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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 today.There 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 consequences of slavery, and America s inadequate attempts from the political left and the right to correct inequities, 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 L.A 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 paralysispg 2 West, himself, believes unequivocally 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 repair.It 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 ainformed and free manner in the future. 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 quite 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 beconcrete in its outlook andphilosophical 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. 25 years later it is disheartening to realize that this book is still completely relevant The current West Coates feud is explained pretty well, when you realize West is pushing a muchprogressive and radical agenda than Coates Also, West takes a much broader andaccurate approach to issues of race, seeing them as a subset of larger economic and political issues Economic inequality and corporate power only enable the continued racism and bridging the gap on these larger issues with others equally situated like most of us is the only way anything will be different when the book is reissued for its 50th anniversary.On a side note West s analysis on the Anita Hill Clarence 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. For three years, I worked as the grantwriter and public affairs officer for the AAS C.org, an organization supporting North Carolinians living with HIV AIDS My great friend and colleague, who is very active in her sorority the Delta s , and I used to have great philosophical discussions in our line of work, it was necessary to try and learn as much about people of all different walks of life Thewe learned and could understand, the better we were able to serve the community So we would read biographies and essays and a myriad of material to feed our interests Last year in May, we read Cornelius West s Race Matters www. Race Matters Cornel We in tandem with Ted Nugent s Manifesto www. Ted White Blue NugentIt seemed like an interesting dichotomy to explore and boy, was it.Talk about a huge gamut of information I preferred West s essay format to Nugent s, but found that some points in each book resonated with me, while others were off putting a fact that both Chermaine and I found to be true for both titles I found West s observations on Malcom X s legacy and the crisis of black leadership to be especially interesting, and appreciate his efforts to present solutions alongside his criticisms Nugent, on the other hand, is unapolegetic in his political and social views his opinions are vastly different than my own, but there s something to be said about a person who just lays it out there like that, consequences be damned If I had the opportunity to meet one of the two, I think I d go with West. 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 Unique 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 Quickly Read Yet Take A Long Time To Digest Because Of West S Unique 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 Equality And IdentityOn Black Jewish Relations Black Sexuality The Taboo SubjectMalcolm X And Black Rage Epilogue To The Vintage Edition I read this book back in 1994, and thought West was right on target most of the time The essays were written in plain language, rather than the jargon of political theory I liked that they were also free of inflated hyperbole and attempts to boil down complex problems to trite slogans Moderate, conciliatory, and thoughtful, West ably dissects superficial thinking and hypocrisy on both the right and left side of the political spectrum Of course much of this material, written in the late 80s and early 90s will appear dated to some or not, depending on your particular view of the current state of race relations, black leadership, and the general American political, sexual, and cultural landscape At the time we had just gone through Reagan and Bush 1 who scans bizarrely like a moderate Eisenhower Republican compared in retrospect with the current model I d be interested to read what West thinks now, as we stand potentially on the verge of electing a black President I ll believe that when I see it, though. i picked this up out of curiosity, i did not know much about cornel west i was under the impression he was a scholar i m no scholar, but i know one when i read one i do not believe this book contains much research, nor do i believe it had anything particularly profound or scholarly the best i read in it was the way cornel west sometimes strings words sentences together in a rhythm other than that, he cannot hold a candle to the likes of frederick douglass, booker t washington, or to cover scholars from today thomas sowell or stephen l carter i might put him on par with joseph c smith with regard to depth of conceptsexcept that he s clearly liberal, while joseph c smith is conservative and also not masquerading as a scholar, which is what makes the one book he wrote aenjoyable read than this one i m not even sure it s worth 2 stars. I had to read this for a doctorate class To sum it up, white liberals are at fault for treating blacks like kids and thinking they need white taxpayers to support them, conservative whites and blacks are at fault for expecting blacks to take on personal responsibility and get an education, not commit crime, don t get pregnant until married and other acts deemed to be white which makes the middle class and upper class blacks who do so Uncle Toms, and being black must be the center of a black person s existence even if it isn t The fact that slavery once existed over 160 years ago and Jim Crow existed means permanent affirmative action Oh goodness Even the parts about black sexuality make no sense West is the director of the black studies program at Princeton which essentially graduates black students with a useless major but hey, that s the fault of whites too. A sharp and eloquent book, marred by a few loose arguments here and there West is dead on about many things, patiently and carefully laying out volatile issues and explaining approaches to improve them Since this is a collection of essays, basically, some will obviously interest youthan others, but they re all worth reading and mulling over The only weak points come at some moments in his reasoning, at which he substitutes a pat conclusion or an unsourced claim for acarefully planned argument most egregious when he calls out black conservatives for making conclusions without providing sources and context, then later in the same chapter makes a number of contentious general statements about black conservatives without sources or context Still the book is well written, carefully argued for the most part , and thoughtfully empathetic. I so wish I was close enough to Princeton to be able to take a course or two of his there although I hear he is moving to Union Theological Seminary soon to teach there.Race Matters is a series of lectures exposing and criticizing the moral ethics of racism and many other isms that run side by side with racism.The beginning story from Cornel West s real life experience in preparing this book for publication says it all Nothing trumps the lived experience As Bob Marley said who feels it knows it.Very thought provoking I so admire the man for his openness to debate and his clarity of position and thought.I followed West throughout the run up for President supportive of Obama but with a critical edge.I ll probably read this book again soon.