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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 338

The liberal/conservative discussion conceals the most basic issue now facing Black America: the nihilistic threat to its very existence. This threat is not simply a matter of relative economic deprivation and political powerlessness — though economic well-being and political clout are requisites for meaningful Black progress. It is primarily a question of speaking to the profound sense of psychological depression, personal worthlessness, and social despair so widespread in Black America.

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The above quote gets to the heart of West's argument. He argues that black people have to develop a greater sense of self worth and hope if race relations are to be improved in the United States. In other words, for blacks, improvement and advances have to seem possible.

The present day Black middle class is not simply different than its predecessors — it is more deficient and, to put it strongly, more decadent.

Writing in 1993, West also criticizes the black leadership of his time for being too cautious, too fearful of losing what it already has, and too willing to sell out and settle for tiny gains. It lacks the visionary leaders of the past.

We need national forums to reflect, discuss, and plan how best to respond. It is neither a matter of a new Messiah figure emerging, nor of another organization appearing on the scene. Rather, it is a matter of grasping the structural and institutional processes that have disfigured, deformed, and devastated black America such that the resources for nurturing collective and critical consciousness, moral commitment, and courageous engagement are vastly underdeveloped.

Here, West argues that black problems are not going to be solved simply by finding a new leader or starting a new organization. The troubles that beset the black community are structural and institutional; in other words, power systems have been rigged in the U.S. to make it very difficult for blacks to get ahead. To get beyond despair and self blame, black people need to understand how those power structures work and educate themselves, both intellectually and morally, to reform them.

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