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West and White Supremacy
In Cornel West’s “Race Matters” he addresses “the predictable pitting of liberals against conservatives, Great Society Democrats against self-help Republicans” (262) when it comes to solving the race “problem”.
West states that there is are different ideas on how to control the “problem”. He states that there is a “liberal notion that more government programs can solve racial problems” (263) and a “conservative idea that what is needed is a change in moral behavior of poor black urban dwellers” (263). West also states that although there are these notions, they themselves are the problem - the idea that society can fix the race “problem” by identifying “black people as a ‘problem people’” (263). He states that what America is doing is trying to see what “‘problems’ black people pose for whites” (263) and instead America should be changing the way they view black people as a nation. West’s idea of America being reluctant to change their own ideas about black people is echoed in the Black Lives Matter movement.
This movement is about changing the way black people are treated and about changing the idea that America has for these people. Many Americans see the Black Lives Matter movement as an attempt to state that the lives of black men and women in America are more important than the lives of others in America - this is where the “All Lives Matter” and “Blue Lives Matter” ideas come about -as an attempt to combat this incorrectly believed idea. The Black Lives Matter movement even states that “#BlackLivesMatter doesn’t mean your life isn’t important–it means that Black lives, which are seen as without value within White supremacy, are important to your liberation”. In saying this the Black Lives Matter brings across this idea that the American people believe that the movement is calling for black lives to mean more than the lives of others - the idea that America automatically assumes that since it involves black people it is a “problem”.
West further exposes this idea by stating that “for liberals, black people are to be ‘included’ and ‘integrated’ into ‘our’ society” (263). This statement brings to light that liberals believe that black people are part of a different society than other Americans - white Americans. This idea is the problem. The Black Lives Matter movement moves to address white supremacy and America is reluctant to say that it is such a thing - with this statement it is evident that it is. West states that “if we go down, we go down together” (264) and because of this the American people must acknowledge the fact that we are all in this together - whether you are white, black, or any other race - you are an American and this should be above the fear of race itself.
West states that in order to address the race problem in America today we must “begin not with the problems of black people but with the flaws of American society” (263) the flaw of white supremacy and the inability and desire to not address and accept the issue. Americans need to address themselves and their ideas about black people - they need to admit that there is such a thing as white supremacy. West shows the ignorance to this issue in a statement he made in an interview with TBC; West states that there is a study that shows that there are“sports announcers who always refer to athletes like Magic and Jordan with animalistic metaphors but who refer to athletes like Larry Bird with notions of intelligence and leadership, and so forth. And they didn't even realize they were doing this” (Kazi). The fact that sports announcers unintentionally differentiate the abilities of well known sports players between “animalistic metaphors” and words of “intelligence and leadership” shows the white supremacy in America - even if it is not evident to those doing it. Once people are able to see this as a thing and admit it to themselves the flaw that they possess, they may be able to start doing something about it.
Cornel West uses these ideas to explain the “emergence of strong black-nationalist sentiments among blacks, especially among young people” (264). West states that the young blacks are erupting in these ideas in an order to “fit in” as black people in America are still seen as the outsiders - they are “them” and the rest of America can be us. The Black Lives Matter movement is an attempt for these young black-nationalists to bring to light the actual “problems” American society faces - the racial divide in a world where everyone comes from the same places. Like West says; “we all emerge in the funk of our momma’s womb” - we all come through “blood in feces” and because of this no one person is better than the next.
This movement by young people in America must be backed behind their history. West states that we must educate young black people on their history, their “roots”. West states that the young people of America have been taught to be “hard and mechanical” and to adapt to the “status quo” (10). He states that the young black people of America need to go away from this idea and begin to draw upon their roots. First off, young black people need to know that they are not alone. They need to know that “there is a very rich tradition of Black freedom fighters” and if these young black people are able to learn that they “can help meet the challenge of the next century better than so many Black leaders are at present” (Kazi). If the young black people of America take note from their ancestors and “reclaim those standards and traditions” (McNair) instead of becoming hostile they may be able to change the future of America - how Americans see black people and treat them. West states that America needs a new leadership (267) as “large numbers of our politicians, though by no means all, refuse to be truthtellers about our situation and become part of a system saturated with lobbyists, monied interests, and, therefore, glib compromises” (Kazi) and if the young black Americans “get in contact” with their history they can draw on it and become the new leadership West calls for - a leadership where the common good is put first.