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Race Matters

Race Matters

Paper Masters will custom write research on Cornel West or on his important book "Race Matters". The themes of Race Matters can be written on or any aspect of Cornel West's thesis regarding race in America.

Cornel West introduces the concept of race in America in Race Matters as a social problem with many issues intertwined in a complex combination of the following:

  • Black male rage
  • Crisis in leadership
  • Economic injustice

In discussing contemporary issues such as the L.A. riots, Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas and Malcolm X, West explores the reasons behind why race matters.

Themes Within Race Matters by Cornel West

Cornel West in Race Matters has pointed out: "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 distrust." The continuing experience of discrimination, the unfulfilled dreams of integration, and internalized self-hatred create a feeling of rejection that pervades the African American world. An interesting point that Cornel West makes is that if you are a woman and your skin is dark, you are very likely going to find yourself at the lower end of the socioeconomic ladder in this country. The concept of race in the connections between race, class, and gender in Race Matters are very apparent in the reports that fill our daily newspapers. West asserts that "Without the presence of black people in America, European-Americans would not be "white" - they would be only Irish, Italians, Poles, Welsh, and others engaged in class, ethnic, and gender struggles."

Cornel West sees this devaluing of existence, of one's own and of the other's, black and white, as one of the most pressing problems facing our country. When a segment of the population no longer believes in the foundations of the society, they will become a force to subvert it. This is not exclusively a black problem. The riots in L.A. after the Rodney King verdict may be a chilling sign of things to come. The drug war, in large measure is a covert race war being fought in our city streets. In Dr. West's words, "The self-fulfilling prophecy of the nihilistic threat is that without hope, there can be no future, that without meaning there can be no struggle."

Rejection is not new to African American culture. The soul-quenching ordeal of slavery provided little personal meaning or value. Again, Dr. West's words: "The genius of our black foremothers and forefathers was to create powerful buffers to ward off the nihilistic threat, to equip black folk with cultural armor to beat back the demons of hopelessness, meaninglessness and lovelessness. These buffers consisted of cultural structures of meaning and feeling that created sustained communities; this armor constituted ways of life and struggle that embodied values of service and sacrifice, love and care, discipline and excellence". Traditionally, the black religious and civic institutions have been that anchor and source of sanity.

The seventies marked the beginning of the decline of these institutions, which he attributes to what he calls "a saturation of the market forces and market moralities in black life and the present crisis in black leadership". The same forces at work throughout America - distrust of leaders and politicians, self-interested pursuit of the bluebird of happiness, and retreat from the public sphere of concern - take an even heavier toll on black institutions. As individuals retreat from advocating for their collective concerns, their leaders lose power to influence social policy.

The Reginald Denny beating revealed the intensity of these feelings waiting for some event to cause the pot to boil over. Today we see a resurgence of Black Nationalism and a trend toward segregation as a form of self-protection. Louis Farrakan's leadership is an example of what Dr. West calls "racial reasoning".

Racial Reasoning in Race Matters

Dr. West explains the concept of racial reasoning by looking at the Senate confirmation of Justice Clarence Thomas. Dr. West sees his nomination as the worst example of tokenism. President Bush chose a less-qualified black man and held him up as the best choice, overlooking many better-qualified candidates. Many in the black community were loath to publicly speak against him because of his race - a kind of reverse racism. Dr. West is also critical of Thomas for playing the race card himself when confronted by Anita Hill. Dr. West sees this "black makes right" reasoning as morally bankrupt white supremacy.

Black and white extremists share an agenda reflecting greater similarity than is commonly supposed. Part of this similarity derives from the common motivations the two movements share: racial separatism and racial supremacy. Though each group claims to advocate a society independent of the other, their rhetoric in fact demonstrates how much the two depend on one another -- as scapegoats and as focal points in the creation of identity. As the noted scholar and philosopher Cornel West has written of the Nation of Islam: "The basic aim of Black Muslim theology -- with its distinct Black supremacist account of the origins of white people -- was to counter white supremacy. Yet this preoccupation with white supremacy still allowed white people to serve as the principal point of reference. That which fundamentally motivates one still dictates the terms of what one thinks and does -- so the motivation of a Black supremacist doctrine reveals how obsessed one is with white supremacy...."

He also has criticism for the black conservatives who join with the white status quo denouncing the lack of moral character and industry in the inner city youth. In the quest for white acceptance, many in the black middle class feel the need to distance themselves from their less fortunate brethren. The black conservative view does legitimately criticize black liberal "adherence to the victim-status conception" and the "debilitating racial loyalty...that blinds them to the pathological and dysfunctional aspects of black behavior".

What is lacking in the black conservative posture bemoaning the "decline of values such as patience, deferred gratification and self-reliance" is the compassionate battle with the realities of the inner city and their soul-destroying effects. It seems that conservatism ignores "the innumerable cases in which black people do act on the Protestant ethic and still remain at the bottom of the social ladder." The black community, Dr. West argues, is too weak politically to be factionalized and still retain a powerful voice in the political arena.

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