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Race Matters

4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  6,204 ratings  ·  207 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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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
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
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
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
Tylor Lovins
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 05, 2008 Zalman rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
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
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.

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
"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
Markus Molina
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.
Dec 16, 2008 Aaron rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
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
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
Andrew Marr
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
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
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
Andrew Fairweather
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
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.
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.
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.
This book is quite emotionally challenging. West talks very honestly about race and its impact in the United States. Unfortunately, it is a truth that many are not wiling to hear. I greatly appreciated West's honesty, even when it made me uncomfortable. Although the entire book is quite powerful, i found myself particularly taken by the last chapter -- particularly the end of the last chapter -- and the epilogue.
I feel like this should be required reading in high schools. Race in America is this thing that can be incredibly frustrating and difficult to get a handle on. After reading this book I was less confused but even more frustrated, and I think that's the point. Argh. (And the drug arrest statistic really hit me hard after the tutoring I've been doing in prison.)
This was Cornel West back before he was most famous for calling people who get paid to go on MSNBC and cape for Barack Obama house negroes. Even people who have been critical of his rhetoric for the past few years, who find his last several books to be hot garbage, admit this was on point (except maybe Leon Wieseltier). I read quasi-sequel Democracy Matters on an airplane back when it came out and liked it well enough as a 25-ish year-old kid, but I was a little bit on the young side when this c ...more
Randall Wallace
As Cornel explains it, our great history involved the taking the land away from Native Americans and Mexicans while excluding women, marginalizing white working class men and closeting homosexuals. We said we had created a democracy while 20% of the population was openly enslaved for all to see in a rather nasty way. In the final chapter, Malcolm X and Black Rage, Cornel shows Malcolm X as not only the prophet of black rage but as the sure guide for all blacks no longer willing to see themselves ...more
Chuck Landvatter
Absolutely my favorite book by one of my favorite thinkers. I'm going to have to reread this to give it a fair review, but I will say that the way Dr. West is able to simplify and elucidate such convoluted topics as racial and social structures is uncanny. If you have a hard time articulating such topics, I would suggest Cornel West.
It is pretty much impossible to get a handle on the idea of race and its implications in the United States without reading Cornel West. He is by far the most eloquent and erudite people who walk the earth. He's funny, poignant, and above all hopeful about a brotherhood which, not yet extant, is still within our reach.
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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)” 30 likes
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