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Cornel West, RACE MATTERS (Vintage Press, 1993)

From Subject
"Laura Long" <lllong@ilstu.edu> review: Cornel West
Kevin Drumm <drummk@polaris.nova.edu> Re: review: Cornel West
RMICHAEL@umassd.edu black assumptions
"CLIFFORD B. HAWLEY" <U02DA@WVNVM.WVNET.EDU> Re: black assumptions
"blair nelson" <bhnelso@ilstu.edu> Review:Race Matters (Nelson)
"petrita salazar" <plsalaz@ilstu.edu> book review: Race matters (Slazar]
Melanie Rosiak RACE MATTERS (Rosiak) *
"Erik S. Weidner" <esweidn@ilstu.edu> Race Matters
James cota Race Matters (James Cota)
"Bina M. Patel" <bmpatel@acadcomp.cmp.ilstu.edu> RE: Weidner review
juan jose ortiz <jjortiz@ilstu.edu> Cornel West
"Michael A. Schoenfield" <maschoen@execpc.com> Re: Weidner review
"Samuel J. Perryman" <sper@loc.gov> Re: Weidner review
"Samuel J. Perryman" <sper@loc.gov> Re: Weidner review
Don Martin <damart1@odin.cmp.ilstu.edu> Race Matters/Plural But Equal(Martin)
"Michael A. Schoenfield" <maschoen@execpc.com> Re: Weidner review
juan jose ortiz <jjortiz@ilstu.edu> Race Matters (Ortiz)

Date: Thu, 17 Feb 1994 18:51:53 -0600 
From: "Laura Long" <lllong@ilstu.edu> 
Subject: review: Cornel West 

Review of Cornel West, RACE MATTERS
Reviewed by Laura Long
lllong@ilstu.edu
Illinois State University

There is an old saying that "by sitting on the fence, you can
see what's growing in both gardens." Cornel West makes use of such
an advantageous position in his book RACE MATTERS to examine
conservative and liberal approaches to racism in the United States.
Unfortunately, West comes to the conclusion that both are greatly
lacking. While conservatives ignore political and economic
structures causing blacks to fail, liberals ignore cultural
factors, especially the sense of meaningless pervading black
America. As West rightly points out, neither view can be isolated
from the other and still make sense. West's solution typifies his
approach to racial equality: give all sides a fair hearing and
work towards common ground. In this case, West calls for
recognition that the plight of black Americans is both the fault of
structure and culture.

Both conservatives and liberals, West says, view blacks as a
problem for whites; they only vary on their strategies to solve
that problem. In contrast, West's book is less about whites and
white racism than it is about black life. West focuses on black
culture and on ways in which blacks survive in a predominantly
white system. Blacks are hurt by America's economic decline, but
perhaps the worst impoverishment they are facing is spiritual. The
familial and cultural ties which have strengthened blacks
throughout the United States' history are eroding as the nation
focuses more and more on status through consumption than self-worth
through achievement. Blacks are especially vulnerable to low self-
esteem because history teaches them that they are not as
attractive, intelligent, or capable as whites. Their search for
individual worth through possession of expensive tennis shoes is
bound to end up leaving them with an even deeper sense of
meaninglessness. This nihilism, as West calls it, dissuades blacks
from struggling for equality or opportunity.

One of West's key points is that the humanness of blacks
should be recognized. He goes a long way towards this goal by
emphasizing black individuality. While blacks do stand apart from
other groups because of their shared history and culture, it is
wrong to assume a intra-racial consensus. Blacks are separated
from each other by class, sex, and philosophy. Unfortunately, in
trying to strengthen themselves to fight white racism, some black
organizations have "closed ranks" and suppressed voices of dissent
or difference within their own organizations. West calls for a
return to cultural democracy, in which the vast range of black
opinion is celebrated rather than ignored. He compares his ideal
black movement to jazz, in which "conflict among diverse groupings
reach[es] a dynamic consensus subject to question and criticism."
To view the black population as monolithic would be to sell it
short, a mistake which both liberals and conservatives make.

In many respects, West would like to get away from race
altogether. He calls for a replacement of racial reasoning, by
which he seems to mean judging all matters through the lens of race.
Racial reasoning, West says, led liberal black leaders to not
oppose Clarence Thomas's nomination to the Supreme Court, despite
Thomas's lack of qualification. Skin color is not necessarily a
determinant of political philosophy, and liberal blacks would have
been better off with a liberal white than a conservative black on
the bench. West stresses the humanness not only of blacks but of
nonblacks and the importance of evaluating individuals on merit,
not on race. West links the recognition of blacks as human to a
general lessening of the importance of race: "When black humanity
is taken for granted and not made to prove itself in white culture,
whites, Jews, and others are not that important; they are simply
human beings, just like black people."

Throughout the book, West reaches out, becoming one of the
"race-transcending prophetic leaders" he describes, by using the
black community as a microcosm of American life in general. Many
of the social ills plaguing blacks, West claims, are also felt to
a lesser degree by nonblacks. Blacks, who are more likely to be in
poverty and less educated, feel the "cultural decay" and its
emphasis on immediate gratification more strongly, but it is also
affecting the United States as a whole. Such a multiracial
approach may help nonblack readers empathize more readily with
blacks and reminds us of the humanness of each other. If we share
the same problems, we must also share in the solutions.

While West even-handedly doles out both blame and praise to a
wide range of movements, his proposed solutions for racial equality
are a little thin. His call for redistribution of wealth rightly
recognizes that much of racism is really classism in disguise, but
he is not really considering reality. How would such programs be
funded and administered? Would upper and middle class whites or
blacks be wiling to pay more in taxes? His other solutions of
generating new leadership and realizing that the best help comes
from within ourselves also seem a bit trite. He is quite correct
that both solutions would be of great help in ending racism, but
they are easy statements to make and hard strategies to initiate
and implement. Perhaps the West's purpose was to point out broad
problems and solutions without getting down to the nuts and bolts,
but the practicality and likelihood of the implementation of his
solutions are all but ignored, detracting from the overall validity
of his solutions.

Not only are some of his solutions thin, they sometimes find
middle ground where there really is none. Broad redistributive
policies would not seem to most conservatives as if West was
meeting them halfway, and it is more than difficult to reconcile
such policies as affirmative action with conservative solutions
like colorblindness. Conservatives and liberals operate from
different views of reality, particularly on the extent of racism in
our society, and it may be that these views need to be brought
closer together before both sides can cooperate on concrete change.

West does try to see both sides, but he occasionally forgets
this role. He criticizes black conservatives for portraying
themselves as "courageous, embattled critics of a black liberal
establishment" when their salaries are paid by "well-endowed
conservative foundations and corporations." Surely the same could
be said of liberal blacks, many of whom are funded by liberal
foundations. And anyway, can't a person be courageous if he or she
is getting paid to do so? Just because a conservative or a liberal
is funded by a large institution does not necessarily mean the
conservative or liberal's beliefs are weak or untrue.

Despite occasional lapses, West's biggest accomplishment is
his willingness to seek a middle way. He clearly recognizes that
the increasing polarization of race relations in the United States
can at best lead to an impasse. West sifts the good from the bad
in movements as dissimilar as neo-conservatism and black
nationalism. The importance of realizing almost every movement has
at least one valid point to make is not lost on West. His
inclusive approach brings people together rather than pushing them
farther apart, shedding new light on the ties which bind all
Americans. As West himself says, "If we go down, we go down
together."! Back to top...


Date: Fri, 18 Feb 1994 14:26:07 -0600 
From: Kevin Drumm <drummk@polaris.nova.edu> 
Subject: Re: review: Cornel West 

Hello,

I have enjoyed reading the reviews. A few comments:

West could not be more correct. "If we go down," indeed "we go down
together!" How do we get this message across when the prevailing
sentiment seems to be, "only by "you" losing, can "I" win". There is
no doubt that this is a major cultural barrier to equality for many. A
country built on a pioneer culture of "rugged individualism" is, not
surprisingly, having a hard time moving to a culture of "we're all in
this together."

There is some consolation in knowing that a country like Japan, which was
built on an opposing culture of samurai warriorship and familial
governance, is experiencing even deeper cultural divisions than we are.
So, we probably cannot say that our original model is any worse than many
others. Nonetheless, however our spirit of rugged individualism came
about, as embodied in the sentiment that "the best help comes from within
ourselves," our culture is going through a transition to "inclusionism"
and interdependence. We must achieve this arduous transformation in order
to continue the growth to which we had become accustomed and thus be able
to provide economic security and equality for everyone.

A rising tide raises all boats (and vice versa). And while the
currently prevailing objective may be to sink the other's boat, it is time
to build an ark on which all of us might be saved. I don't have the
answers, but knowing where we are might help us figure out where to go...

Cheers,

KD
--------------------------------------------------------------
Kevin Drumm, Dir/Title III 3301 College Ave.
NOVA Southeastern University Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33314
drummk@Polaris.NOVA.edu 305-424-5758
--------------------------------------------------------------
"Don't ever let school get in the way of your education."
Samuel Langhorne Clemens
  Back to top...


Date: Sun, 20 Feb 1994 08:09:52 -0600 
From: RMICHAEL@umassd.edu 
Subject: black assumptions 

To Mike Lieber.
Far from being my field, the issue of self-image inherited from the
broader society has I seem to remember been addressed. I believe I
have seen some reports of experiments done with Black children,
getting at their attitudes using black and white dolls. If I remember
correctly, when asked to descrivbe the white doll, which at the time
they vastly preferred, they did so in glowing terms. But they saw the
black doll as ugly, etc.
There must be more.
Even impressionistic evidence should be admissable when taken with
caution and in support of more formal experiments. Part of my work is
requiring tht I explore Black attitudes toward Jews. Here as well my
tentative impression is that some (many? most?) African Americans have
absorbed some of that Christian anti-Jewish ideology.
Collegially, Bob M. | Robert Michael | Professor of History
University of Massachusetts Dartmouth | N. Dartmouth, MA. 02747 USA
508 999 8379 | RMICHAEL@UMASSD.EDU Back to top...


Date: Sun, 20 Feb 1994 12:17:34 -0600 
From: "CLIFFORD B. HAWLEY" <U02DA@WVNVM.WVNET.EDU> 
Subject: Re: black assumptions 

RE: Michael Lieber's comment and Michael's follow-up:
The social science research Michael is referring to is Kenneth Clark's
study (studies). This research was presented as part of the plaintiff's case in
Brown v. Board of Education forty years ago and is footnoted in the Supreme Co
urt decision on that case. Who can bring us up to date with more contemporary
studies?
Clifford Hawley, Economics, West Virginia University Back to top...


Date: Thu, 23 Feb 1995 21:15:57 -0600 
From: "blair nelson" <bhnelso@ilstu.edu> 
Subject: Review:Race Matters (Nelson) 

Review of Cornel West, RACE MATTERS (Vintage Press, 1993)

Reviewed by:
Blair H. Nelson
Illinois State University
February 23, 1995

Cornel West writes from a viewpoint that seems to be above traditional
politics. This style turned out to be very refreshing for someone who
usually enjoys reading books written by authors who write right down
political lines. I will admit that this was frustrating at times because
concerning some issues he would write against a certain view held by others
and then he himself would offer a similar position.
In the first chapter Mr. West talked about the "nihilistic threat" to
black America. To quote him directly, "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 more, the lived experience of
coping with a life of horrifying meaninglessness, hopelessness, and (most
important) lovelessness" (p.23). He expained that without hope one can
never expect to achieve a better life for themselves. When slavery was
still practiced the black people set up religious and
civic institutions that gave support so hope could be sustained. Today
though, he says those institutions are no longer able to give the blacks
hope. The root of most of the evils facing the black people today according
to West is capitalism. I think he uses the term too loosely though. While
capitalism is the system in which the institutions identified by West belong
to, I'm not so sure that capitalism should be singled out as the cause. To
be sure, these institutions are no longer being used by society as a whole
in the capacity they once were, but the reason for this is not capitalism.
Since the 1960s, there has been a moral breakdown in America. Herein lies
the reason for the weakening of the religious and civic institutions West
talked about. Aside from the fact that women and minorities did not enjoy
the same rights as white males prior to the 1960s (which in itself is
morally wrong), capitalism and the free market did not serve to break down
the religious and civic institutions of either whites or blacks. So how
come all of a sudden in a mere 20-30 years did these institutions fail? It
certainly isn't because of capitalism. It is because of an adoption of one
of the worst things to come out of that decade, an "any thing goes"
attitude. Also, with that one needs to point out the complete failure of
the welfare system, a system that keeps people looking from the bottom-up
with little or no hope of getting up. Mr. West does make a good point when
he says these institutions, including the family, need to be uplifted once
again, he just needs to leave out the attack on capitalism.
Mr. West along with many others would say that there aren't enough
blacks in positions of power. But when Clarence Thomas was nominated by
George Bush for the Supreme Court, West viewed it as token nomination. It
seemed like when a black person did make it to a position higher in society,
according to West, he/she got there the wrong way. How is it that you don't
hear people saying that Clinton is placing token minorities in his
administration? Especially with the number of people leaving or being
replaced. For example, Elders and Espy.
For conservative blacks who don't agree with affirmative action and
want people to be hired on the basis of merit, Mr. West says they are
missing why affirmative action came to be in the first place. West says
white employers refused to judge on the basis of merit so the only thing
left to do was force them to abide by certain hiring practices. I think
that was the case years ago, but the workforce has become quite diversified
in the past fifteen years and with that being the case, employers most
likely wouldn't get away with discriminating in a gross manner. Affirmative
action and quotas do nothing for the quality of workers, just the make-up of
them. If you take the reasoning West used in the Thomas case, (a token
position) then you would have to say that affirmative action serves the same
purpose. By engaging in affirmative action what you are really saying is
that minorities, be it women or people of color, can't make it on their
abilities.
His chapter on Malcolm X pointed out both what was right with X and
what he should have done different. West claims that most black
professionals believe what Malcolm X said about racism and feeling rage
towards it, but kept that more to themselves. Instead they openly embraced
what Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of, a more "get along" theme. West thinks
that Malcolm X should have told his followers not to concentrate on the
people practicing racism, but on what can be achieved when it is broken
down. Although West did say that feeling rage was understandable, he said
there is no place to channel that in a positive manner. He recalled how
upset King was at the riots in Watts and Detroit. But after pointing out
some shortcomings of Malcolm X, he did say that he was the "first real black
spokesperson" to really tackle racism head-on.
Mr. West does an excellent job of explaining his positions. The main
problem I had with the book is that he was somewhat ambiguous in explaining
why capitalism and the free market are to blame for so many problems today.
Although there has been a serious decay in the quality of the product coming
out of Hollywood, I think it is too far a leap to blame capitalism. Back to top...


Date: Tue, 28 Feb 1995 14:55:17 -0600 
From: "petrita salazar" <plsalaz@ilstu.edu> (by way of gmklass@ilstu.edu (Gary Klass)) 
Subject: book review: Race matters (Slazar] 

Book Review
"RACE MATTERS" by Cornell West
Vintage Books, 1993
Review by Petrita Salazar
February 28, 1995

In the words of Cornell West:
"We as a people have tolerated levels of suffering and
misery among the disadvantaged (especially among poor
children of all colors, caught in a vicious national
lottery), have lost faith in our money driven political
system, and lived lives of hedonistic evasion and
narcissitic avoidance as the recial divide expanded and
the gaps between rich, poor and the working people
increased. We are now thirsty for overnight cures for
deep economic, cultural and political problems that have
festered for decades" (p. 158)
This problem is even magnified because no person seems to have the patience
courage, and hope that is desperately needed to reconstruct a nation that
exists under the disguise of a democracy. This seems to be an accurate
sumation of West's book. He believes that society as a whole is to blame
for "racism" and what he terms "xenophobia". Since society is to blame,
then it will take society as a whole to make this world a better place for
"everyone" to live. One person alone cannot change the world, but together
we can make a difference. Thus, West calls for a "civil responsibility" and
"social accountability" from everyone.

West admits there are numerous problems that need to be tackled, yet
admits that even if these problems are tackled and overcome, it is very
difficult to envision a social etopia nor a political paradise. "Better" is
a ll that one can hop for, and only time will tell if the people in this
country respect themselves enough, and have the courage to make a change.

West begins the book by telling the reader what inspired him to write
the book. He describes the ugly racial memories he has, like being stopped
on fake charges of cacaine trafficking and being called a "nigger". The final
degrading incident that inspired this book was his endless wati on a street
corner for a taxi-cab that never came. After being passed up by 10 or more
taxi's in the pouring rain, West wrote the book to tell the horrible truth
of the racially biased cloud that hovers over the every day life of a person
of color.

West explores what he call "nihilism in black America". By this he
means "the lived experience of coping with a life of horrifying meaningless,
hopelessness, and most of all, lovelessness". He describes this "nihilistic
threat" as the major enemy of black survival in America. West attempts to
give 2 possible reasons for this nihilistic threat.
1. The saturation of market forces and market moralities, and the
present crises in black leadership.
2. The recent market-driven shattering of black civil society - black
families, neighborhoods, and schools.
In other words, most of the blame for this nihilistic threat is the workings
of a U.S. capitalistic society. Corporate markets and enterprises that have
a disproportionate amount of capital and power have contributed to create a
seductive way of life, and a culture that sets out for the sole purpose of
making money. All this boils down to a pleasure driven, hedonistic society
that stigmatizes others as objects of pleasure. This is exemplified through
a media that promotes sexual degradation, and violence along with comfort
and convenience. The two should not go hand in hand, but appear as though
they do through the media. This market driven exploitation of such hedonism
contributes to a sense of worthlessness and self loathing in black America.
West says that when you look at society in this context, it is no wonder
that the poorer people of America are threatened with a nihilistic future.

West contends that the only way to "reach the light at the end of the
tunnel" is through some kind of "politics of conversion" at which a love
ethic is to be the center, beginning at a local level in institutions that
are still strong enough to promote self-worth and self-love. Respectively,
one has to be taught to love one's self before they can share that love and
pass it on to the next generation.

West does not blame this nihilistic threat on a white capitalist
society alone. He place some of the blame on black's for seeing themselves
through the eyes of a white society. If they could just learn to love
themselves, and not be concerned with how white people see them, thier
future might be brighter.

According to West " most present day black political leaders appear too
hungry for status to be angry, too eager for acceptance to be bold, and too
self- invested in advancement to be defiant" (p. 58). He describes 3 types
of leadership that black political leaders can be grouped into. The
first ( race effacing managerial leader) survives on political savvy and
personal diplomacy, and tends to stun progressive development and silence
strong voices in the black community by going along with the mainstream: In
other words; a sellout. The second type ( race-identifying protest leaders)
are usually self-deluded and usually confine themselves to "black turf". In
other words, figures who white Americans must appease so that the plight of
the black poor is overlooked and forgotten: (ie. Another sellout). The
third leadership, in which West claims to be is the race trascending
prophetic leader, who requires personal integrity, and political savvy,
moral vision, and prudential judgment, courageous defiance, and
organizational patience. By definition alone, it seems hard to find a
leader of any race or ethnic group that possesses these qualities. His
demand for leadership is quite strict.

Throughout the book, West criticizes Black Conservatives for
emphasizing racial victimization, and on the other hand he critiques
traditional civil rights leaders who use race as a measuring stick for
political judgment. West argues that "Race Matters" when society is used as
a tool of oppression by which white people degrade blacks.

In conclusion, West afgues that any attempts to change have been
undermined by 2 fundamental realities: poverty and paranoia, which in turn
generates high levels of despair that deepen social conflict and produce
levels of distrust that reinforce cultural division. Unless we look these
issues in the face, and discuss them, racial divisions will continue to
exist. West aims to show that society as a whole is at fault. The book
then, seems to be a prophetic alarm for all people of all races, proposing
that they rebuild the foundations of democracy and common humanity. It
sounds nice on paper, but nobody seems to be listening, since racial divides
seem to be getting worse, not better!
--
Petrita Salazar
plsalaz
--
Petrita Salazar
plsalaz
  Back to top...


Date: Fri, 3 Mar 1995 09:52:46 -0600 
From: Melanie Rosiak
Subject: RACE MATTERS (Rosiak) * 

REPOST (WORD-WRAP REFORMATED)
Review of Cornel West, RACE MATTERS
(Vintage Books, 1993)
Reviewed By:
Melanie Rosiak
Illinois State University
March 2, 1995

Cornel West is a brilliant writer with a great vision. He thoroughly
discusses the problems and causes for racial tensions and the struggles of
black Americans. Finally, a writer who is willing to back up the problems
with solutions and ideas of change. The main stream of cause lies not on the
failure of blacks to try, or the pure white racist society, but on the market
system which thrives on immediate pleasure and gratification.
West's argument is convincing, but it does contain flaws. It looks at the
affects of the market system only in terms of dangers that it poses to blacks.
He unites us then he disenfranchises us.
In RACE MATTERS, West clearly lays out the blame on the market system.
He says, "Post modern culture is more and more a market culture dominated by
gangster mentalities and self destructive wantonness. This culture engulfs all
of us--yet its impact on the disadvantaged is devastating." The result of this
impact is the "intensification of pleasure." West continues to state that
pleasure has little regard to the past, and is a selfish hunger for personal
satisfaction. Corporate Market institutions use our desire for pleasure to
make money by "underminding our traditional morality." p.26
"The recent market-driven shattering of black civil society--black
families, neighborhoods, schools, churches, mosques--leaves more and more black
people vulnerable to daily lives endured with little sense of self and fragile
existential moorings." p.24 West claims that the downfall and turmoil in the
black community is a significant reaction of the US capitalist society. He
claims that the market culture causes violent behavior. This would include
both crimial activity and abuse of females.
The market is a seductress. It tries to stimulate people in every realm
possible. It obsesses on laziness, comfort, and convenience. The morality of
Americans is played on everyday, and unfortunately, the advertisers are
winning. "The market way of life promotes addictions to stimulation and
obsessions--centered primarily around bodily pleasures and status
rankings--constitute market moralities of various sorts." p.45
Yes, it is true that advertising in the market system has devastating
affects. However, it does not merely harm blacks. Do not the poor whites long
for the wrong things? Are whites' morality so much less easily tempted than
blacks? Do they hold a secret power to block out subliminal messages of
immediate gratification? If West really believes the words of Richard Wright,
"The differences between black folk and white folk are not blood or color, and
the ties that bind us are deeper than those that separate us." p.17 Why would
this market affect whites so differently? Does this mean that poor whites go
straight as an arrow--never wanting the plush instead of the necessity? Of
course not!!!!
Furthermore, West says, "The ideal of female beauty in this country puts a
premium on the lightness and softness mythically associated with white women
and downplays the rich stylistic manners associated with black women." p.130
Very clearly advertising affects the self worth of women. It cuts a specific
measure of beauty. However, look closely at the statistics, see how many white
women are anorexic, bulemic, have face lifts, breast implants, obviously
advertising has little or no affect on white women. If West continually
preaches togetherness, and uniting for the common goal, why separate us at the
core of his reasoning?
Another area of questionability is West's view on sexuality. West claims,
"My thesis is that black sexuality is a taboo subject in white and black
America and that a candid dialogue about black sexuality between and within
these communities is requisite for healthy race relations in America." p.120
It is true that the open talk of sexuality is taboo, but do people really view
black and white activity as separate--one being more taboo than the other.
Although, the discussion of homosexuality has become more mainstream. I can't
even recall the last time I heard ANYONE, ANYWHERE talk openly about sex or
intimate details of one's body. And, going to a liberal education college, I
am probably very sheltered to what EVERYONE is and is not talking about. The
true question is, why does West stray from his strong argument to unite, each
self-love and find strong leaders, to address how blacks are truly at a
disadvantage--weak morality due to advertising, and prohibitted sexuality?
Wake up!! It is everywhere!!
Despite the two forementioned falters, West's book was a refreshing look
at black problems. Finally, an author not only identifies the problems, but
offfers well thought out solutions. Throughout this novel he also combats
xenophobia, and the oppression of women by patriarchal values. He is to be
commended on his strong stance and willingness to speak out. The final
sentences in RACE MATTERS are the answer. He says, " None of us alone can save
the nation or the world. But each of us can make a positive difference if we
commit ourselves to do so." Bell and I may sound like optimists, but maybe the
real problem is that there are too many pessimists!!!
  Back to top...


Date: Tue, 8 Apr 1997 12:43:39 -0500 
From: "Erik S. Weidner" <esweidn@ilstu.edu> 
Subject: Race Matters 

Cornel West
Race Matters
Vintage Books, A Division of Random House, Inc. (1993)
Reviewed by: Erik S. Weidner
esweidn@ilstu.edu

Introduction:

In the first part of Race Matters, West tells the reader what events
prompted him to write his book. He talks about being stopped and arrested
for distribution of cocaine, and while this was going on West was
repeatedly subjected to the degradation of the police office blatantly
calling him a "nigger". While in the process of writing this book West was
waiting for a taxi on the corner and was continually passed by for other
customer. Those other customer were usually well dressed people of
European decent. After being passed up by 10 or more taxi's it became
painfully obvious to West that black America is continually bombarded with
racial prejudice. West testifies that he doesnt want his son to have to
endure this type pain so anything he can do to help is what needs to be=
done.

Review:

West feels that the problem in black America is too much poverty and too
little self-love. He feels that this can be conquered by common unity and
focusing on (caring for) the public square. This may seem fairly
simplistic, but the cure is much more complex than that.

To start with nihilism is affecting the very core of black humanity. West
defines nihilism as:
"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
more, the lived experience of coping with a life of horrifying
meaninglessness, hopelessness, and (most important) lovelessness"

West argues that without love, and especially hope, no one can never expect
to a better life for themselves, or their children.

West recalls that in the days of slavery the southern blacks helped their
situation by setting up close nit support groups to help them through the
very rough times. Unfortunately those support groups have been lost and
are no longer around to give the common, and not so common, black person
hope for a better future.

West would say that the pitfall of black America today is capitalism and
trying to compete in a white world the why the whites want, instead of
viewing themselves as individuals and seeking gratification through their
eyes instead of through the eyes of white America. In other words, blacks
are so desperate to be accepted that they have forgotten how to be black
and find happiness in being black.

Another attack that West makes is that there are just not enough blacks in
positions of respect or power. Those that are in those type positions are
usually just tokens placed there to appease the black community. One of
West most vividly explained, and condemned, examples is that of Clarence
Thomas.

When Clarence Thomas was nominated for the Supreme Court it was pretty much
the general conscience on both sides of the racial lines that Thomas was
just a token, a sacrifice if you will. This to West is just deplorable
because he feels, as do I, that no one should be awarded any position
unless they truly deserve it. West was very disappointed in the black
leadership of the time for not speaking up and questioning the reasoning
for Thomas nomination and ultimate appointment. West attributes this to
racial reasoning instead of moral reasoning. West explains that
justifying events because of race instead of expecting the morally correct
action wrong and just perpetuating the plight of black America. West says
that:
"As long as black leaders remain caught in a framework of racial reasoning,
they will not rise above the manipulative language of Bush and Thomas -
just as the state of siege (the death, disease and destruction) raging in
much of black America creates more urban wastelands and combat zones."

It is no secret that I am against Affirmative Action because I feel that
instead of ending racism and prejudice it only seats it deeper into our
society. West says that I, along with conservative blacks, are not getting
the point of why Affirmative Action came about in the first place. The
fact that white employers, prior to the 1960s, would not even entertain
the thought of hiring a black person is reason enough to continue with
Affirmative Action because without it those policies of not hiring black
would work their way back into our society, and probably even stronger now
than before. I contend that the workforce has become much more diversified
and that Affirmative Action and quotas only hurt the possibilities of black
worker being viewed as equals and/or qualified. Quotas do nothing to
ensure that the quality of minorities hired is sufficient only that racial
make-up is more diverse. By applying the same logic West used in the
wrongful nomination and then appointment of Clearance Thomas it would have
to logically follow that Affirmative Action only degrades minorities and
tells them that they are not as good as whites and that they can not make
it on their own merit, that they need the help of the government to get a=
job.

Another argument that West makes about the situation of black America is
the problems in the market system. West says that:
"Post modern culture is more and more a market culture dominated by
gangster mentalities and self destructive wantonness. This culture engulfs
all of us--yet its impact on the disadvantaged is devastating." The result
of this impact is the "intensification of pleasure."

In the opinion of West:
"most present day black political leaders appear too hungry for status to
be angry, too eager for acceptance to be bold, and too self- invested in
advancement to be defiant"

West supports this theory by analyzing the three types of political leaders:
=A8 The race effacing managerial leader, who survives on sheer political
savvy and personal diplomacy. West says that this type of candidate is the
lesser of two evils. West also contends that "this type of leader tends to
stun progressive development and silence the prophetic voices in the black
community by casting the practical mainstream as the only game in town."
To West this person is a sellout.
=A8 The next, the race-identifying protest leaders, "are usually
self-deluded" and view themselves as to be similar to Malcolm X or Martin
Luther King Jr. The problem that these leaders have is that instead of
being visionaries, as those men were, they confine themselves to black turf
instead on trying to expand and enhance black turf. To West another=
sellout.
=A8 The last, the race transcending prophetic leader, (West believes he is
one of these, I do not and I will get to that later.) requires both
"personal integrity, and political savvy, moral vision, and prudential
judgment, courageous defiance, and organizational patience." West say that
this generation has yet to produce such a leader. Yourself included West?=

The last type of leader would be a tough bill to fill, so therefor I think
West should also concentrate on helping and praising current leaders
instead of telling everybody there are wrong.

Black conservatives ignore the political and economic structures that are
inevitably causing blacks to fail, and black liberals ignore cultural
factors, especially the sense of hopelessness that is so dominant in black
America. West makes the case that neither opinion can be dismissed as
irrelevant and that both view points must be incorporated into one master
view. West's solution would call for moral reasoning not racial reasoning;
class based Affirmative Action not race based; racial equality if you will.

Conclusion:

Race Matters was an interesting book to read, many things were said that I
agreed with and many that I did not. The most upsetting of the things that
I did not agree with is West belief that he is a race transcending
prophetic leader, I do not. I think that West is just another race
effacing managerial leader spouting a lot of rhetoric but doing nothing
about it but writing books.
If he were so great, as he would like everyone to believe, then he would be
out there doing instead of teaching. How dose that saying go:
"Those who can do, and those who can not teach."

We need academics but for West to continually criticize everyone it would
appear to me that this is counter productive. He should be able to go out
there and show us all how it is done. Take the bull by the horns instead
of being an armchair quarterback.

ERIK :)

Erik S. Weidner
esweidn@ilstu.edu Back to top...


Date: Fri, 11 Apr 1997 07:58:53 -0500 
From: Jkechan@aol.com
Subject: Race Matters (James Cota) 

Race Matters by Cornel West
Reviewed by James Cota
mailto:Jkechan@aol.com

nihilism-(noun) 1a: a viewpoint that traditional values and beliefs
are unfounded and that existence is senseless and useless.
1b: a doctrine that denies any objective ground of truth and especially
moral truths.
--Websters Collegiate Dictionary

This idea is a main factor that Cornel West uses to describe the problems
and dilemmas faced by many members in today's black society. Not since the
days of the fight for civil rights, has the black community come together
and show that their ideas and values are indeed important, and that these
ideas and goals is what brought black society to fight for their rights to
be treated as an equals. Not since the struggle for civil rights has there
been a strong a powerful group of black leaders. During this era we saw the
rise of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., and many others that stood up
and fought for the rights of their fellow citizens. However since this
time, the strength of the black community has begun to plummet. With the
rise of violence in black communities and lack of powerful black leaders,
this sense of nihilism has begun to seep into the black community. Cornel
West, in his book RACE MATTERS, examines why this nihilistic attitude has
begun to develop in the black community, and examines why there hasn't been
a strong black leader in today's society.

West makes the point to examine problems within and outside the black
community to what seems to be causing this nihilism. He also shows that
it's not just outside forces that have caused this nihilism in the black
community, but it's the ideas and values in the community that have also
contributed to this feel of uselessness. West discusses very briefly the
obvious problems that have plagued black society, such as racism that has
been a stain that our country may never be able to clean. West main focus
is in black leadership. He looks at both liberals and conservatives. West
examines both sides and point out both good and bad points of each side.
However the one side of the political spectrum that West sets his sights on
is the conservatives, especially amongst black conservatives. Many problems
are seen on both sides however. West states that they both fail to
understand this nihilistic threat to black community, and are to fixated on
the economic and political means to change the problems in black community.
Both sides fail to look at and discuss the true horrific problems that
have infestedthe black community as well as it's culture. Problems such as
high levels of unemployment, the senseless slaying in the streets of
brothers and sisters, teenage pregnancy, incarceration, and the mass amount
of other problems that have infested black communities. The liberals look
at changing the structure of the economy to help this struggling community,
much like back to the day's of the New Deal and other governmental instated
programs. Meanwhile conservatives have this deep seeded belief in the
Horatio Algers myth, this myth is also criticized by Harlan Dalton as a
problem in racial interaction. Conservatives are fixed in trying to set up
values and setting up certain expectations from society. This fixation in
turn also contributes to the nihilistic threat. This contributes to this
disease because many blacks feel that they can not achieve these values,
and can not go from the bottom and rise up to the top through hard work
(Horatio Alger myth), this in turn leads to the hopelessness the is on
symptom of this spreading disease.

West in this book attempts to find way's to try to convert this nihilistic
threat. He says that converting is the only way to try an solve this
disease, because this nihilism is much like alcoholism, and the is always a
chance of relapse. He focuses on changing the type of black leadership,
and changing the attutudes and beliefs rooted in the black community as
means of trying to repress/convert this disease. He goes into great depth
to examine the Clarence Thomas appointment to the Supreme Court. He shows
how many blacks within the community and many of it's leaders fail to look
at the real issues behind the Clarence Thomas hearing. He states that many
black's failed to look at Clarence Thomas and his threat to the black
community. West says that many of the values that have begun to evolve
inthe black community made the discussion of Thomas's appointment week.
Thomas values in many ways contribute to the nihilism in the black
community. His values ,as West put it, were that of "an examplatory
hedonist, consumerof pornography, captive to a stereotypical self-image of
the powerful black man who revels in sexual prowess in a racist society."
Because Thomas played the "race card" so well in getting his appointment,
many of the black leaders failed to discuss the real problems with Thomas's
values and the effect on black nihilism. Thomas's beliefs was that of a
black conservative who, West stated earlier, was a symptom of this black
nihilism. Thomas also emphasized the conflict between black men and women.
With Thomas's obvious love of pornography and his harassment of Anita Hill,
a black women, showed how this problem was evident in black community. West
states that if the black leaders and black society continued to over look
these fact and focused only on the "race card" that many conservative
blacks have used to move up in society, and not focus on the other threats,
those like Thomas, pose to the black community, the disease of nihilism
will continue to set in. The question that many black need to question is
the idea of black authenticity in it's leader, and many times this is
overlooked. Because authenticity is overlooked more conservatives, like
Thomas, will grow.

With the racial reasoning set in black society, such as deep seeded
homophobia, xenophobia, and focus on skin pigmentation, problems will
continue to grow in black society. Black society needs to in turn break out
of this framework of reasoning. West then turns his focus to black
leadership, and breaks it down into three types of leaders. The first is
the race effacing managerial leaders. This type of leadership style is
detrimental to the prophetic type of leadership, which West views as the
most important. This group is detrimental because they are strictly looking
out for their own political status, and as West puts it the lesser of two
evils. This is held true because many of these leaders are those that fall
into the political mainstream that many politicians, both white and black,
are in. This mainstream has the habit of silencing the prophetic leaders,
and fails to focus on major problems found in the black community. Because
this group falls into this mainstream they also contribute to the
nihilistic attitude in the black community. The second group of leaders is
the race identifying protest leaders. These leaders pose a problem in the
fact that much of there policies and ideas are set up to appease the white
leaders. This is very detrimental because many times there ideas do not
help the black community. Also many times those on this style of leadership
begin to shift to become much like the first groups when put into office.
The third group is very rare, and in today's black society there is not one
leader who falls into this group, the race transcending prophetic leader.
These leaders are those that fight hard against the system, and are willing
to speak out and act out against the problems face in black society, and do
not focus on economic and political factors, but the problems of black
society as a whole. Change in black leadership is a main area of focus that
West sites as a way of converting this black nihilism. West puts out a
"wanted ad" for a prophetic leader, that can bring back love, self esteem,
care and concern, through the use of black rage. He states that a leader
like the "Prophet of Rage" Malcolm X is a model of which many black
leaders should begin to follow. He states that there is a need for a black
leader that is willingto speak put against the oppression still faced by
the black community. With many of the modern day black leaders falling into
the mainstream of political thinking, there is no one there to speak out
and state the true problems that need to be solved in today's black
community. Malcolm spoke out againstthe problems in black community, and
through his prophetic rage, was able to bring love, and care back to the
black community to help blacks establish civil rights, and to encourage
other black leaders to come around and speak out their rage much like Malcolm.

But also West points out problems with Malcolm leadership, that couldin
turn hurt the black community. Blacks need to stray away from their
xenophobic beliefs. Blacks need to understand other races and cultures and
not fight against them. West focuses on the Black-Jewish relations as
howthe Jews rose above much of the oppression they faced, and divert black
from fighting against or becoming envious of how Jews overcame their
problems. Blacks should in turn begin to look at other groups and learn
from their triumphs over discrimination, and not turn against them and
discriminate against them. This xenophobic tendency has long been a part of
black doctrine, Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam for example often spoke
out against Jews and other groups to establish some pride in their
community,but this in turn has hurt the black community to in trying to
understand and accept the ideas of other cultural societies.

I feel that much of what West has described in this very brief book is
vital to any society that faces oppression. West doesn't use many examples
or statistics to back his what he is saying, because much of it is already
assumed, and doesn't need statistics. This in turn helps West get right to
the point on many ideas, and in turn helps the book become more convincing.
West is able to bring about topics that should be discussed by blacks ,as
well as other groups, to help cure this helplessness felt in black society.

As far as leadership goes in the Black community, many of the black
prophetic leaders are severely absent in today's society. Many of blacks
are afraid to step up and grab the reigns of a the new prophetic leader,
however West makes the point through this book that he could in turn be a
prophetic leader. There are many others I feel that could also be strong
leaders, but many of them have found success elsewhere in spreading their
message. The media has focused many of the problems that fall on the black
community on rap music and other black oriented media.However in the area
of black media there are many leaders that have found success in the area
of artistic measures to get their point out to the black community, but are
shunned by the media for the way they express it. Such as the area of rap
music. Many of the rappers today could take on this role of prophetic
leaders, such as KRS-One and Chuck D, two rappers that have spoke out
against the problem in black society, but there ideas are not heard by all,
because of the media and society, much if this due to the fear from white
society. This also holds true for many ofthe black filmmakers and writers
that have done work that shows the struggle in black society, and shows the
rage that many blacks feels.

Until society is willing to accept many of the black prophetic leader
views, and learn notto shun them, then and only then can some progress be
made for the black community. Also when governmental leaders begin to
realize that economic and political policies are not going to solve these
problems in the black community, and that they need to focus on the true
problems the dwell in black society, then maybe some of this nihilistic
attitude will begin to go away. Then when someone comes forward, like a
Malcolm X or Martin Luther King Jr., comes about and brings back some self
love and self esteem to the black community, that tied in with a shift in
policy agenda, can truly help a society that that is so desperately crying
out for help. West realizes this, and this book is a important key in
discussing how to realize that indeed Race matters, and this feeling of
nihilism could be the disease that truly kills a long struggling part of
our society.

--
Gary Klass
mailto:gmklass@ilstu.edu.
Editor, PSRT-L
Associate Professor | Associate for Instructional Technology
4600 Political Science | Center for the Advancement of Teaching
Illinois State University | Campus Box 6370
Normal, Illinois 61790
http://WWW.ILSTU.EDU/~gmklass
(309) 438-7852
(fax) 438-5310 Back to top...


Date: Sat, 12 Apr 1997 21:59:30 -0500 
From: "Bina M. Patel" <bmpatel@acadcomp.cmp.ilstu.edu> 
To: gmklass@ilstu.edu 
Subject: RE: Weidner review 

I find it interesting that West claims that blacks are tokens in power
positions. I wonder if he looked to the areas where blacks are in power
positions and what is done there. First in my mind is the music industry.
Blacks have played and instrumental role in the development in all kinds of
music, and it must noted that there is a widespread respect for blacks in
this field. However, the message that gets to many of the people West is
targeting is hip hop and rap. Perhaps this is where blacks can find
self-love. The message sent to the community to not always that of
community love.

Also, the black community in slave days had a common enemy. Currently, many
blacks are facing opposition and resentment from other blacks. As nice as
it would be to have a community feeling, West seems to forget that in a
capitalistic society, the individual, not the community is valued. All
people are driven by the need to better themselves,and see the game as
zero-sum, that his community theory fails to hold water. Plus, even in
places where blacks do come together, we can see issues. For example, the
welfare system does not promote unity and cohesion. It is much the opposite.
Individuals compete for checks, wait in first come first serve lines.

Human creatures crave bio-feedback. Self-love has in such a complex and
fast paced world is hindered when there is negative feedback, and stunted
when there is none. If blacks in "power" positions would work the system,
and send out more positive, less disuniting, messages maybe the issue of
racism can be alleviated (not necessarily eradicated, just alleviated).

Bina Patel
Illinois State University
bmpatel@acadcomp.cmp.ilstu.edu
  Back to top...


Date: Mon, 14 Apr 1997 14:14:26 -0700 
To: gmklass@ilstu.edu 
From: juan jose ortiz <jjortiz@ilstu.edu> 
Subject: Cornel West 

Race Matters

by
Juan J. Ortiz

Cornel West' Race Matters in an intriguing book that not only examines
the plight of Black Americans but, Americans as a whole. West runs the
gambit in his book in addressing issues from Black-Jewish relations to
Black sexuality. West also moves beyond the monotonous subjects of race
and inequality and provides an insight as to what is causing such problems.
West' insights are not only empirical but also spiritual.
In his introduction West begins with addressing the issue of race not
only affecting the black people but, America as a whole. He addresses the
1992 L.A. riots as the manifestation of a growing outrage by the black
community. This outrage finally came to a head not so much out of the
verdict by the jury but, the aloofness by white liberal America. White
America refuses to see the inequalities that remain decades after the Civil
Rights Movement. There is still a disparity between how whites and blacks
are treated by the police and unequal housing. West describes the
inequality of housing by calling it "white suburbs and chocolate cities".
West does not however blame these problems on the white or black people
but, on a society that has allowed this to happen for so long.
West points to the socio-economic problems that have long helped
perpetuate the inequalities we face today. West points to America's
hedonistic lifestyle that is perpetuated by a market driven economy that is
only looking for a quick fix instead of a long term solution. Everyday we
are being bombarded by commercials filled with blatant sexual innuendo's.
Though many of us believe that we are not being affected by it we are, how
could you not? Today we have commercials that tell us that if we use a
particular kind of shampoo one could recieve orgasmic feeling. West'
insight into how corporate America shapes our value and culture is the
foundation of his argument. The images that are flashed across the screen
or that are heard over the radio are ones that speak of killing, rape,
making money and bigotry towards woman and gays. This is all done in the
name of the mighty dollar. Corporate America is not the only one being
blamed some conservative behaviorists have blamed radical cultural groups
along with radical feminists. To blame is to not accept responsibility for
ones actions and, though corporate America has long perpetuated ideas of
bigotry and hate we as a people are to blame for letting it happen. West
sees corporate America as having an especially detrimental effect on the
black population.
West refers to a nihilistic threat that is pervading black society as
a whole. He sees black intellectuals as being divided on this issue and
separates them into two distinct categories. West will continue to make
distinctions and separate groups and factionalize them. I had a problem
with him doing this through out the book. I felt that making such
distinctions forces one to take sides and only leads to more people being
separated, these separations in turn lead to stereotypes and
misconceptions. It's this factionalazation that has led to many of the
problems we face today. West never takes a stance on iether side of the
conservative-liberal debate. Because I feel if he did he would be subject
to the labels he has set on each. Though West never discusses where he
stands on this debate he clearly makes a point that black leadership is
needed.
In his opening paragraph on black leadership, West begins by claiming
that there has never been such a large number of black intellectuals and
politicians as there is today. Despite this fact, there is nothing being
done to change the lives of Black Americans. West points out that this new
trend is due to the new growing black middle class. Historically there has
always been a black middle class but, it is the new middle class of the
Sixties that West points to. West claims that the Sixties produced an
economic and even sexual boom that did not reflect long term goals but,
short term satisfaction. During this economic boom blacks also profited
and began to ascend the social ladder. In this new position the material
world was all that mattered and blacks were seduced by the economic
prosperity and lost sight of what got them there. Once arriving at this
new strata of society blacks no longer began to support black institutions
such as all black colleges. Instead they began to send their children to
more traditional Ivy-League colleges. This trend is not only new to blacks
but, is true of all peoples who were once at the bottom but, now find
themselves doing better. This transition of the new middle class West
claims has left the rest of the black community behind. This has
transformed into a depletion of the black family, conflict between men and
woman, and no community to help those who were left behind. Black
leadership hinges on the communal struggle of people as a whole, West
claims, not just on personal achievements buy a few. On this West begins
to define some of the newer leaders that have emerged from this cultural
change.
This new change has lead to new leaders that neither have the
political anger or the gentile humanity that leaders of old had. This
according to West has lead to the splintering of black political leaders
into three distinct groups. Race-effacing managerial leaders,
race-identifying protest leaders, and race-transcending prophetic leaders.
The first of these new leaders West claims is the lesser of two evils when
the other is a white conservative. This leader usually is considered a
detriment because he usually silences the prophetic leaders and complies
with the majority which is white. Instead of helping he only adds to the
problem and sometimes even makes it worse by playing the game. The second
of these new leaders is the race-identifying protest leaders who see
themselves in the light of Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. West
claims that these leaders are usually diluted in their thinking and usually
confine themeselves to being the new leader of the black people. These
people are usually given what they want in order to cover up underlying
issues. Once the new leader is in an elected office he forgets all about
the people and turns into the managerial type. The third and final type of
new leaders is the race-transcending prophetic leader. This type of leader
has yet to emerge in modern day political leadership according to West.
He does give indication that the Jesse Jackson of 1988 was considered to be
the last viable options. West does give some qualifications that a
prophetic leader must have in order to achieve this status. He claims that
the leader must be politically savvy, have personal integrity, moral
vision, and prudential judgement. Once again West never takes a stance on
where he sees himself among these new leaders but, my guess would be that
he would perscribe himself to be a race-transcending prophet and maybe with
good cause.
Cornel West in my opinion seems to have what it takes to make that
stand against the oppression of the black society. West comes across with
an intellectual and spiritual message that not only addresses the black
need but, the need of America. West sees that the success of America
hinging on both the economic and spiritual opportunities that must be
afforded to all. He sees the deadening of the American society due to it's
hedonistic lifestyle that was started in the economic boom in the sixties.
In his introduction West makes a poignant insight on how the neglect of our
public infrastructures reflects the priority we put on our lives. The
decaying inner cities, contaminated water and air, are all reflections of
what we as a society have become. We are no better now than the rat who
lives among those sewers and eats garbage. Until a real race-transcending
prophet does appear, not necessarily West, we will continue to live out
this bleak existence. Or until we collectively and consciously decide to
change.
  Back to top...


Date: Tue, 15 Apr 1997 07:42:33 -0500 
From: "Michael A. Schoenfield" <maschoen@execpc.com> 
To: gmklass@ilstu.edu 
Subject: Re: Weidner review 

Samuel J. Perryman wrote:
>
> On Mon, 14 Apr 1997, David Larsen wrote:
>
> > Recently, Bina wrote:
>
> I find it interesting that West claims that blacks are tokens in power
> positions. I wonder if he looked to the areas where blacks are in power
> positions and what is done there. First in my mind is the music industry.
>
> I agree with Mr. West. However, I cannot believe that blacks are or ever
> will be anything more than spokesmen for constituencies as long as racism
> (not just economic, but also ideological) exists. I think that one
> possible reason that you have such division amongst people who were once
> divided into house/field servants is because the house servant still
> believes that he had more in common with his master. Therefore, he
> becomes really a spokesman for his master's interest. His master rewards
> him by giving him a title, which he uses to drive a wedge between
> himself and his field servant brother.
=============================================

Being a Native American and professional, I find this discussion of
Black tokenism of interest. I wonder if anyone will have the guts to
tell the President of Wisconsin Power and Light (a major utility in
Wisconsin) that he is a token Black? Just my two cents worth.

Mike S.
--
===================================================
Michael A. Schoenfield
Michael A. Schoenfield & Associates, Ltd.
2637 Mason Street Voice: 608) 238-6121
Madison, WI 53705-3709 Fax: (608) 233-2507
E-Mail: maschoen@execpc.com
==================================================== Back to top...


Date: Tue, 15 Apr 1997 09:37:52 -0500 
From: "Samuel J. Perryman" <sper@loc.gov> 
To: gmklass@ilstu.edu 
Subject: Re: Weidner review 

On Tue, 15 Apr 1997, Michael A. Schoenfield wrote:

> Samuel J. Perryman wrote:
> >
> > On Mon, 14 Apr 1997, David Larsen wrote:
> >
> > > Recently, Bina wrote:
> >
> > I find it interesting that West claims that blacks are tokens in power
> > positions. I wonder if he looked to the areas where blacks are in power
> > positions and what is done there. First in my mind is the music industry.
> >
> > I agree with Mr. West. However, I cannot believe that blacks are or ever
> > will be anything more than spokesmen for constituencies as long as racism
> > (not just economic, but also ideological) exists. I think that one
> > possible reason that you have such division amongst people who were once
> > divided into house/field servants is because the house servant still
> > believes that he had more in common with his master. Therefore, he
> > becomes really a spokesman for his master's interest. His master rewards
> > him by giving him a title, which he uses to drive a wedge between
> > himself and his field servant brother.
> =============================================
>
> Being a Native American and professional, I find this discussion of
> Black tokenism of interest. I wonder if anyone will have the guts to
> tell the President of Wisconsin Power and Light (a major utility in
> Wisconsin) that he is a token Black? Just my two cents worth.
>
Mr. Schoenfield.

I don't know the President of Wisconsin Power and Light, but if
he owns the major utility, then I certainly would like to be his VP.
Maybe then that would make me a powerful person as well.

The most powerful people on the planet happens to be the racists.
How so? Because no-one has been able to eliminate racism/white supremacy,
despite the all the economic empowerment on the planet. If that's the
case, then where does that place non-white people? In positions of
subservience to white people. On top of that, if any people were
powerful enough to deal with what WEB Dubois referred to as the last
piece of unfinished business, then they would probably want to finish
that business in order to move on. Instead, we cope.

The Honorable Brother Marcus Garvey was a laughing stock for
having black people dress up in military gear, etc. However, he understood
that, even we could claim "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing" as a national black
anthem until we first had a nation.
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Date: Tue, 15 Apr 1997 15:12:41 -0500 
From: "Samuel J. Perryman" <sper@loc.gov> 
To: gmklass@ilstu.edu 
Subject: Re: Weidner review 

On Tue, 15 Apr 1997 LUISARTURO@aol.com wrote:

You see things, pardon the expression, too black and white. Where does that
place non-white people, in subservience to white people. This assumes all
non-white people are in powerless positions, and that all whites are in power
positions.

I see things too black and white? I see things as they are. White over
non-white equal war. I never just said white over black; you said that. I
said that white over brown equals war, white over yellow equals war, and
white over red equals war. That is not anecdotal in my opinion, that's my
truth. Why is it that all non-white people are trying to learn to speak
English? By the way, when I said subservience and white people, I mean the
interest of white people as a collective. I am not interested to give you
statistics about how many white people practice white supremacy any more
than I would try and tell you how many non-white people practice white
supremacy: I can only tell you that those who are racists are, and those
who aren't arent. However, I only know that those who are [racists] are
more powerful than those who are not.

Racists are more likely to be less educated and less likely to be in power
positions (other than terroristic power positions). Don't get me wrong,
educated whites can still be prejudiced and in power positions, but all
whites in power positions are not racists.

Excuse me again, but that is pure name calling. Racists are uneducated or
racists are not. Maybe the problem in the translation stems from our
different understandings of what racism is. Educated whites can still be
prejudiced? Oh, education whitens out prejudices (which I define as a
distaste for something: I'm prejudiced against apples... I prefer
oranges). Powerless people (comparatively speaking) are reactionary at
best. There ain't nothing I can do to stop a bomb from zooming across the
atlantic right into the center of the middle east, should white people
decide to send it.

I think you are missing the fact that non-whites can be and are more than
just "spokesmen for constituencies." Non-whites are important bankers,
business owners, politicians, executives, academics, and just about anything
else you can think of.

We aren't talking about jobs, or at least, I ain't talking about jobs: I'm
talking about a nation of people who are independent and self-governing.
Like the super powers. Know them? Where are the non-white superpowers?
Anecdotal? As long as I'm dependent.
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Date: Wed, 16 Apr 1997 06:50:12 -0500 
From: Don Martin <damart1@odin.cmp.ilstu.edu> 
To: gmklass@ilstu.edu 
Subject: Race Matters/Plural But Equal(Martin) 

Harold Cruse, Plural but Equal (William Morrow& Co. 1987)
Cornell West, Race Matters (Vintage Books 1993)
(Compare & Contrast)
Review By: Don Martin
Mail to: damart1@odin.ilstu.edu.

We are at a very critical point in history. The racial climate in
America can move in either of two directions-backwards or forward. Recent
legal proceedings, highly-publicized crimes and affirmative action issues
have come to the forefront. How will we address the issues at-hand? Will
people continue to wear the mask (talk one way in public, while privately
conceeding an entirely different perspective)?
It has been a long time coming, probably since the 60's, when
Americans have engaged in truly open dialogue about race. Without openly
communicating we will continue to foster the us vs. them mentality. By
doing so, we will continue to repeat and re-live our dilemmas, as history
is known to do.
What is the state of contemporary America in relation to race? How
have historical events and figures shaped America's racial climate? Can
America ever be free of racism and color consciousness? These are just a
few of the questions addressed by Cruse and West in their examination of
the role of race in American society.
Cornell West assumes a role much like that of a prophet in analyzing
racial issues in society. West places himself in a very unique position in
that he both praises and criticizes the workings of conservatives, liberals
and those deemed leaders of various movements-while carefully distancing
himself from any particular group. Without simply conveying societal ills,
West gives feasible direction and insight to racial problems, placing the
burden on society as a whole. However, it is important to note and
reiterate the role in which West assumes- placing himself in none of the
groups mentioned throughout the book- giving as close to an impartial
opinion as one could muster in regard to race. By doing so West gives the
reader a sense of legitimacy to many of the notions he reflects.

Harold cruse takes a wholly different perspective. Cruse's work
implicates blacks as victims of past evils and misguided doings. This is
evident by his personal account of historical events and people, ever
present, from cover to cover throughout the book. Cruse looks to history
as a base for problems in which society endures. He examines the
implications of historical policies and actions of leaders that have
molded the current state of affairs.
West takes a very candid look at the role of race. Identifying the
problems which afflict both blacks and whites. He addresses several
subject matters- the emptiness or voids in the black community, pitfalls of
racial reasoning, problems in black leadership, black and Jewish relations
and affirmative action.
West prescribes several schools of thought blacks assume in regard to
the Jewish community. The first is the general conflict of ant-whitism,
placing the Jewish community as complicators to racism. The second is the
expectations blacks place on Jews, because of the anti-Semitism and
atrocities they have faced. Assuming that Jews should be a natural ally due
to shared oppression. The third notion asserted by West, although
indirectly, points to Cruse's ideology in regard to Jews. Specifically
that some black anti-Semitism, in the form of resentment or envy, is the
result of an "underdog who has made it." Cruse seems to fall under the
latter school, evidenced by his assertions that Jews were accepted to
pursue the "American Dream", mostly because of their white skin.
Additionally, Cruse points to the development of Jewish organizations
seeking economic rights versus civil rights, as a major contributor to
their overall success.
There is very little debate concerning the economic problems faced by
Americans-both white and black. In the past urban markets, especially
industrial, closely mirrored the image of America. West points to the
shift of stable industrial jobs from urban areas to cheaper labor markets
and housing policies as key contributors to "chocolate cities and vanilla
suburbs." This coupled with the influx of poor immigrants, has had a
devastating impact on the tax base in American cities. A definite
disparity in the quality and funding of schools has resulted. West
believes a step in the right direction towards assuring access to basic
social goods- housing, food, health care, education, etc.- are all viable
means to a favorable end for all.
While very informative, almost too much, Cruse overwhelms the reader
with long chronicles of his perspective of history. Some of the points he
makes, including a self-help, autonomous approach to black development and
achievement in society, may or may not be feasible answers to contemporary
racial issues. However, disregarding his ideas altogether is more than
impractical.
West eludes to the idea of engaging many new perspectives and new
leadership to heighten the dialogue in race relations. West undoubtedly
falls under the a liberal perspective but, may be termed better as a
neo-liberal. His insight to racial issues fosters the notion of hope, not
of stagnant despair.
Both authors attempt to analyze and direct racial reasoning, although
from two different perspectives, for a reader who is willing to give
attention what is expressly stated. Neither of the two authors can
persuade the reader entirely one way or the other, as was probably not
intended. By simply bringing issues to the forefront, the authors give the
reader a chance to examine the racial issues. To some this may seem like
being beat over the head with a hammer, because they have grown tired of
the word "race" in American dialogue. Why stop pounding the nail, when the
"project" is far from finished?
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Date: Sun, 20 Apr 1997 05:52:07 -0500 
From: "Michael A. Schoenfield" <maschoen@execpc.com> 
To: gmklass@ilstu.edu 
Subject: Re: Weidner review 

Samuel J. Perryman wrote:
>
> On Tue, 15 Apr 1997, Michael A. Schoenfield wrote:
>
> > Samuel J. Perryman wrote:
> > >
> > > On Mon, 14 Apr 1997, David Larsen wrote:
> > >
> > > > Recently, Bina wrote:
> > >
> > > I find it interesting that West claims that blacks are tokens in power
> > > positions. I wonder if he looked to the areas where blacks are in power
> > > positions and what is done there. First in my mind is the music industry.
> > >
> > > I agree with Mr. West. However, I cannot believe that blacks are or ever
> > > will be anything more than spokesmen for constituencies as long as racism
> > > (not just economic, but also ideological) exists. I think that one
> > > possible reason that you have such division amongst people who were once
> > > divided into house/field servants is because the house servant still
> > > believes that he had more in common with his master. Therefore, he
> > > becomes really a spokesman for his master's interest. His master rewards
> > > him by giving him a title, which he uses to drive a wedge between
> > > himself and his field servant brother.
> > =============================================
> >
> > Being a Native American and professional, I find this discussion of
> > Black tokenism of interest. I wonder if anyone will have the guts to
> > tell the President of Wisconsin Power and Light (a major utility in
> > Wisconsin) that he is a token Black? Just my two cents worth.
> >
> Mr. Schoenfield.
>
> I don't know the President of Wisconsin Power and Light, but if
> he owns the major utility, then I certainly would like to be his VP.
> Maybe then that would make me a powerful person as well.
>
> The most powerful people on the planet happens to be the racists.
> How so? Because no-one has been able to eliminate racism/white supremacy,
> despite the all the economic empowerment on the planet. If that's the
> case, then where does that place non-white people? In positions of
> subservience to white people. On top of that, if any people were
> powerful enough to deal with what WEB Dubois referred to as the last
> piece of unfinished business, then they would probably want to finish
> that business in order to move on. Instead, we cope.
>
> The Honorable Brother Marcus Garvey was a laughing stock for
> having black people dress up in military gear, etc. However, he understood
> that, even we could claim "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing" as a national black
> anthem until we first had a nation.
=========================================
Perhaps so, but what does that say about the siignificant changes that
have occurred in western (American) society over the past 30 years. I am
not saying that there are not significant problems with the corporist
situation of out society, but I would be chigrin not to point out that
there are significantly more middle-class minorities than were
prevelenmt historically in our society. Not all of the doors have been
clearly opened, but at least currently the doors are ajar.

Mike S. (Mr., Schoenfield was my father and he was murdered by a white
racist in early 1970s)
--
===================================================
Michael A. Schoenfield
Michael A. Schoenfield & Associates, Ltd.
2637 Mason Street Voice: 608) 238-6121
Madison, WI 53705-3709 Fax: (608) 233-2507
E-Mail: maschoen@execpc.com
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Date: Tue, 22 Apr 1997 18:36:32 -0500 
From: juan jose ortiz <jjortiz@ilstu.edu>
Subject: Race Matters (Ortiz) 

Race Matters

by
Juan J. Ortiz

Cornel West's Race Matters in an intriguing book that not only
examines the plight of Black Americans but Americans as a whole. West runs
the gambit in his book in addressing issues from Black-Jewish relations to
Black sexuality. West also moves beyond the sometimes monotonous subjects
of race and inequality and provides an insight as to what is causing such
problems. West's insights are not only empirical but also spiritual.
In his introduction West begins with addressing the issue of race not
only affecting the black people but America as a whole. He addresses the
1992 L.A. riots as the manifestation of a growing outrage by the black
community. This outrage finally came to a head not so much out of the
verdict by the jury but the aloofness by white liberal America. White
America refuses to see the inequalities that remain decades after the Civil
Rights Movement. There is still a disparity between how whites and blacks
are treated by the police and unequal housing. West describes the
inequality of housing by calling it "white suburbs and chocolate cities".
West does not however blame these problems on the white or black people
rather on a society that has allowed this to happen for so long.
West points to the socio-economic problems that have long helped
perpetuate the inequalities we face today. West points to America's
hedonistic lifestyle that is perpetuated by a market driven economy that is
only looking for a quick fix instead of a long term solution. Everyday we
are being bombarded by commercials filled with blatant sexual innuendos.
Though many of us believe that we are not being affected by it we are, how
could you not? Today we have commercials that tell us that if we use a
particular kind of shampoo one could recieve orgasmic feeling. West's
insight into how corporate America shapes our value and culture is the
foundation of his argument. The images that are flashed across the screen
or that are heard over the radio are ones that speak of killing, rape,
making money and bigotry towards woman and gays. This is all done in the
name of the mighty dollar. Corporate America is not the only one being
blamed some conservative behaviorists have blamed radical cultural groups
along with radical feminists. To blame is to not accept responsibility for
ones actions and, though corporate America has long perpetuated ideas of
bigotry and hate we as a people are to blame for letting it happen. West
sees corporate America as having an especially detrimental effect on the
black population.
West refers to a nihilistic threat that is pervading black society as
a whole. He sees black intellectuals as being divided on this issue and
separates them into two distinct categories. West will continue to make
distinctions and separate groups and factionalize them. I had a problem
with him doing this through out the book. I felt that making such
distinctions forces one to take sides and only leads to more people being
separated, these separations in turn lead to stereotypes and
misconceptions. Its this factionalazation that has led to many of the
problems we face today. West never takes a stance on iether side of the
conservative-liberal debate. Because I feel if he did he would be subject
to the labels he has set on each. Though West never discusses where he
stands on this debate he clearly makes a point that black leadership is
needed.
In his opening paragraph on black leadership, West begins by claiming
that there has never been such a large number of black intellectuals and
politicians as there is today. Despite this fact there is nothing being
done to change the lives of Black Americans. West points out that this new
trend is due to the new growing black middle class. Historically there has
always been a black middle class but it is the new middle class of the
Sixties that West points to. West claims that the Sixties produced an
economic and even sexual boom that did not reflect long term goals rather
short term satisfaction. During this economic boom blacks also profited
and began to ascend the social ladder. In this new position the material
world was all that mattered and blacks were seduced by the economic
prosperity and lost sight of what got them there. Once arriving at this
new strata of society blacks no longer began to support black institutions
such as all black colleges. Instead they began to send their children to
more traditional Ivy-League colleges. This trend is not only new to blacks
but is true of all peoples who were once at the bottom but now find
themselves doing better. This transition of the new middle class West
claims has left the rest of the black community behind. This has
transformed into a depletion of the black family, conflict between men and
woman, and no community to help those who were left behind. Black
leadership hinges on the communal struggle of people as a whole, West
claims, not just on personal achievements buy a few. On this West begins
to define some of the newer leaders that have emerged from this cultural
change.
This new change has lead to new leaders that neither have the
political anger or the gentile humanity that leaders of old had. This
according to West has lead to the splintering of black political leaders
into three distinct groups. Race-effacing managerial leaders,
race-identifying protest leaders, and race-transcending prophetic leaders.
The first of these new leaders West claims is the lesser of two evils when
the other is a white conservative. This leader usually is considered a
detriment because he usually silences the prophetic leaders and complies
with the majority which is white. Instead of helping he only adds to the
problem and sometimes even makes it worse by playing the game. The second
of these new leaders is the race-identifying protest leaders who see
themselves in the light of Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. West
claims that these leaders are usually diluted in their thinking and usually
confine themeselves to being the new leader of the black people. These
people are usually given what they want in order to cover up underlying
issues. Once the new leader is in an elected office he forgets all about
the people and turns into the managerial type. The third and final type of
new leaders is the race-transcending prophetic leader. This type of leader
has yet to emerge in modern day political leadership according to West.
He does give indication that the Jesse Jackson of 1988 was considered to be
the last viable options. West does give some qualifications that a
prophetic leader must have in order to achieve this status. He claims that
the leader must be politically savvy, have personal integrity, moral
vision, and prudential judgement. West seems to argue that none of the
leaders of today seem to have what it takes to be a leader of today. Once
again West never takes a stance on where he sees himself among these new
leaders but my guess would be that he would perscribe himself to be a
race-transcending prophet and maybe with good cause.
Cornel West in my opinion seems to have what it takes to make that
stand against the oppression of the black society. West comes across with
an intellectual and spiritual message that not only addresses the black
need but the need of America. West sees that the success of America
hinging on both the economic and spiritual opportunities that must be
afforded to all. He sees the deadening of the American society due to its
hedonistic lifestyle that was started in the economic boom in the sixties.
In his introduction West makes a poignant insight on how the neglect of our
public infrastructures reflects the priority we put on our lives. The
decaying inner cities, contaminated water and air, are all reflections of
what we as a society have become. We are no better now than the rat who
lives among the sewers and eats garbage. Until a real race-transcending
prophet does appear, not necessarily West, we will continue to live out
this bleak existence. Or until we collectively and consciously decide to
change.
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