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Race Matters Paperback – March 29, 1994

125 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

West's collection of eight cogent and profoundly moral essays on American race relations was a one-week PW bestseller.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

YA-Thought-provoking essays that address a number of controversial issues of concern to African Americans. West analyzes such subjects as nihilism in black America, the crisis of black leadership, affirmative action, black-Jewish relations, sexuality, and the legacy of Malcolm X. His writing style is scholarly and sparse-he does not waste words, and his prose is easy to read. Yet his viewpoints are radical and passionately felt. He is not afraid to speak frankly and, while he presents many criticisms, he also offers many solutions. Not everyone will agree with his point of view, but if one of his objectives is to make readers at least think about the problems he has dissected, then he has succeeded admirably.
Pat Royal, Crossland High School, Camp Springs, MD
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 159 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (March 29, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679749861
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679749868
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (125 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,785 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Cornel West is a prominent and provocative democratic intellectual. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard and obtained his MA and PhD in philosophy at Princeton. He has taught at Union Theological Seminary (where he has recently returned to teach), Yale, Harvard, Princeton, and the University of Paris. He has written nineteen books and edited thirteen books. He is best known for his classic Race Matters, published by Beacon Press in 1993. His latest books are Black Prophetic Fire, which offers a fresh perspective on six revolutionary African American leaders (Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King Jr., Ella Baker, Malcolm X, and Ida B. Wells) and The Radical King, a collection of MLK's writings curated and introduced by Prof. West to reclaim Dr. King's prophetic and radical vision as both a civil rights leader and--more broadly--as a human right activist. Both books were published by Beacon Press.

Cornel West appears frequently on Real Time with Bill Maher, The Colbert Report, CNN and C-SPAN, and he makes numerous appearances speaking to audiences large and small on subjects ranging from racial justice and queer rights to climate justice. Prof. West has appeared in over twenty-five documentaries and films, including Examined Life, Call & Response, Sidewalk, and Stand. He has also made three spoken-word albums, including Never Forget, collaborating with Prince, Jill Scott, Andre 3000, Talib Kweli, KRS-One, and the late Gerald Levert. His recent spoken-word interludes were featured on Terence Blanchard's Choices (which won the Grand Prix in France for the best jazz album of the year for 2009).

He has recently been deeply involved in the Black Lives Matter protests and was among those arrested in Ferguson in 2015. Cornel West has a passion to communicate in writings and orations, through music and film, and in solidarity with groups and faith communities committed to justice in order to keep alive the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.--a legacy of telling the truth and bearing witness to love and justice.

Photo credit Sigrid Estrada.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

209 of 223 people found the following review helpful By Jason on April 21, 2002
Format: Paperback
It is somewhat disturbing to read past reviews of Dr. West's work and find no middle ground. The reviews range from exalting to damning, but the issues are out of focus. As a white American male (veteran AND Republican), I am on the receiving end of Dr. West's criticisms...or am I? This (the reader review section) is where one can see evidence of the racial conflict Dr. West writes about. Self-loathing and guilt manifested as hate and distrust in a zero-sum world...and this is the world most of us were brought up in.
If Dr. West is correct, and the subjugation of the African-American underclass is caused by Corporate White America, then what is to be done? Taxes and subsidies focused on social equality are out of fashion with a majority of White Americans because the question, "who benefits?" is rarely addressed in full. Unfortunately, for most, an acceptable answer is lacking in this particular analysis, but it should be obvious to anyone CHOOSING to read RACE MATTERS, that positive externalities exist on both sides of the racial divide.
As a white American, reading RACE MATTERS is like asking a stranger to identify all the perceived shortcomings and failures embodied in your character. However, walking away and assuming a defensive posture, without ever asking "What can I do to change you perceptions?", is tantamount to failure in itself.

Dr. West's book is an excellent answer to the question most white Americans want answered..."What did I do to you?"
And although I may not agree with every solution or angle of criticism proposed by Dr. West, it most certainly initiates the discourse. This is where the benefit of his book is realized...in the discourse...and in the development of a common social ground.
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65 of 74 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Dukich on April 18, 2001
Format: Paperback
I first read Race Matters in 1995. I just re-read it in anticipation of hearing West speak in person. Out of curiosity, I checked out these Amazon reviews to see what others thought of West's book. Several of the reviews confirm much what West says in Race Matters. As I see it, this creates an even more compelling reason to buy and read this short book.
According to West, discussions about the plight of African Americans tend to be divided into two camps, the "liberal structuralists" and the "conservative behaviorists". West then adds: "Unfortunately, these two camps have nearly suffocated the debate that should be taking place about the prospects for black America." (p. 18.) Debate certainly seems to be gasping for air in some of the Amazon reviews of Race Matters.
In chapter 2, West outlines what he calls the pitfalls of "racial reasoning." This chapter alone is worth the price of the book because of its cogent treatment of the underlying racial reasoning on both sides of the Clarence Thomas debate. It is quite obvious that several of the reviews posted on Amazon have failed to heed West's call to "replace racial reasoning with moral reasoning." (p. 38.)
To my surprise, the ad hominem attacks against West in some of the reviews are reminiscent of the 50s and 60s-Communist, Marxist, get a haircut, rich guy, etc. Theses are the same emotionally based attacks that appear in the referenced Solon article by David Horowitz.
The strong feelings raised by West's discussion seem also to have caused certain reviewers to overlook some of what West actually says. For example, West does mention Hispanics (p. 12, 44), he does criticize both Louis Farrakhan and Malcolm X (p.
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90 of 111 people found the following review helpful By nadav haber on May 12, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this book from a non-American prespective. As I don't live in America but in Israel, I can't help but read a book such as this while constantly comparing West's analysis to my own environment.
At the beginning of the book, the immediate comparison was to the oppression of the Palestinians. But as I progressed, there was a shift to the situation of the Ethiopian immigrants in Israel. I was amazed at how easily West's words can be applied to the situation of the Ethiopians in Israel. I quoted a few insights from the book to Ethiopian friends, and there was a common feeling as if West wrote the book about them - and not about the American race matters. Of course the difficult chapter dealing with black Antisemitism was interesting as an American phenomena, without direct implications to the Ethiopian situation (here I could go back to the Palestinian issue).
In the end, West's book proved to be a bold attack on racism and racist institutions, and did provide some interesting directions for change. I must disagree with those that were disappointed by West's "failure" to bring up coherent solutions. A book such as this should not be expected to provide a detailed solution layout, but instead give food for thought, and point at the directions which have not been taken yet.
This the book does. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the issue of race and politics.
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132 of 171 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 1, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is my first encounter with Cornel West, who is described on the back cover as the "preeminent African-American intellectual of our generation."
For the reasons listed below, I am very disappointed with this book; the space allotted to reviews hardly allows me to describe fully all of the ways in which West errs, but let me list a few. West appears to use three types of "evidence" to present his case:
1. The first type of "evidence" is the frequent use of unsupported statements. There are no citations, footnotes, or reading list in this book. This lack of intellectual accountability allows West the luxury of making statements that would not pass muster in a decent high school term paper. For example, West states that Clarence Thomas, Anita Hill, and other conservative Republicans supported policies that resulted in "the unleashing of unbridled capitalist market forces on a level never witnessed in the United States before that have devastated black working and poor communities." This sweeping statement is clearly debatable: on what basis is he saying that black and poor communities were "devastated"? Were the market forces truly "never witnessed before"? What of the Gilded Age, the Roaring Twenties, and the post-World War II boom? If blacks really did not participate in the economy of the 1980's (and West offers no evidence that they did not), one must ask: why not? Recently released statistics show that blacks have clearly benefited from the economic expansion of the 1990's.
2. The second type of "evidence" used by West is error. He is simply wrong on multiple points of fact.
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