cover image Race Matters CL

Race Matters CL

Cornel West. Beacon Press, $15 (105pp) ISBN 978-0-8070-0918-5

In eight brief but powerful essays, West, director of Afro-American Studies at Princeton, delivers innovative analyses of our nation's racial dilemmas. West is insistently moral, criticizing racial hierarchy and black leaders who cannot transcend race to fight for ``fundamental social change.'' Though he does not spare black liberals, he more harshly criticizes ``new black conservatives'' who in his view ignore the damaging cultural force of black sexual and military images as employed in advertisements and mass media. Exploring black-Jewish relations, he suggests that the moral voices in black America have been drowned out, and in ``Black Sexuality,'' takes on what has long been considered a taboo subject. These essays, none written in the first person, can have an air of detachment: when West calls for a ``politics of conversion'' to fight black nihilism, his best example comes from Toni Morrison's novel Beloved; when he criticizes Malcolm X for having ignored the culturally hybrid character of black life, he proposes the figure of ``jazz freedom fighter'' as one who could ``promote critical exchange and broad reflection.'' But West is more healing visionary than historian. These essays, most of which first appeared in such magazines as Dissent and Z , solidify his position as one of the nation's leading public intellectuals. 40,000 first printing; paperback rights to Vintage; BOMC selection; QPB featured selection; author tour. (Apr.)