Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Cornel West: Race Matters

The second word in the title of Cornel West's Race Matters (1993, 1994) can be read, as West himself points out, as both noun and verb. It's a short book, well worth reading. Eight chapters to entice a contemporary audience fifteen years after originally published: Nihilism in Black America; The Pitfalls of Racial Reasoning; The Crisis of Black Leadership; Demystifying the New Black Conservatism; Beyond Affirmative Action: Equality and Identity; On Black-Jewish Relations; Black Sexuality: The Taboo Subject; Malcolm X and Black Rage. Plus an introduction and 1994 epilogue.

West writes from a direct, compassionate and fair-minded Christian point of view. In the introduction, he makes a vital point for Americans: "To establish a new framework, we need to begin with a frank acknowledgment of the basic humanness and Americanness of each of us. And we must acknowledge that as a people -- E Pluribus Unum* -- we are on a slippery slope toward economic strife, social turmoil, and cultural chaos" (p. 8).

At the end of the last chapter, West suggests a jazz metaphor for survival, recognizing the culturally hybrid nature of the USA:

To be a jazz freedom fighter is to attempt to galvanize and energize world-weary people into forms of organization with accountable leadership that promote critical exchange and broad reflection.

The interplay of individuality and unity is not one of uniformity and unanimity imposed from above but rather a conflict among diverse groupings that reach a dynamic consensus subject to questioning and criticism.

As with a soloist in a jazz quartet, quintet or band, individuality is promoted in order to sustain and increase the creative tension with the group -- a tension that yields higher levels of performance to achieve the aim of the collective spirit. (pp. 150-151).

It makes sense that Cornel West supports Barack Obama's presidential candidacy, as now do I.

(The Tavis Smiley Show). *"Out of many, one."

Finally, three cheers to the Pistons quintet and the Red Wings sextet! Go Detroit! RIP Sidney Pollack.

Today's Rune: Growth.


lulu said...

I just read Democracy Matters a few weeks ago. He's good.

Charles Gramlich said...

I've been a fan of Obama's for a while. He seems to have a lot of class in how he deals with the racial issues.

the walking man said...

Race matters in the D than any place I have ever been Erik. I would think that it is pretty much the same for you.

I really don't care which of the more liberal candidates gets the nod, as long as they move into 1600 PA ave. Neither of the candidates can or would really support any agenda that I support; but no more of this bullshit, republicanism federalist fuck common people while asleep philosophy.

Actually I have never heard of or read Mr. Wests books. But then I stopped reading most others point of view a million years ago to work on my own understanding of the bullshit. I may be crazy with caffeine and nicotine (still) but it is my own thought.

Although I must say he has a good insight in reading the jazz metaphor eh? Standing up is a problem for most folks though. Personally I think them with, not the most money but the greatest wealth are the one who have to stand. I ain't bankrupt yet...ergo I must stand in the way I can.


t said...

I'm really feeling your excerpts and description of this book. I may check out Cornel West's writings someday.
I went to a black school for undergrad, and back then I had a somewhat negative attitude to the "Cornel West's" - you know, the edu-ma-cated black people with all the big words.
But I was likely wrong. Who's the other one? Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Wow, do I get these prejudices out of nowhere? I still have an anti-Harvard one. anti-Princeton. likely wrong, wrong.