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Imagination In Cornel West's Race Matters: The First Step Towards Restoring Hope To The Nihilistic African American Community

1381 words - 6 pages

Race Matters, though painting a bleak and unremittingly realistic portrayal of today's black America, proves to be an inspiring work. West builds a strong argument with the aid of remarkably well-chosen words and epigraphs. Cornel West's clear and coherent arguments conversely develop into intentionally vague and intangible solutions. Race Matters engages the reader to imagine, and becomes a stirring work on the power of imagination to transform. West insists that his readers, regardless of their prejudices and racial background, all share a common destiny, attainable only through imagination. In Race Matters, primary arguments revolve around the implicit idea of imagination as the crucial first step to countering the nihilism in and restoring hope to the African-American community. Imagination subsequently must be added to all of the discussion of race matters. In the work's first epigraph, a powerful appeal from James Baldwin calls upon society to "[...] not take refuge in any delusion," contending that "[...] the value placed on the color of the skin is always and everywhere and forever a delusion" (West, XIII). Conceding that viewing the world without racist lenses is impossible, the epigraph then insists that "in our time, as in every time, the impossible is the least that one can demand" (West, XIII). Implicit in this statement is the notion that to achieve racial equality, imaginations must be employed. The "possible" then is only what society deems viable in the confines of its ever-growing imagination, and the "impossible" must be what society has yet to envision. West inserts this first epigraph and thus illustrates the prominent and logical idea surrounding the work: that one must expand imagination and outlook beyond that of societal limits. Only then will universal goals become realized and the impossible become possible. The importance placed on imagination as the first step towards restoring hope to the black community initially seems strangely misplaced, certainly intangible, and void of practicality. Instead of the commonly exhausted ideas of welfare reforms, tax alleviation, and other socio-economic restructuring, West challenges imagination. Throughout Race Matters, West reveals the severity and horror of nihilism in black America. Its severity increased with the emergence of the middle class (West, 54). West asserts that nihilism threatens the "very existence" of black America and "speak[s] to the profound sense of psychological depression, personal worthlessness, and social despair so widespread in black America" (West, 19-20). The appalling and even frightening portrayal of nihilistic black America renders mere alterations in social and economic structures truly inadequate. West depicts the depravity of nihilism, "the monumental eclipse of hope, the unprecedented collapse of meaning, the incredible disregard for human life [...]" with such alarm that it piercingly calls for swift reemergence of...

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