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An Hour With Scholar, Philosopher and Theologian Dr. Cornel West

July 21, 2003
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"We can look at the Patriot Act I, the Patriot Act II, the escalating authoritarianism, the violation of rights and liberties of Arab brothers and sisters and Muslim brothers and sisters. We can look at the aggressive militarism: in Iraq today, Syria, Iran, North Korea. It’s very dark...[But] keep smiling, keep fighting, keep thinking keep loving, keep serving, keep sacrificing. It’s not about the win overnight, it’s not about the quick fix, it’s not about the push-button solution. It’s about what kind of human being you want to be, what kind of legacy you want to live," West told a crowd in Santa Fe late last month.

Today on Democracy Now! we spend the hour with Dr. Cornel West. Described as one of America’s most vital and eloquent public intellectuals, West is a critic of culture, an interpreter of African American experience, an advocate of social justice, and an analyst of post-modern art and philosophy.

West says, "I come from a tradition of struggle, of a particular peoples who have been on intimate terms with forms of death. American slavery–244 years–was a threat of social death... No legal status, no social standing, no public value. Only a commodity to be bought and sold."

West was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1953. He earned a BA from Harvard University and an MA and PhD degrees from Princeton University.

West has written and co-authored numerous books on philosophy, race and sociology. His Race Matters won a Critics Choice Award and was listed as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year in 1992. Other works included Keeping the Faith: Philosophy and Race in American and Jews and Blacks: Let the Healing Begin, co-authored with Michael Lerner. In 1996 he co-authored The Future of Race with his Harvard colleague, Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

He has also produced a hip-hop CD entitled Sketches of My Culture and recently made a cameo appearance in the movie, Matrix Reloaded.

West spoke in Santa Fe, New Mexico on June 25th at an event sponsored by the Lannan Foundation.

In his speech, West gives his insight on the continual erosion of civil rights and liberties in America today, the darkness and brutality lurking in detention centers across the country, and a foreign policy guided by aggressive militarism:

"We can look at the Patriot Act I, the Patriot Act II, the escalating authoritarianism, the violation of rights and liberties of Arab brothers and sisters and Muslim brothers and sisters. We can look at the aggressive militarism: in Iraq today, Syria, Iran, North Korea. It’s very dark... [But] keep smiling, keep fighting, keep thinking keep loving, keep serving, keep sacrificing. It’s not about the win overnight, it’s not about the quick fix, it’s not about the push-button solution. It’s about what kind of human being you want to be, what kind of legacy you want to live."

  • Dr. Cornel West speaking at an event sponsored by the Lannan Foundation in Santa Fe, New Mexico on June 25th.

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