almost three decades Mr West digs deep into the American psyche and our culture of white supremacy seeking ways to change He points out the problems of both the Right and the Left when it comes to upholding systemic racism Most women I've read who write about race issues embrace intersectionality but I haven't read many men who do Cornel West however consistently reminds us that in any discussion of race issues we have to see the uniue ways in which racism affects different people such as Black women and those in the LGBT community The same is true of feminism we cannot get anywhere with euality for women if we do not address the specific challenges of Black women Brown women trans women lesbian women etcMr West is a professor and his writing is at times dense and dry Because of that this is not the easiest book I've read on race studies though it is important I'm not sure I understood everything he was saying and some parts of the book seem written to and for other Black menDoes that mean that women or white people shouldn't read the book? No absolutely not It is a book for everyone intent on learning and doing the work of anti racism There is so much insight in this book and many topics of discussion If you decide to read Race Matters try to find the twenty fifth anniversary edition  In it he adds a new introduction That was my favourite part as Mr West relates the specificities of the book to current events He affirms that America has followed the route of all empires in human history machismo might insecure hysteria and predictable hubris Like all empires the American Empire has been unaccountable to its victimsTrump is both a symptom and a symbol of the meltdown of America Not the cause We liberals like to think he is an aberration He is not He is as American as apple pieUntil and unless we do the hard work of dismantling systemic racism in this country America will further decline It's up to liberals to try to fix it because the Conservatives would rather continue laying the blame on the shoulders of people of color rather than where it belongs on white Americans As Mr West asserts To engage in a serious discussion of race in America we must begin not with the problems of black people but with the flaws of American societyThis discussion is long overdue

  4. Kevin Kevin says:

    Finished reading this as the George Floyd murder and protests are unfoldingPreamble The US has the most nuanced propaganda Necessary Illusions Thought Control in Democratic Societies How else can the richest and most well armed empire in human history convince enough people of its “freedoms” while even at home it literally has the highest incarceration ratehighest prison population 2 million and no universal healthcare? Freedom for capital while the surplus population are free to rot It’s easier to look away with the barriers of race The New Jim Crow Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness class The Divide American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap and historical amnesia A People's History of the United States While my focus has been on the structures of political economy where the abstractions of accumulation and dispossession obfuscate systemic power relations I still try to read other perspectives so as not to rely on a rigid basesuperstructure analysisThe Good For the “superstructure” of cultural analysis I figured it was time to read West as I’ve followed his many diverse public outreach appearances His chapter “Nihilism in Black America” made the point that “culture” is very much part of the structure and Liberals who focus on the structures of welfare reforms have avoided this because they assume a “rational” selfish individual thus missing the nihilism in need for social identitymeaningself worth as well as avoiding Conservative’s narrow individualist values A key theme is transcending the Liberal vs Conservative trap ie Liberals are not Leftradical West uses this in “Demystifying Black Conservatism” where he escapes the merry go round of Liberals vs Conservatives by presenting the much compelling radical structural critiue of the failure of Black Liberalism a Black Liberalism was based on the post WWII Keynesian class compromise that relied on economic growth for redistribution via welfare b International competition ie GermanyJapan OPEC stagnated US growth by the 70s; economic structural transformations to revitalize capitalist profits deindustrialization and mechanization of Southern agriculture expanded surplus labor esp black c This economic unraveling of the Liberal class compromise combined with the mass consumerism of militarismsexualityindividualism contributed to the moral breakdown of community Other chapters crisis in black leadership need race transcending racial reasoning ie black authenticity vs moral reasoning Black Jewish relations need for moral credibility instead of ladder climbing black sexuality myths and Malcolm XBlack rage I found Malcolm X A Life of Reinvention useful to contextualize The Autobiography of Malcolm X Next Steps1 History of racial bribes The unraveling of Black Liberalism outlined above is a brief snapshot of the US raceclass relations including a long history of divide and conuer to prevent mass revolts This includes the creation of whiteness during slavery dividing Populists unity to set up Jim Crow Nixon's Southern Strategy which set up War on Drugs mass incarcerationdismantling welfare esp Reagan and Clinton The New Jim Crow Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness 2 Financing of racism Systemic power profits from remaining hidden Much like how much of capitalism's wealth was and still is built on violent plunder and trade in narcotics Wall Street built its wealth on financing the Slave Trade The Business of Slavery and the Rise of American Capitalism 1815 1860 The wealth of crime is not something that time naturally heals Wall Street remains embedded in systematic racism froma The history of segregation and later redlining The Color of Law A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America highlighted by black families prevented from home ownership which was the foundation for building the US middle class as part of the New Deal's National Housing Act of 1934b To recent predatory lending scams targeting later generations still trying to obtain home ownership liar loans targeting NINJA No Income No Job or Assets leading to the 2008 Subprime Mortgage crisis losing their homes while liars bailed out and profited Understand that the Democratic Party is just as beholden financially to Wall Street and systemic racism despite the surface level identity politics they play which makes them deceptive It takes both parties to build systemic racism 3 Global Context of Anti racism West mentions the Black Conservative support for US imperialist foreign policy is a reaction to “Un American” Civil RightsBlack Power movement making connections with global struggles Rebuilding the global context of resistance is crucial When West talks about the nihilism of the oppressed this speaks to the global colonies and indigenous in settler colonialism as well Thus challenges for self determination resonate far and wide This was the heights of MLK connecting racism with US capitalism and militarism protesting war on Vietnam and Malcolm X’s internationalism Of course black communists like Claudia Jones Cyril Briggs etc are further wiped from popular history This is why the histories of revolts from the perspectives of slaves and the colonized are so crucial and rarely read Vijay Prashad has been trying to make these Global South voices accessible Civil Rights movement with global decolonization More on global decolonization dive into global decolonization’s internationalism The Darker Nations A People's History of the Third World Russian Revolution and global decolonization Red Star Over the Third World Also Black Against Empire The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party The Common Wind Afro American Currents in the Age of the Haitian Revolution Modernity Disavowed Haiti and the Cultures of Slavery in the Age of Revolution Gerald Horne who West also praises has much in depth research on slaveryanti slavery’s global scope

  5. Zadignose Zadignose says:

    Cornel West would probably not be offended if I pointed out that he doesn't uite have the literary talent of a WEB Dubois Who does? He doesn't have the fiery character of a Malcolm X He comes across as someone sure of his ideas but humble as an individual His ideas are clear and generally well expressed though his presentation does have a kind of dry style like an academic essay assignment The book does not have the kind of rigor to ualify as an analysis and this isn't really philosophy It's a plain talking exposition of ideas largely asserted or assumed with a few explanatory examples and references to historical persons and ideas but it isn't really argued out Mr West does his best to play fair by staking out ground that might bring together the right and the left ie he aims to be non partisan though ultimately it's clear that he's coming from a Marxist perspectiveFor my own purposes I'll try to note some of the controlling ideas that define the various chapters okay bullet points The problems of black folks go beyond the narrow focus of liberals and conservatives on social structure or behavioral problems First it's not an either or as structure and behavior go together and influence one another second because cultural factors exist outside of political and economic structures eg family churches etc and most importantly it's time to face up to the psychological factors of lost hope and spiritual nihilism that dominate the lives of the poorest and most despairing people We need love self respect integrity leadership and values that go beyond the commercial values that have come to dominate Black folks can't let the struggle simply be about getting black men the kind of power and dominance that white men have to the detriment and neglect of black women gay black men and lesbians and race identity and black nationalism can't trump moral and social issues of class poverty and human dignity Black folks shouldn't be hornswaggled into supporting someone like Clarence Thomas who isn't ualified to serve on the supreme court who doesn't represent black interests who cynically plays the victim of racism to secure his own position and achieve his own ambition while condemning others for exploiting race and support him just because of racial reasoning ie he's black so hold together and support him even in the face of abuse of black women Anita Hill and Thomas's own sister whom he falsely blamed for welfare cheating Supporting such an unualified individual represents an insecurity among black folks who unconsciously accept that we can't do better than this Black intellectual and political leadership are at an all time low ironically due to the emergence of a larger black middle class having gone from something like 7% to 25% of the black population with the middle class seeking white acceptance and affirmation and pursuing their own individual betterment as defined by America's commercial values Meanwhile what's really needed is community level leaders and grassroots organizers rather than leaders competing to become the voice of a national leadersavior New black conservatives have emerged at least in part due to failures of liberals to directly address the real problems and to find an answer to the destructive despair and nihilism Affirmative action is still supportable because racism is still real and present the black folks who want to end affirmative action are the ones who have already benefited from it but they want to win legitimacy among their white peers and pragmatically even if the issue relates to class than race and gender one can enforce rules that give opportunity to minorities and women but if you just throw it down to trusting employers to use fair hiring practices with no accountability racism and sexism can come back with a vengeance while employers claim color and gender blindness There's no evidence to suggest racism in hiring has really abated Black anti semitism and Jewish racism against blacks are destructive to both interests they have a long history coalitions and cooperation should be fostered and there are many reasons for recent conflict between Jews and blacks including the rise of political conservatism among Jews their opposition to affirmative action their social and political rise in America which outstripped the rise of blacks in the same time the failure of black leaders to strongly condemn black anti semitism the fact that blacks are somewhat blind to the very long history of European violent anti semitism plus Jews support unjust practices of Israel regarding Palestinians while blacks don't understand the Jewish sense of urgency towards self preservation ie both blacks and Jews are caught up in racial reasoning rather than larger issues of social justice heck there's to thisAnd in an effort to conclude my summary by addressing the final two topics Black sexuality is a taboo topic that should be addressed openly and not feared if progress is to be made Mythology about black sexuality is damaging Fear and fascination with black sexuality and especially interracial sexual relations are at the core of racial conflicts Black people confront many contradictory problems relating to how they may be degraded or made to feel ashamed or dirty while at the same time being objects of sexual fascination for white folks Black folks have to be proud not ashamed and at the same time willing to accept a variety of expressions and sexual identities without enforcing images of machismo on all black men Men and women must rise together Healthy sexual relations should be embraced whether intra racial inter racial hetero or homosexual At the same time the author cautions in several places about the harmful effects of the commodification of sex instant gratification culture and hedonism Maybe I'm not getting this uite right so I'll just uote the final thoughts on this topic from the book As long as black sexuality remains a taboo subject we cannot acknowledge examine or engage these tragic psychocultural facts of American life Further our refusal to do so limits our ability to confront the overwhelming realities of the AIDS epidemic in America in general and in black America in particular Although the dynamics of black male sexuality differ from those of black female sexuality new stylistic options of self image and resistance can be forged only when black women and men do so together This is not so because all black people should be heterosexual or with black partners but rather because all black people—including black children of so called mixed couples—are affected deeply by the prevailing myths of black sexuality These myths are part of a wider network of white supremacist lies whose authority and legitimacy must be undermined In the long run there is simply no way out for all of us other than living out the truths we proclaim about genuine humane interaction in our psychic and sexual lives Only by living against the grain can we keep alive the possibility that the visceral feelings about black bodies fed by racist myths and promoted by market driven uests for stimulation do not forever render us obsessed with sexuality and fearful of each other's humanity There's also a fair amount about Malcolm X The author saw a lot of unfulfilled potential in Malcolm X whose strong expression of rage was focused on a psychological transformation in black people but who tragically could not live long enough to mature and examine the implications of his approach The author saw Malcolm X as starting to transcend national boundaries and overcoming some of the unfortunate tendency of Nation of Islam to respond to white nationalist power by adopting the same underlying formula ie by focusing too much on white power it ironically kept white culture as the dominant force and turned black nationalism into a reactionary movement The author believed Malcolm would have gone beyond this in promoting black pride on its own terms speaking out with appropriate rage to white abuses but not allowing white culture to define the movement He also commented on the fact that still young Malcolm in his orthodox Muslim phase could not yet transcend racial reasoning enough to be able to see the broader social justice issues ie he could not criticize the patriarchal oppression of women and the anti democratic culture of Arabia while he experienced the positive humanizing experience of being accepted as a black manNow this is all my sloppy effort at summarizing I probably misrepresented something and if you've read this far and think I got something wrong tell me

  6. Kent Winward Kent Winward says:

    25 years later it is disheartening to realize that this book is still completely relevant The current WestCoates feud is explained pretty well when you realize West is pushing a much progressive and radical agenda than Coates Also West takes a much broader and accurate approach to issues of race seeing them as a subset of larger economic and political issues Economic ineuality and corporate power only enable the continued racism and bridging the gap on these larger issues with others eually situated like most of us is the only way anything will be different when the book is reissued for its 50th anniversaryOn a side note West's analysis on the Anita HillClarence Thomas debacle is the best I've ever read and it explains much of what happened even though I lived through all those debates as a baby lawyer

  7. Maya Maya says:

    Race Matters published originally in 1993 is a book of its time but also greatly applicable to 2011 Cornel West writes a series of essays covering the topics that most affect African Americans in American culture such as identity gender despair sexuality black Jewish relations how the political left and right have attempted to bring repair and how they have fallen short the effects both Martin Luther King Jr and Malcom X had on the black community and where the African American community stands todayThere is argument that Race Matters is not a scholarly work While this may be technically so West’s treatment of these issues comes not only from his own experience as an African American who has been witness to the difficulties of living as a black man in a predominantly white society but also is informed by his education as a theologian and as a professor at both Harvard and Princeton West covers issues that occupy the minds of both blacks and whites but often are avoided; from the devastating long term conseuences of slavery and America’s inadeuate attempts from the political left and the right to correct ineuities to the effect white American culture has had on black identity and how crisis of identity has left many African Americans vulnerable to the viciousness of corporate greed and a market driven culture He writes “most of us remain trapped in the narrow framework of the dominant liberal and conservative views of race in America which with its worn out vocabulary leaves us intellectually debilitated morally disempowered and personally depressed The astonishing disappearance of the event LA riots from public dialogue is testimony to just how painful and distressing a serious engagement with race is Our truncated public discussions of race suppress the best of who and what we are as a people because they fail to confront the complexity of the issue in a candid and critical manner The predictable pitting of liberals against conservatives Great Society Democrats against self help Republicans reinforces intellectual parochialism and political paralysis” pg 2West himself believes uneuivocally in the dignity and preciousness of all human life and does not dissolve into hate or rage against white culture to bring healing for African Americans In fact while discussing Malcom X he does bring up positive aspects of Malcom X’s impact and care for his people but finds it “incomplete” and lacking in certain areas He brings a coherent and easily readable analysis of how we got to where we are now in white black race relations and gives a general prescription for both the white and black community of how to begin bringing repairIt is clear that discussing these matters openly can feel like a virtual minefield for white people and for African Americans can touch on pain that is generations old I am grateful for Cornel West’s work in that he lovingly but candidly approaches this extremely difficult topic in a way that allows me as a white woman to engage in this issue in a informed and free manner in the future

  8. Tylor Lovins Tylor Lovins says:

    This is the first Cornel West book I have read and in fact it is the first piece I have read fully on the issue of race As a white person spending my formative years in an overwhemingly small white town I was not exposed much to race issues There was some mention of slavery but it was something that was well in the past America having progressed since the Civil Rights movement In high school American history courses were largely focused on American foreign affairs especially American wars I hadn't heard much at all about black history College changed this uite a bit I had no idea about the origins of the NAACP or the many difficulties faced by black people after the Civil War I came to this book with many hopes especially after hearing Cornel West speak in person The book though mainly a criticism of black leadership and contemporary prospects for black communities I thought it would be concrete in its outlook and philosophical in its implications it did not disappoint West talks about issues of contemporary racism by looking past 'racial reasoning' with 'moral reasoning' He also thinks that a contemporary prophetic black leader must be multicultural and international in his or her desire not just localized and pastoring a specific race His analysis of contemporary thought on the problems that black Americans face was especially helpful for me as he charts out a third way to understand these issues apart from conservative behaviorism and liberal structuralism 2013

  9. Jonfaith Jonfaith says:

    Humility is the fruit of inner security and wise maturity To be humble is to be so sure of one’s self and one’s mission that one can forego calling excessive attention to one’s self and statusThe inspiration for reading occurred to early this morning as my wife and I walked across he pedestrian bridge to Louisville That location is by the the most cosmopolitan location in the metropolitan area I wanted poetry in his argumentation though I concede that this is a primer for popular consumption My edition had new forwards and a new epilogue West's theses appear to have continued in the near thirty years since its publication a growing black middle class still has to conform to regulations of acceptance chiefly that black sexuality is left unspoken in polite society The growing black underclass struggling with nihilism and still awaits prophetic leadership self love and then need for class born alliances with other marginalized groups

  10. Erik Graff Erik Graff says:

    One had two thesis advisors for the MDiv program at Union Theological Seminary in New York Mine were Ann Ulanov representing the Psych Dept and Cornel West for Philosophy Since my thesis was about Immanuel Kant's influence on CG Jung and since my interest in the former had grown while my interest in the latter had diminished its emphasis was on Transcendental Idealism and my primary concern was in truly understanding Kant Thus I attended Cornel's class on continental philosophy and employed him as my primary advisor We hit it offAt the time I had no idea that Cornel was heading the DSA's division on racial matters We didn't discuss politics nor for that matter religion In those days he spoke and acted like a Princeton man not having yet adopted the avuncular southern black preacher style he employs today This book a collection of essays written subseuent to our acuaintanceship points however in that directionI read this mostly as an homage to Cornel His work particularly his work on radio in Ferguson and in the two Sanders campaigns has retained my attention over the years and this work has sat on the bookshelf unread for over twenty years It's uite dated though having lived through the events he discusses events like the Clarence Thomas hearings I appreciated the reminders and Cornel's perspectives So too I appreciate and recommend consideration of his efforts herein to bridge the gaps between black and white conservative and liberal

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