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Race Matters

4.07  ·  Rating Details ·  7,138 Ratings  ·  235 Reviews
In this essay collection, many of which have previously appeared in journals, West, the director of Afro-American studies at Princeton & author of several books, addresses a number of issues of concern to black Americans: the LA riots after the Rodney King verdict; Malcolm X; Clarence Thomas & Anita Hill; & black street life. These topics are all timely yet tim ...more
Paperback, 159 pages
Published March 29th 1994 by Vintage/Random House (NY) (first published 1993)
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Mar 07, 2011 Maya rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Race Matters, published originally in 1993, is a book of its time, but also greatly applicable to 2011. Cornel West writes a series of essays covering the topics that most affect African-Americans in American culture, such as identity, gender, despair, sexuality, black-Jewish relations, how the political left and right have attempted to bring repair and how they have fallen short, the effects both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcom X had on the black community and where the African-American comm ...more
Dec 16, 2014 Zadignose rated it liked it
Shelves: read-non-fiction
Cornel West would probably not be offended if I pointed out that he doesn't quite have the literary talent of a W.E.B. Dubois... Who does? He doesn't have the fiery character of a Malcolm X. He comes across as someone sure of his ideas, but humble as an individual. His ideas are clear and generally well expressed, though his presentation does have a kind of dry style, like an academic essay assignment. The book does not have the kind of rigor to qualify as an analysis, and this isn't really phil ...more
Becky Moore
Aug 03, 2011 Becky Moore rated it liked it
For three years, I worked as the grantwriter and public affairs officer for the, an organization supporting North Carolinians living with HIV/AIDS. My great friend and colleague, who is very active in her sorority (the Delta's), and I used to have great philosophical discussions--in our line of work, it was necessary to try and learn as much about people of all different walks of life. The more we learned and could understand, the better we were able to serve the community. So we would ...more
Aug 14, 2009 Aaron rated it it was ok
Shelves: politics
i picked this up out of curiosity, i did not know much about cornel west. i was under the impression he was a scholar. i'm no scholar, but i know one when i read one. i do not believe this book contains much research, nor do i believe it had anything particularly profound or scholarly. the best i read in it was the way cornel west sometimes strings words/sentences together in a rhythm. other than that, he cannot hold a candle to the likes of frederick douglass, booker t. washington, or (to cover ...more
Jul 05, 2008 Zalman rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone interested in background of racial politics in the US
I read this book back in 1994, and thought West was right on target most of the time. The essays were written in plain language, rather than the jargon of political theory; I liked that they were also free of inflated hyperbole and attempts to boil down complex problems to trite slogans. Moderate, conciliatory, and thoughtful, West ably dissects superficial thinking and hypocrisy on both the right and left side of the political spectrum. Of course much of this material, written in the late 80s a ...more
Oct 24, 2014 Alisha rated it it was amazing
A lot of great, general, indisputable truths about being black that you (if you consciously think about race) have probably wondered, contemplated or, better yet, discussed with others.

Also a great number of truths about how the political sphere affect Black livelihood, especially that of the disadvantaged/poor. As someone who has always hungered to dig more into politics and how it affects (Black) American life, but cannot handle for too long the purposely incomprehensibly deceptive gibber-gab
Tylor Lovins
Jun 15, 2015 Tylor Lovins rated it really liked it
This is the first Cornel West book I have read, and, in fact, it is the first piece I have read fully on the issue of race. As a white person, spending my formative years in an overwhemingly small white town, I was not exposed much to race issues. There was some mention of slavery, but it was something that was well in the past, America having progressed since the Civil Rights movement. In high school American history courses were largely focused on American foreign affairs--especially American ...more
Jul 28, 2010 Jesse rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2010
A sharp and eloquent book, marred by a few loose arguments here and there. West is dead-on about many things, patiently and carefully laying out volatile issues and explaining approaches to improve them. Since this is a collection of essays, basically, some will obviously interest you more than others, but they're all worth reading and mulling over. The only weak points come at some moments in his reasoning, at which he substitutes a pat conclusion or an unsourced claim for a more carefully plan ...more
Nov 24, 2011 Nancy rated it really liked it
I so wish I was close enough to Princeton to be able to take a course or two of his there - although I hear he is moving to Union Theological Seminary soon to teach there.

Race Matters is a series of lectures exposing and criticizing the moral ethics of racism and many other isms that run side by side with racism.

The beginning story from Cornel West's real life experience in preparing this book for publication says it all. Nothing trumps the lived experience. As Bob Marley said - who feels it kno
I wish I knew more about social justice and the context in which West writes. I sense this to be an insightful work by a brilliant man but am not fully able to grasp its profundity.

What I get here is that race does indeed matter. Especially in discussions of race. While seemingly obvious, apparently this point is not as commonly accepted or widely appreciated at it seems it would be, or should be.

Definitely worth another read at some point.

Oct 30, 2015 Robert rated it really liked it
"Race Matters" is probably the most sincere opinion piece about race that I've ever read. Dr. Cornel West does a great job of removing himself from the role of "the victim," which would have been understandable as he begins his series of essays with a brief recollection of his experience with racial profiling. Personally, I've experienced few incidences of racism in my life, but I can write about the myriad of ableistic incidences I've experienced. Dr. West writes about the notion of nihilism an ...more
May 15, 2016 Jeremy rated it really liked it
Shelves: race
The more I read on the issue of race in America, the more I realize my presuppositions are rooted solely in the Southern conservative Christian ethos and not in anything approaching reality. I've often wondered what I would have done if I was alive during the Civil Rights Movement; I now recognize the need to ask what I will do, as that Movement is far from being concluded.

I take issue with many of West's points in this book, but the overall thesis is irrefutably logical and West's superior inte
Markus Molina
Apr 07, 2015 Markus Molina rated it really liked it
Pretty good insight. A few bits seem a bit outdated, but for the most part, a lot of the information is sadly going to still be relevant at least for most of my lifetime.
David Withun
Jul 08, 2016 David Withun rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics
While I started this book some time ago, it is fitting that I finished it just today, in the light of recent events. While the book was originally written in 1993, there is nothing dated about it. It remains as relevant now as it was when it was written 23 years ago. West explores the origins and continued omnipresence of racism in American society, exposing, diagnosing, and prescribing throughout. He is thorough in his discussions and fair in his analyses. I recommend this book to anyone who se ...more
May 21, 2016 Tim rated it liked it
A sharp and compassionate take on race relations in the U.S. But somewhat dated.
Del Herman
Mar 08, 2016 Del Herman rated it really liked it
Cornel West is a radical. There can be no doubt of that. He has been outspoken during Occupy Wall Street gatherings, Black Lives Matter protests, and far-left conventions. He has called President Obama a "Rockefeller Republican in blackface" and has been almost vociferously critical of the Bush administration and American conservatism. Many of his positions I take much more moderate positions on and many of them I flat out disagree with him on. However, when I think about Cornel West, I think of ...more
Andrew Marr
Aug 11, 2015 Andrew Marr rated it really liked it
As a pop nonfiction book that introduces issues of racism against African Americans directed most likely toward a white somewhat educated readership, I think this book is great. And given Dr. West's capacity to get highfalutin and academic in other organs (take a look through The Cornel West Reader -- some real academic pieces in there), I think reading it under the assumption that it's targeted toward the "masses" is justified.

That said, for an indepth analysis on black culture in the late 20t
Dec 16, 2008 Aaron rated it it was amazing
Shelves: igdi
Cornel West touches on all things concerning the black community. From the lack of strong leadership since the civil rights movement to misogyny and sexuality to relations with jews to homosexuality he applies his philosophy that america's increasing emphasis on capitalism has contributed to a sense of helplessness and hopelessness in the black community. His comments are even-handed and all-encompassing as he discusses the state of america with respect to blacks in the wake of the LA riots foll ...more
Joshua Clowers
Aug 01, 2016 Joshua Clowers rated it really liked it
This book is very insightful and provides Dr. West's opinionated comentary on issues that were effecting the world just a couple years after Rodney King and the pandemonium that followed that event. It still has powerful relevance in todays world with the increase in coverage of fatal shootings by police of minorities and the poor. The only problem I had with it is that it was very short and I wanted Cornel to go more in depth about the issues that he speak of in the book, but besides that I giv ...more
Nov 20, 2014 Scott rated it did not like it
Reading black historical figures (Frederick Douglas) and contemporary black conservatives (like T sowell) stimulates my mind and gives me hope for black Americans. But Cornel West likes to hear the own sound of his voice even when his arguments are shallow, unsupported by fact or even common sense, or simply hostile. I fear for our universities of higher knowledge if this man, so stuck in the past, can be a tenured professor and teach young people to fix themselves on issues of race, when most o ...more
Sep 22, 2016 Leonard rated it really liked it
Shelves: sociology
This book is as applicable today as when it was written. Cornel West analyzes the problem with race relationship in America and offers suggestions. A great for anyone who wants to understand the challenges facing race relations and to seek a path toward the future.
Nov 03, 2015 Gavin rated it really liked it
For some reason I've been preoccupied with race relations in the US of late, likely due to the overwhelming racial issues constantly cropping up in the politics, the news, and every other outlet of information. If the cops aren't shooting dogs for fun, they seem to enjoy aiming at the nearest convenient black person, which in turn causes a 24 hour news producer to soil his or her shorts with delusions of expository grandeur. Then there's the joy of a black president and its charming side affect ...more
Jul 04, 2015 Josh rated it it was amazing
As a foreign student in the United States my entry into the racism debate is recent. I had a psychological conversion 4 years ago when, through the experience of a black class mate, I became aware of my participation in white privilege even though I am not an American citizen. I have come to realize that the litmus test for any worldview or ethics, and especially any expression of Christian spirituality, is its stance on racism in the US and its willingness to make it the prime focus of action a ...more
Jonathan Kubakundimana
Mar 12, 2015 Jonathan Kubakundimana rated it it was amazing
A brilliantly insightful book. Cornel West masterfully illuminates and grapples with the legacy of race in America and establishes the necessary groundwork and framework in which a 'conversation on race' can, and must, occur. His aptly titled book evokes a witty double-entendre that gets to the core of his analysis:

"A candid examination of 'race'[italicized] matters takes us to the core of the crisis of American democracy. And the degree to which race 'matters'[italicized] in the plight and pre
Seward Park Branch Library, NYPL
It’s remarkable how much ground that Cornel West is able to cover in the all-too-brief ‘Race Matters’, published in the wake of the Los Angeles riots in 1993.

Although this little book speaks on diverse topics ranging from affirmative action, to black sexuality, to black and jewish relations, there are definitely some salient themes which manifest in every chapter, namely that the question of race is not a question of race alone, but a *moral* question, an *American* question. These essays are no
May 26, 2009 Liz rated it really liked it
Cornell continues to be one of the most brave, and poignant intellectual freedom fighters of our time. People from every background must read this and re-start discussions about morality, race, and the future of humanity in these two contexts. Cornell's discussion is intense and thought provoking, and is needed now more than ever as each generation becomes increasing disconnected the struggle for equality [that continues today:] and forget upon whose shoulders we stand today---Well written.
Mar 18, 2009 Sonicage rated it really liked it
Cornel West is my hero. This book is an interesting read 15+ years after it was written. All the issues West addresses are still relevant today, but some in slightly different ways.

This book was West's wake-up call to America at the time, presented with a scholarly-bound-love that has become West's calling card.

The challenges and analysis presented are worthy of review now, to see where we've gone since then and where we may be going in terms of race-relations in America.
This was a book that I obtained after I had the privilege of listening to a presentation by Cornel West. He is a breathtaking speaker and writer. Although this book is an older one - it is essential for those who are taking a closer look at Race within the United States and how it continues to be a challenge for those who are discriminated against. This book was inspiring and engaging! In my opinion, a must read for older high school students/college students.
Jul 23, 2010 D. rated it really liked it
I love Cornell West primarily because I admire his use of language. The difficulty with this book is that as it progresses the theme doesn't grow and become either more complex and encompassing or examined and revealed at it's most basic levels. Each chapter seems to me to be a rehash of the previous chapter.

However, the topic is so important and West's ability to structure an argument makes it an important if somewhat studied read.
Mitchell Hahn-Branson
Apr 04, 2016 Mitchell Hahn-Branson rated it it was amazing
As a white guy, I don't believe I have the firsthand experience necessary to say whether Race Matters gives an accurate picture of race and racism in America up to 1993, let alone how relevant it remains today. But, as an observer and as someone deeply concerned with racial equality in the U.S., I'm willing to say that it makes a lot of sense to me and seems frustratingly relevant to our own time. From everything I can tell, the issues and challenges raised here are roughly the same ones that ne ...more
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Cornel Ronald West is an American scholar and public intellectual. Formerly at Harvard University, West is currently a professor of Religion at Princeton. West says his intellectual contributions draw from such diverse traditions as the African American Baptist Church, Marxism, pragmatism, transcendentalism, and Anton Chekhov.
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“My aim is not to provide excuses for black behavior or to absolve blacks of personal responsibility. But when the new black conservatives accent black behavior and responsibility in such a way that the cultural realities of black people are ignored, they are playing a deceptive and dangerous intellectual game with the lives and fortunes of disadvantaged people. We indeed must criticize and condemn immoral acts of black people, but we must do so cognizant of the circumstances into which people are born and under which they live. By overlooking these circumstances, the new black conservatives fall into the trap of blaming black poor people for their predicament. It is imperative to steer a course between the Scylla of environmental determinism and the Charybdis of a blaming-the-victims perspective.

“Of course, the aim of a constitutional democracy is to safeguard the rights of the minority and avoid the tyranny of the majority. (p. 102)” 35 likes
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