Cornel West

Cornel West (1998)
Duration: 00:25:49

See other episodes with similar themes and topics

Themes: Education and Families | Leadership | Urban Challenges | Poverty, Progress, and the Rise of African-American Businesses and Professionals |

Guests: Cornel West
Host : Darryl Wood [bio]Darrell Wood hosted the show for ten years from 1988 to 1998 under the title American Black Journal. His shows sought to focus on the skills and talents of many of the nation's leading African-American business people to public television.

Click for full biography


Producer : Tony Mottley


Summary: In this program, from 1998, host Darryl Wood interviews highly regarded African American scholar Cornel West about the publication of his recently published book, "Restoring Hope: Conversations on the Future of Black America." The book explores the meaning of community for African Americans and ideas for building a more hopeful future through a series of interviews with important public figures, such as Maya Angelou, Harry Belafonte, Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Bill Bradley and Wynton Marsalis.

West, in his conversation with Wood, discusses those interviews and describes what he sees as the dominant problem facing American society: a moral decline inspired by an unfettered market society that promotes careerism and hedonistic self-indulgence.

"To be a good parent cuts against the grain of the market mentality," West says. "You end up with a gangsterized society, and that's what's dangerous, that we're getting more gangsterized in our society and culture."

In the short term, West says, the struggle is to keep alive the "radical democratic tradition" based on the ideas that the majority rules and that power is vested in the people. The importance of that task, he says, can be seen in statistics that show only one of four Americans votes in local elections and only one of three votes in national elections.

But he says that in the long term, it will be crucial to develop some social force that is capable of counterbalancing the constant profit-taking of global capitalism. That, he says, is one of the aims of the Obsidian Society, a foundation that seeks to generate money for investment in the black community, especially to meet the needs of young people. Ultimately, he says, African Americans will need to develop multiracial coalitions to deal with larger social problems, such as poverty and discrimination, that affect other groups as well as blacks - though they may have their greatest impact on the black community. However, he added, those coalitions will be stronger if there is greater solidarity among blacks.

African Americans, he says, must maintain a "moral vision broad enough so it encompasses all forms of suffering." "I think the black freedom struggle has never been solely about just black interests."

The interview, which also touches on the quality of leadership in the African American community, the alienation of black youth from their own history, and the importance of love as a social principle, provides valuable insight into the philosophical issues facing the black community and America as a whole at the turn of the twenty-first century.