Keeping It Real

Distinguished lecturer of UA’s Rethinking Race: Black, White and Beyond Cornel West spoke at E.J. Thomas on Monday, March 7 at 7:30 p.m. to a packed audience.

Distinguished lecturer of UA’s Rethinking Race: Black, White and Beyond Cornel West spoke at E.J. Thomas on Monday, March 7 at 7:30 p.m. to a packed audience.  Various campus communities, hoping to promote community, sponsored the event. 

Lee Guill, chief diversity officer, introduced Dr. West and announced that a record-breaking 9,000 participants took part in this year’s Rethinking Race series.  Guill went on to introduce Dr. West, author of the contemporary classic Race Matters, as one of the most provocative moral visionaries of our time who challenges traditional thought through his academic and activist work. 

I like to keep it real, said Dr. West within seconds of taking the podium. Appearing professionally eccentric, the Princeton University professor made that evident, addressing traditionally touchy subjects like racism, classism and various other levels of oppression with undeniable humor and honesty.

Rethinking Race is about every human being, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, whether you’re able or not, said Dr. West. Rethinking Race is about what it means to be human, about what kind of human being, what kind of person you will be from the mother’s womb to the tomb.

Amongst discussion of Socratic ideals and Classical references was an approachability that allowed the dynamic Dr. West to engage his audience. He drew parallels between the history of slavery and oppression within the United States and the current issues in Egypt and did so in such a way that was applicable on a personal level to everyone in the audience.

Dr. West discussed how the construction of humanity is ingrained in the U.S., and especially black, history, saying Rethinking Race goes hand-in-hand with rethinking democracy, reconstructing democracy.

He encouraged his audience to look at the world, from the advantage of the most disadvantaged, while also considering the role of emotional expression through a hypersensitive lens.

In regards to America’s failing education system, Dr. West said, The education of young people is about national security, as clapping erupted from the crowd. He went on to emphasize the significance of public school teachers and the lack of priority given to the importance of education.

Where is the love? Dr. West asked. He emphasized the courage that it takes to think and to love, despite the greed and selfishness that is running amuck. Despite the moral constipation that is present in the world, an emphasis should be on the good. Justice is what love looks like in public, said Dr. West, and tenderness is what love feels like in private.  

Race in the age of Obama was discussed, and Dr. West emphasized that while Obama is part of the dream for racial equality, he is not the dream. Elites of all colors continue to oppress others, and what it means to be black remains unanswered in the public discourse. The issues remain evident and justice is all-important.

Dr. West concluded with saying that hope is qualitatively different than optimism and emphasized the importance of being an original, not a copy. Don’t be an echo, find your voice, he said.

The audience took to their feet, clapping following Dr. West’s concluding remarks.

His profundity and his eloquence spoke of boundless compassion that instilled in his audience to search out their own roots, reshape their own identity Socratically and destructively for rebirth, said Baron Rogers, senior Psychology major.

I am so thrilled that I came, said Assistant Professor in the History Department Dr. Martha Santos, that Rethinking Race brought Cornel West. He is what Rethinking Race is about. I think he’s able to speak to people about black experience that helps all Americans imagine a more democratic society.

Dr. West said, I am blessed to be at The University of Akron, where deep education is being pursued to rethink race and rethink democracy.

” #1.2085330:1266662808.jpg:Cornel West:Dr. Cornel West, originally scheduled to speak on Jan. 31, spoke at EJ Thomas Performing Arts Hall on Monday. Dr. West addressed several subjects, including racism, classism, and other areas of oppression. West is a distinguished lecturer and professor at The Center for African American Studies located at Princeton”