Themes

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 256

Race Matters is a 1993 social treatise written by author and political activist Dr. Cornel West. It is written in the form of a commentary or a lengthy essay, containing both sociological and political elements. The book discusses several relevant social problems concerning the black community in the United States, such as racism, anti-Semitism, conservatism, the 1992 LA riots and demonstrations for justice and equality, and the influence of Malcolm X.

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The main theme in the book is the concept of racism and discrimination, particularly towards African Americans. Dr. West writes:

Race is the most explosive issue in American life precisely because it forces us to confront the tragic facts of poverty and paranoia, despair and distrust.

He believes that there is a certain amount of nihilism in the black community, where African Americans feel a sense of helplessness and hopelessness whenever they think of their current place on the social scale. He explains that there is no strong or precise leadership that can guide and unite the people towards success; that success is necessary to gain sufficient power to affect the stateā€™s jurisdictional and political system. This makes the black community feel almost worthless and unable to make a difference in the economy.

He explains how this leads African Americans in the U.S. to have more divorces and broken relationships, be more abusive and violent, and have a general increase in the overall crime rate. He criticizes black conservatism and encourages young people to follow the example of Malcolm X and fight for their rights.

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