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Race Matters

download First, I have to say that Cornel West is one of my heroes. He’s what I would be if I could–a brilliant thinker, writer, and activist.

Philosopher and professor, writer of so many important books, this is considered one of his seminal works.

Dr. West makes himself a target no doubt for a number of reasons. He is loud in his condemnation of the structural and erroneous direction of our racial talk to date. He is also a democratic socialist, and this opens him to attack from people who though racist, use this as a means to give his work short shrift instead of arguing the logic of his positions.

Everyone comes in for their share of criticism from West. He is as always more than willing to assail the limitations and excesses of black as well as white folks, well-meaning though most may be. And for this we should be grateful because he points out to us all, how we get bogged down in what he terms “liberal structuralists” and “conservative behaviorists”.

Although written in the early 90’s, it resonates today as if written yesterday. And that is a shame no doubt, for it signifies that nothing much has really changed in the intervening years. In addition, his references to the Palestinian problem right as true today as they did when written.

I found his treatment of the Alan Keyes and Herman Cain’s of the world quite informative as of course we face similar challenges from Ben Carson today who seems determined to unilaterally undo most of the successful legislation from the 60’s. Similarly, he gives an interesting account of the drama of the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings than I have ever read before.

West does an admirable job it seems to me, in bringing us forth together as a society and asking us tough questions and to entertain them in a new and progressive way. Because he is brash and revolutionary in his approach, the usual suspects will consider him a race baiter as they always have. That should not dissuade anyone from reading his work and contemplating it deeply.

We have a race problem in this country. We have had it since our inception, and if we are ever to rid ourselves of the problem, it will only be by confronting the ugly underbelly of the causes frankly and honestly, something Dr. West encourages.

Solutions are not forthcoming from him, and I would argue that there is reason for that. Solutions will follow from honest unpacking of the decades and literal centuries of dishonest, misdirected explanation and blame. We will have to rid ourselves of all the preconceived notions we hold and those we don’t even know we hold. Only when the dust is settled, can we meaningfully decide how best to rectify the horrific misery inflicted on our brothers and sisters of color.

The uber Right will hate this book as it hates his message. The left will embrace it, hopefully and learn of their implicit assistance to the wrong solutions of the past and learn better questions as we move toward true equality and egalitarian living. Hopefully those who are open-minded yet normally uninvolved, will take a peak and do some serious soul-searching prior to making a commitment to change what has been.

This should be a beginning text for anyone interested in solving the deep-seeded issues that provoke a country’s inhabitants to still see color all to quickly as a “factor” in any determination. We can’t stop that until we understand, and Dr. West helps us to understand.

Read it.


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