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163 of 177 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Race Matters and the White American Male
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...
Published on April 21, 2002 by Jason

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113 of 147 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
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...
Published on October 1, 2000


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163 of 177 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Race Matters and the White American Male, April 21, 2002
By 
Jason (Tacoma, WA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Race Matters (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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54 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Passes the test of time, unfortunately!, April 18, 2001
By 
Thomas Dukich (Spokane, WA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Race Matters (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. 42, 60, 68, 109, 114, 146-148), and he makes no "gross error" when discussing the rate of increase in black youth suicides, versus the absolute rate. (p. 24.)
In my re-reading of Race Matters I was again struck by West's ability to address issues that are often difficult for some of us "liberals" to address without a considerable level of discomfort. But West makes a good case for the fact that these issues need to be addressed candidly and compassionately if we are to overcome the hopelessness and lovelessness that has befallen so many Americans. Reading Race Matters the first time helped me regain some hope at a time when I was particularly pessimistic about race relations in America. I thank West for that.
And after seeing him on TV, with the always entertaining Stanley Crouch, I'm looking forward to hearing him in person. And finally, I'm glad I read Race Matters again. As both the one star and five star reviews suggest, it is still very relevant. Unfortunately.
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85 of 104 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I'll keep coming back to it, May 12, 2002
By 
nadav haber (jerusalem Israel) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Race Matters (Paperback)
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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113 of 147 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, October 1, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Race Matters (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. For example, in Chapter 1, "Nihilism in Black America" West states that suicide was formerly uncommon in young blacks, but "... now young black people lead the nation in suicides." The statement is wrong, as five minutes of research in a university library would demonstrate. The standard American text on public health is Maxcy-Rosenau-Last Public Health and Preventive Medicine. The thirteenth Edition of this text was published in 1992, the year before West's book, so it was available to him as a reference. That text states that "White males are at the highest risk of suicide." (p. 1084) Not only that, but black females have rates of suicide lower than that of both white males and white females (The National Vital Statistics Report for 1998 confirms that these facts have not changed). West's gross error clearly undermines his thesis. Could West possibly have confused suicide with homicide? There is no question that young black males have the highest rates of committing homicides, and homicide is the leading cause of death among black men aged 15-34 (p. 1037).
3. The third type of "evidence" West uses is, quite literally, Fiction. Twice in the chapter "Nihilism in Black America," West refers to novels by Toni Morrison to try to make a point that really requires a concrete example or anecdote. I have read a lot of non-fiction over the years, but I have never before seen a serious writer use fiction in this way to try to support an argument. In addition to the above problems, superficial thinking and sloppy logic permeate this book; a few examples are listed below.
West consistently fails to view racial conflicts from anything other than a black perspective. For example, West lists Jews' resistance to affirmative action as one of the main areas of conflict between blacks and Jews, but he does not give a reason why Jews oppose it or even try to view the issue from the Jewish point of view. If he did, he might have considered that perhaps Jews oppose affirmative action because it represents a form of discrimination in favor of one particular group and that one cannot discriminate in favor of one group without discriminating against others. The form of aggressive affirmative action favored by West quite often leads to quotas. Jews remember all too well the days when quotas limited the number of Jewish academics who could be faculty members at elite universities and of Jewish physicians who could be granted admitting privileges at leading hospitals. It is this legacy of discrimination, and resulting general distrust of quotas, that I believe has limited Jews' acceptance of affirmative action.
Also in regard to affirmative action, he apparently thinks only some blacks should benefit from it. He states in Chapter 2 that "black people could have simply opposed (Supreme Court nominee Clarence) Thomas based on qualifications and principle." He must believe that only black, conservative Republicans should be judged on merit, and that affirmative action should be reserved for those who have sufficient "black authenticity."
West believes that only whites can be racist, whereas he calls the same impulses of blacks "xenophobia." However, he goes on to say that "Although this particular form of xenophobia from below does not have the same institutional power of those racisms that afflict their victims from above, it certainly deserves the same moral condemnation." His labeling of certain behaviors and beliefs as racist if exhibited by whites and as xenophobia if exhibited by blacks truly points out a distinction without a difference.
In the chapter Black Sexuality: The Taboo Subject, the taboos are apparently so great that West cannot even clearly state them. On every page, non sequiturs abound, such as this howler: "The major cultural impact of the 1960s was not to demystify black sexuality but to make black bodies more accessible to white bodies on an equal basis." Several months before reading this book, I had read an article by David Horowitz on Salon.com, entitled "No Light in His Attic." It is a critique of the overall career of Cornel West and not of a specific book. I found Horowitz' article abrasive and somewhat mean-spirited. He clearly considers West to be an intellectual lightweight. When starting to read this book, I was willing to give West the benefit of the doubt, but, having read Race Matters, I fear that Horowitz may be right.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars highlights problems but doesn't give solution, April 30, 2002
By 
This review is from: Race Matters (Paperback)
Having read "Soul's of Black Folk" by du bois and looking for a more current analysis of how we have progressed from 1903 to the present, i picked up race matters. Cornell West does a great job presenting the current state of black people, especially in discussing nihilism and how it threatens to destroy our communities and his discussion of black homophobia was long overdue. Well written, well thought out, however in attempting to provide solutions to these issues he does a disservice to the book, and to the reader. Ambiguous proposals like 'politics of conversion (love and care) as a solution to "right-wing cutbacks for poor people struggling for decent housing, child care, health care and education" seems a little bit like blind optimism to me, or a not-very-well-thought out last minute ditch at finding a solution. To talk about the crisis of black leadership without addressing the increasing alienation between the black bourgeoisie and blacks in the ghetto is doing disservice to a major problem that confronts 'race matters today. (the current black middle class, while in a position to prevent the rightwing cutbacks West talks about, increasingly remains silent). I would have given the book 4 stars if West had remained faithful in highlighting the problems facing african americans today, without attempting to offer patronizing (read half-assed) solutions especially becuase i believe he has brought to the table issues that we need to start addressing and maybe collectively, find solutions to.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars West always shoots straight down the middle ., August 2, 2010
This review is from: Race Matters (Hardcover)
Cornel West always shoots straight down the middle for all races. He will make you evaluate yourself because he addresses issues that are difficult. If an offense is taken, perhaps a need to re evaluate how we look at things is needed. Book is great for everyone.
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23 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Contemporary and Honest View of Race in America, June 30, 2001
By 
This review is from: RACE MATTERS (Hardcover)
Having been assigned to research Dr. West's philosophical views, I was only required to learn a cross-section of his thougts. However, once I started skimming through "Race Matters", I was very intrigued with what the author had to say.
Dr. West addresses what he calls black nihilism, Nihilism is based in the influences of the capitalist market economy and lack of solid leadership in the African-American Community. The economy has left many with an inability to love themselves and each other. Material possessions take the place of others. The lack of quality leaders has led to a moral crisis among African-American youth. As a result, the youth do not value education, their families, or life in general. Dr. West's statement about leadership is dreadfully true, as their are no leaders comparable to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or Malcolm X. Instead, this generation's best leader is Jesse Jackson.
Dr. West further points out the problems of black leadership, ethnic pride, affirmative action, black-jewish relations, and the most interesting entry is black sexuality.
The one regret I have about this book is that it is not well known, especially among African-American youth. With the strong thoughts of Dr. West, I am convinced that he is an excellent leader in the black community through his writings.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Much better than expected, February 8, 2009
By 
J. Davis (San Diego, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Race Matters (Hardcover)
This book was, to my surprise, very well argued and thought provoking. I expected a left-wing rant against "white privilege," or some similiar nonsense. Instead, Professor West delivers a balanced, judicious appraisal of race relations and the condition of blacks in America. (Readers should keep in mind this was written a decade before Barack Obama's election). As a Jew, I appreciated his strong critique of the black anti-Semitism of Leonard Jeffries and Louis Farrakhan. To his credit, West deals fairly with black conservatives, even conceding them part (by no means all) of their argument. Race Matters is an excellent book and worthy of the praise it has received.
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars For Beginners Only, February 21, 2005
This review is from: Race Matters (Paperback)
This is my first read by Dr. West. I was surprised that it did not seem very scholarly but very opinionated with no references and no bibliography. However some of his views were on point and others were way off base. For instance, it was disappointing that he disagreed with the Afrocentrists, but at the same time used some of their ideas in other parts of the book to make his opinionated point. Anyhow a good read for beginners.
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars West does a mediocre job on a complex issue., April 24, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Race Matters (Paperback)
Cornel West surfaces a host of issues on the most perplexing and complex issue facing the American social setting today. His strength lies in his passion to educate the public on white-on-black racism. His weakness is not verifying his claims. What could have been a highly recommended reading has turned out to be little more than a long newspaper editorial in the opinion column. Had such a book been published -- if it could have been published at all -- by a professor outside of the Ivy influence, it would have possibly sold six to a dozen copies . . . maybe. My only question is why such a zealous prophet for the liberation of blacks left his 'elegant car' on Park Avenue and took a Taxi to Harlem to get the cover photo for this book taken in his Princeton attire, and then driving back into Princeton that same evening after a nice meal at a restaurant that Harlem slum dwellers could only dream of dining (see preface). Sounds like a slick politician driving into town for a picture photo in the projects, only to wind up spending the evening back at the mansion eating shrimp and drinking fine wine.
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Race Matters
Race Matters by Cornel West (Paperback - March 29, 1994)
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