One benefit of working on a college campus, and there are many, is the ability to attend the sort of intellectual gatherings that seem to center around academia. Last night, in a packed auditorium, Cornel West drove his audience into a frenzy, made us laugh out loud, and brought tears to our eyes. He is not a speaker that talks down to his audience. He incorporated a good portion of the English canon, Socrates, Plato, religion, and modern thought into his speech. West talked about race, culture, class, morality, politics, and everything else under the sun. It seemed like he left nothing unexposed to, what he called, Socratic thought.
The part of West’s speech that stopped me and is still lingering with me today was a comment he made about September 11th. He said that after September 11th, the whole of the American people felt fear, felt attacked, and felt hated. For many Americans, this was their first time to experience those feelings. West went on to link those feelings with the feelings of an oppressed people. They are attacked. They feel fear. They are hated by others. It made me stop. For all of my readings in school, I have never considered oppression in quite that light. It is an interesting allegory and definitely one that ruffles feathers.
I liked that West talked about self reflection and criticism. We should be able to point out the injustices around us, but we must always remember to look for injustice in our own lives and in ourselves as well. According to West, examination should be hard and should be unsettling. I think he is right.
–Jane, has been given a lot to think about