Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 247
"Race Matters" is a collection of essays that foster a debate on the black experience in America. West addresses the lack of African American leadership in the black community, the rise of black nationalism, and the negative impact of right-wing politics on the black consciousness.
One of the essays addresses how black conservatism and individualism drive many African Americans away from the black struggle. West also criticizes the notion that the internal strife within black neighborhoods is attributed to individual choice rather than external forces, such as discrimination. Even though West acknowledges that individual choices play a role in the communal decline of black communities, he emphasizes that the free market mystique impacts individual choice and separates people from vital institutions that bind communities. In addition, attitudes within the black middle class cause many blacks to distance themselves from the wider struggles of the community.
These disconnections create a lack of leadership within the community. Moreover, new black leaders lack the same anger and raw passion as older leaders who were tied closely to community issues. Further, black nationalists have filled the leadership void, preventing the rise of new leaders who might create unity between the races.
The final essay examines black nationalists like Malcolm X. West touches upon the black nationalist claim that black music and religion distracts black people from white oppression. He writes about the importance of black music and religion, and counters that they are capable of creating harmony between blacks and whites.
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