Cornell West

Cornell West
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  Pat Scrivener If there is one issue on which I agree with Cornell West completely on but which I have rarely seen discussed in other such high-profile works, it is on the ineffectiveness of liberalism to solve America’s race problem in any meaningful capacity. “The liberal notion that more government programs can solve racial problems ,” West says, “ is simplistic -- precisely because it focuses solely on the economic dimension. ” (4 -5) The victim-blaming arguments of conservative  behaviorists are clearly problematic, but the shortsightedness and, dare I say, cowardice of liberal structuralists is preferable only because it does not as actively degrade Black Americans. Government regulations and welfare programs are not the panacea for poverty and racism that many liberals trumpet them as; they are only a stopgap to prevent the complete  devastation of the Black community, but which nonetheless still destabilize that very same community. (87) I am more comfortable placing the blame for this directly at the feet of White liberals who avoid supporting meaningful reforms because to do so would mean undermining the capitalist institutions that grant them their privilege; they would rather deaden some of the pain and call it  progress than try to cure the disease itself. As I found the reading of  Race Matters  to be a  polarizing experience. West and I differ on such a fundamental level that while I am not in a  position to really disagree with his assessment of facts, I find his optimistic commitment to nonviolence and integration with the White community to occasionally border on the insufferable, and he never successfully won me over on any position I did not initially see the merit in. A passage of his which really bothered me was his psychologizing of Malcolm X’s resistance to cultural hybridization as being the result of his insecurities about his own biracial identity (145-146), which struck me as being both shockingly uncharitable and ignoring a point  he had made about interracial relationships in an earlier chapter: that “[t]the history of such access up to [the 1960s] was primarily of brutal white rape and ugly white abuse.” (120 -121) While Black nationalist ideology is marred by faults, I do not believe that West gives adequate attention to why Black nationalists would be so wary of hybridization: that it has not (and arguably still does not) occur on an equal basis, that the rapacious White-dominated market culture is still eager to steal whatever it can commodify and destroy that which it cannot. In his commitment to radical love, I feel that Cornell West is too forgiving of White people. I can only ask: Why? What have White people done to earn anything but the most singular, individual of forgivenesses? Why should a people honestly be expected to harbor anything but hate for those whose entire community in predicated on their genocide?
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