26 thoughts on “Race Matters 2”

  1. Hello Professor on our last week here.
    Before I go on, with our last class on Thursday, is there anything we out to be aware of, other than our TNC final memo?

    Okay, now on to Dr. West.

    I so appreciate you bringing up the issue of his self-reflection. I think that, above all, was what I missed as well, the thing that Coates does so well, and others before Coates, which is envelope their experience inside the analysis at hand. I suspect this is why Dr. West’s material, even when I’d read it way back when, did not connect with me, as hard as I tried, because I knew he was and is important, his work fell on my ears as if he were chastising me rather than enlightening me. So I appreciate your acknowledge, or as you said, his “soul outside this world,” was sorely amiss for me.

    I also appreciate you unpacking his chapter on Black leadership, this notion that “no community is monolithic” and the other reminder that this was before Kapernick, before Buress, before the explosions of other voices on the scene, and in particular, the women—the voices of Roxane Gay and Tressie McMillan-Cottom and Britni Cooper and so many others. Nowadays, I see Dr. West as a talking head on Bill Maher or some talk show and I’m always interested in what he has to say, and I hope that if he ever does an anniversary-type re-issue of Race Matters, he includes them in his intro.

    My God, what he’d say about this Orange Idiot. I can’t even add “can you imagine,” because I can, I can imagine.

    1. Thank you! only the last memos and comments are required, nothing more.
      The absence of self-reflection was more glaring for me this time around, maybe because we’re living in a time that it’s taken for granted that you need to analyze and dissect yourself before talking to others. again, it wasn’t that common back then for an intellectual to talk about themselves, they would’ve regarded it as narcissism. so this book is outdated on many fronts, and confined to the historical moment in which it is written, which is inevitable.

  2. From what I see, there’s currently no leadership in the ongoing BLM moment, no one is really leading it; there are only those who died that caused people to unite together to protest (Should’ve said it better, the movement didn’t happen because of a significant or any leader’s organization, it’s more because people saw what happened on the internet (tragic and unjustified deaths caused by police misconduct) then unanimously agrees that protest is the thing to do.).

    I have a slightly different take on Hollywood’s diversity problem. Yes, Hollywood should hire more people of different colors, but they shouldn’t hire them just for the sake of diversity. Because otherwise, it will just be another “Go woke, go broke” situation. And I think the only way to solve this problem is to hire based on pure skill, with no consideration of color (which quite frankly is the solution to racism, stop taking color into consideration for anything).

    1. Thank you! I see what you mean, though I still wonder if the absence of the leadership of that nature is the feature of our time or just a problem in the community. can we have a voice like MLK that all factions of this movement rally around in the age of social media? I don’t know.
      My issue with Hollywood is more structural, not their way of diversification. Honestly I don’t really care who is in Hollywood and who isn’t, as long as its representation of American Empire and its role elsewhere in the world so distorted. when I see an Iraq war movie that’s what I notice, not the skin color of the actors.

  3. I find West’s chapter on Black Leadership to be particularly interesting in that, he claims that quantity does not equate to quality. West is critical of MLK and Malcolm X in that they did not understand that unity was necessary, if the black community had any hope for progression. That is to say that, the black leadership had to be inclusive of all other minority groups such as, women, LGBT+ and other groups of people of color. If they were to defend the rights of these other minority groups, as an entire power, they would be more so capable of opposing the ruling class. What is also interesting is that the middle-class black community felt adversely toward having gained any amount of social mobility through programs such as, affirmative action. They felt that their white peers were placing judgement upon them because they had not achieved their place in society through the same means that their white peers had. While, the conservative belief remained that the black community was capable of fending for themselves without the help of the government, the liberal sentiment believed that such programs helped ensure that the black community, at the very least, had the opportunity to receive equal possibilities as did the white community. However, through the conservatives argument, they felt as if they were less deserving of their occupations because they had only been able to achieve them through programs such as, affirmative action and did not feel any more equal to their white peers simply because they shared the same work enviornment.

    1. Thank you! very perceptive comment.
      Now that LGBT+ issues and feminism is almost taken for granted on the left, it’s hard to exaggerate how progressive his position was for the 1990s. no one would ever criticize MLK in the 90s for homophobia. Most people simply didn’t care. or the case of Anita Hill, which he discusses at some length in chapter 2. his politics of sexuality for a straight man in the 90s is impressive.

  4. I remember the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag and the manufactured sympathy that came with it. What came from it, similar to the BLM 2020 Protests, is posturing from the institution with the leading voice (Hollywood then, corporations now). But by forcing our way through the door, doesn’t it force their hand to let us in? I am almost fully distrustful in situations as such. It sets a bad precedent, being the first black person to win an award in a giving category last year, because it raises the question: “was I recognized for my talent or because of my skin color?”. The equivalent question today, when thinking about protestors screaming Black Lives Matter: “is me that matters or is it my money that matters?”

    I’ve spoken about it previously but again, the idea of a black communal voice and leader, it is a difficult situation to analyze. On one hand, I get the need for one but as you say (and me in my memo), we are too fragmented and far-reaching for a single voice. The community’s middle class is huge, even compared to 2 decades ago. I honestly don’t have a full answer to Wests arguments as of yet, but I do believe any institution in place that allows you to leave your “hood”, whether education, church or even the military, that is where it begins.

    1. Thank you! totally agree with you on both accounts. the diversity in institutions like Hollywood and army, which are fundamentally problematic, always comes with baggage, followed by tedious discussions about “did the black person deserve it or was it just tokenism” etc. as long as structural criticism is absent from those calls for diversification we’ll be stuck in such pointless debates.
      Also about the leadership. you look at the landscape and you think it’s impossible to bring all those voices together, but you never know how history works. who would’ve thought in 2006 that in 2008 a black man would be president? It’s impossible to predict the future, especially in politics. we’ll see.

  5. I think that the black community suffers from a lack of leadership in the US, largely due to intersectionality and the loss of cultural identity. The matter of race has been an issue in America since its founding and despite some evolution over the decades, blacks were not accepted in America for being black – they were only accepted if they became part of the larger white “American” identity. In terms of intersectionality, and this is an issue with many movements in the US, there can be so many facets to the issue of race in America that it can be difficult for such a large community to agree on which areas should be addressed first.
    I do agree with you in that West’s idea of what leadership looks like is outdated and consequently, leadership has evolved to become an idea that many people can represent because it is less about the individual.

    1. Thank you! I think intersectionality opens the door to new voices and creates new opportunities for the emergence of new leaders. I agree that the landscape is confusing and it’s almost dizzying to listen to so many voices, yet I kind of prefer it to the leadership being exclusive to men in suit.

  6. Cornel West is so spot on when he speaks about leadership in the Black culture. When you think about leaders you think of Malcolm X, MLK, Frederick Douglas, and Angela Davis. Most of the leaders that we had came from desperate times, in which our way of life was threatened. Which is why we don’t have any leaders today. However, I do believe with all that’s going in the right direction. In light of everything that’s going on in the U.S. today more people are becoming aware and knowledgeable, which means soon a leader shall emerge.

    1. Thank you! I agree with you. it looks confusing and overcrowded at first glance, but the floodgates have opened up recently and there are so many new voices we had never heard before. over time the right voices will emerge out of this mix.

  7. I must agree that the black community is suffering lack of leadership. As you mentioned people are so scattered and have so many different ideas on what they are really fighting for. Most people follow what they see on social media but you see all type of leadership that Dr. West defined in his book combined. You’ll see a group that advocate for what the author explains as Race of facing managerial, race identifying protests leaders, race transcending prophetic leader. It is way difficult now a days to have everyone advocate for something specifically because the press and social media will present whatever they want. I think it should be explored the failure of black leadership then come up with a good strategy. Although I say this, I must admit that the black lives matters movement have change already many things and our voice is being heard, but what’s the next step?

    1. Thank you! the landscape does look chaotic, but at the same time promising. West’s categorization doesn’t work anymore, because of the reasons you pointed out. At the same time, social media has made mimicry the norm: instead of sitting down in their own solitude and developing their own worldview, people jump on their phones as soon as something comes up, and before they know it their opinion is formed. It is indeed a very complicated moment, so many things are happening that simply didn’t exist when West wrote that book.

  8. West criticizes the impact of conservative politics on the black psyche. West contends that notions of individualism have solely placed blame on black people without acknowledging the external and internal hurdles that they face daily. Rather, West stresses individual responsibility and the restoration of a collective black consciousness that seeks to remedy profound problems affecting the black community.

  9. Good morning. I’m seeing a lot of commentary on the lack of black leadership right now, and I wondered whether you thought Charles Barkley’s Nike Campaign, where he said, “I am not a role model” had an impact of subliminal effect on the next (these) few generations, if there is some correlation between lack of leadership and that? It’s a far-reach, I know.


    At the same time, while there is no MLK, Shirley Chisholm, Harriet Tubman, there are voices everywhere, everywhere you look, speaking to power, and in my opinion, the landscape of social media has invited that fragmentation. But, as with feminism, there are voices to listen to.

    1. Thank you! I agree with you about the new voices, I’m not sure how many people have paid attention to Barkley’s comments, since no one was looking at him for leadership to begin with.

  10. When Cornel West criticizes whomever black leaders that have some influence it definitely does seem to stem from his own frustration that no one is doing enough to progress. As much as I agree that they could be arguably too diplomatic, criticizing people directly could only go so far. Many go into certain fields to make change but much of the time it goes unheard of or in many cases they’re life stability in every aspect ends up at stake if they attempt to bring change. The system that has been created has a lot to do with the slow growth that we have and many who try to speak out against it know very well they’ll end up in danger. Both MLK and Malcolm X are known to have a huge impact but they’ve also both been assassinated. Cornel West implies that it’s a waste of influence but what he’s asking for comes with a high risk many do not have in them to take.

  11. It was interesting how some black conservatives were against Affirmative Action. I have heard this pov before, wanting to be judged based on skill, not skin. However, I think Affirmative Action is necessary to correct hundreds of years of POC and other minorities being held back. People are stilled judged on your skill. I think it is wrong to take away the accomplishments of people who get Affirmative Action. This program is not a handout, it is supposed to be a hand up.

    1. Thank you! I agree. It’s like in a basketball game you start 20-0 if your team is white. things like Affirmative Action are needed to level the playing field, to bring the score back to 0-0.

  12. Expanding on the comparison of black leadership from the past and today, I partially agree with Cornel West’s view. As the professor mentioned, West’s leadership idea is kind of outdated. Perhaps it is true at the time that the author wrote his book some leaders in the black community were more interested to show that they “made it” instead of being concerned of the well-being of their people. Today, even though with lack of a figure that represent the black community of the caliber of Malcolm X or MLK, many prominent people with a high visibility on social media started to promote equal justice on a global scale. We have figures like Oprah and Colin Kaepernick raising their voices in order to promote justice, may others follow their steps in order to fight for the cause. Social media definitely brought more awareness to the cause, I was surprised to see that the protests were endorsed all over the globe. I was amazed to see my home country joining the BLM movement. Indeed, I believed that thanks to social media and its horizontal leadership, the black community was able to outreach a wider, multiethnic audience that took their side in order to fight for equal justice.

    1. Thank you! it’s true, but spreading so wide and far can lead to thinning out and watering down, or worse, superficiality and fixing the appearance instead of the system. My main concern about social media is that it gets satisfied with the slightest change of appearance, that it’s not patient and cheers for meaningless with as much vociferousness as it shows its anger. MAybe I’m just old.

  13. West focus on Black community in the text be seen as a whole. Black leadership which he points out how black intellectuals acted in the black community is a motivation step. I do agree it’s crucial to engaging in leadership. To let more representatives, speak up and show up. However, Make the black community different and turning into kind of entertainment culture. It was innocent and struggle to act at that time. West sees the problem. And, as he mentioned Community are so wild to let one voice can be heard all around. Identity of black and promote themselves along with International civil rights movements. There are more scholars and intellectuals exist into the black community which was compelling. Overall, I also feeling West ‘s writing as observers to the Western world. Does not linked any personal experience to his observations.

  14.  I’ve recently come to the view that blacks have been fighting for racial equality, but one of the reasons it hasn’t worked is because the black community is divided and doesn’t work together. For example, when it comes to the plight of blacks, some people think it needs to be tackled politically, while others think it needs to be tackled economically. Blacks bicker over micro-specific issues, seemingly forgetting that the biggest problem they face is macro inequality. I’m not saying the issues they’re arguing about aren’t important, but I don’t think they should put the cart before the horse. Such arguments can also have a negative impact on black cohesion. They have a common enemy, so they should be fighting with each other, not against each other.

  15. Wow, I would have actually never thought about Hollywood being a part of the institution, like the army would be. I can actually see how that can be related together though. Hollywood, and many celebrities can be used in a lot of ways especially in influencing communities, so maybe they could use that as a tactic. As for you mentioning, why would people want to be a part of that institution,my guess would be because they would want to showcase some form of representation but not realize how Hollywood can be considered an institution that is against diversification. Interesting point!

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