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Race Matters.

Cornell West's latest collection of essays focus on several important racial issues. Chapter titles include: "Nihilism in Black America," "The Pitfalls of Racial Reasoning," "The Crisis of Black Leadership," "Demystifying the New Blac Conservatism," "Beyond Affirmative Action: Equality and Identity," "On Black-Jewish Relations," and "Malcolm X and Black Rage."

In his search for the meaning of America, West is critical of the traditional liberal and conservative positions on race wherein both see African Americans a the problem:

The liberal notion that more government programs can solve racial problems is simplistic -- precisely because it focuses solely on the economic dimension. An the conservative idea that what is needed is a change in the moral behavior of poor black urban dwellers.... highlights immoral actions while ignoring public responsibility for immoral circumstances that haunt our fellow citizens."

West wants to go beyond the traditional debate and redefine the terms.

To engage in a serious discussion of race in America, we must begin not with th problems of black people but with the flaws of American society -- flaws rooted in historical inequalities and long-standing cultural stereotypes. How we set u the terms for discussing racial issues shapes our perception and response to these issues. As long as black people are viewed as a "them," the burden falls on blacks to do all the "cultural" and "moral" work necessary for healthy race relations. The implication is that only certain Americans can define what it means to be American -- and the rest must simply "fit in."

This collection of essays is an attempt at redefining the terms of the debate. This is thought-provoking work.

W. E. C.
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Author:Coleman, William E., Jr.
Publication:ETC.: A Review of General Semantics
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 1994
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