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Race Matters By Cornel West: Racism In America

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Cornel West, in his book “Race Matters”, once said, “Many whites could look at the social position of blacks and feel that color formed an easy and reliable gauge for determining to what extent one was or was not American.” This is trying to say that many white people judge you based on your color of skin to see if you are an American or not. Blacks are the biggest race that has dealt with these types of white people. Although, many black leaders fought for their rights during the freedom movement so that African Americans can have the same benefits as the white people. Even though they can have the same benefits, they still struggle to maintain those benefits and become equal. Cornel West is not only a famous author who published the book “Race Matters’’, but he is also a provocative democratic intellectual, philosopher, and professor at Harvard University. He has a big passion for communicating to the public about the real truth of love and justice, trying to keep Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy alive. A good language should use easy vocabulary that’s understanding, the organization should be arranged consistently, the thesis should be specific and clear, and the examples should have suitable connections. Cornel West’s “Race Matters” book addresses the issues of racism in America very well because of its straightforward thesis and suitable connections that back up the problems, though its organization wasn’t consistent and lacked to understand the language.

Racism in America was mainly addressed to black Americans. Cornel West even addresses this in his book. In his book, Race Matters, Cornel West maintains that “…the incredible disregard for human(especially black) life and property in much black America is something else.”(page 12) This meant that the disrespect towards them was high, yet they were told to not see themselves as the victims in this situation. This section in the book is considered as a thesis because of how straightforward and clear it was when Cornel West talked about disrespect towards black Americans. Soon after this quote, he mentions the nihilist threat. The nihilist threat meant there was a loss of hope and eventually an absence of meaning. Basically, they made it seem as if the nihilist threat was a necessity. That without it, they wouldn’t have had any hope for the future, if they have no meaning they couldn’t struggle. This was effective because the mistreatment kind of opened their eyes as to how their future might be if they continued to disbelieve the threat was a necessity that needed to be placed in order to be able to have a future.

Cornel West not only has a straightforward thesis but also suitable examples that make connections with other books. According to Cornel West, “These beliefs and images attack black intelligence, black ability, black beauty, and black character daily in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.”(Page 17) In other words, he believed that white supremacist’s beliefs and images affect black’s society and culture with “ontological wounds and emotional scars”. This connects with the novel, The Bluest Eyes, by Toni Morrison because of its devastating effects on self-image and European ideals towards young black women. He goes on and talks about the love ethic of self-love that can increase self-evaluation and political resistance in one’s community. (page 19) This second connection is made with Toni Morrison’s novel, Beloved because it brings the love and critical affirmation of black humanity that was found in the black nationalist movements. and progressive movements. These two examples from Toni Morrison’s novels, The Bluest Eye, and Beloved, are very effective because the white ideals’ affection towards black self-images helped them push forward in overcoming the nihilistic self-loathe and self-affirmation sanity in the nihilistic threat.

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However, in the book, Race Matters, Cornel West’s organization wasn’t consistent. For example, in chapter one, Nihilism in Black America, Cornel West mentions everything that involves the nihilistic threat. But soon after, he jumps into a different topic. About the politics of conversions. He could’ve ended chapter one with the nihilistic topic and moved the politics of conversions topic into a different chapter in which he only talks about that. This makes it harder for readers to understand because of how disorganized he was when scattering the topics around. Another example of where he made this same decision of combining topics into the same chapter, is in chapter eight. In chapter eight, Malcolm X and Black Rage, he begins by mentioning everything about Malcolm X and his ways of being an activist. But then he decided to bring up Martin Luther King Jr and talk about how these two activists were different from one another when it came to addressing racism in America. This chapter should’ve been divided between both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. He could have contrasted the two with their different ways of being an activist in separate chapters rather than having them both in one. Throughout the book, he talks about the issues of racism and how it’s effective to black Americans, but never gave a solution or even his opinion on how to overcome this matter. It would have been better if he had given a solution at the end of the book. Therefore, his organization wasn’t effective because he would jump to another topic without making pauses in between or introducing a new topic to the conversation. Even with the many topics he still failed to give us a solution to the issues of racism in America.

His decision to combine multiple topics into one chapter isn’t the only thing that can confuse readers when reading Cornel West’s book, Race Matters. His choice of words and lack of emotion in his text could also be confusing to understand. The lack of emotion throughout the chapters makes it difficult to understand how he feels about the topic since he doesn’t clearly address his feelings or thoughts towards it. Since he doesn’t write in the first person, it is hard to understand his exact position when it comes to the topic, and how he specifically is affected by the situations going around him. Cornel West writes, “we need serious strategic and tactical thinking about how to create new models of leadership and forge the kind of persons to actualize these models. These models must not only question our silent assumptions about black leadership- such as the notion that black leaders are always middle class- but must also force us to interrogate iconic figures from the past.”(page 45) Since he wrote this in the third person, this quote doesn’t really focus on him and his silent assumptions about black leadership, but as the assumptions of many put together. This quote also focuses on the needs of all black Americans as a whole, rather than just on himself and what he believes he needs. Cornel West complicates matters further when he writes that, “His frequent characterizations of left-liberal views as, “anachronistic,” ”discredited,” and “idiosyncratic,” without putting forth arguments to defend such claims, exemplify this “discourse truncation.”(Page 51) His use of words for this book makes it harder for some readers to understand because of how advanced his vocabulary is. The language in this book isn’t effective because his choice of words doesn’t make it clear and understandable for all readers. It can be quite confusing to understand something when you are unfamiliar with a certain vocabulary.

To this day, black Americans still struggle with racism, even though it was supposedly being dealt with and being overcome. There are current moments in our present-day world that recreate some bad moments from the past that went down in history. In his book, Race Matter, Cornel West addresses issues about racism in America that he was a part of, other facts about racism, and the mistreatment of black Americans that he specifically was not a part of. Throughout the book, he lacked consistent organization and had language that wasn’t quite understanding. Which made it somewhat difficult to understand. In conclusion, although his topics were kind of bunched together, Cornel West’s aggression towards racism was still effective because of his clear and specific thesis and suitable connections that backed up his reasons for his aggression.

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Race Matters By Cornel West: Racism In America. (2021, August 06). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 27, 2023, from
“Race Matters By Cornel West: Racism In America.” Edubirdie, 06 Aug. 2021,
Race Matters By Cornel West: Racism In America. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 27 Sept. 2023].
Race Matters By Cornel West: Racism In America [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2021 Aug 06 [cited 2023 Sept 27]. Available from:
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