Cornel West: Socratic and Prophetic Approaches to Democracy
 

On September 18, 2004, at Barnsdall Art Park, an event sponsored by Skylight Books featured Dr. Cornel West in the most refined, rhythmic and elegant display of post-modern, progressive Negritude I have ever heard. His appeal is held in a container labeled “Socratic and Prophetic Approaches to Democracy.” He is careful to repeat that the Socratic approach is a “Greek invention” and the Prophetic approach is a “Jewish invention”—at the end of the speech, struggling for time, he adds the Black invention: the “tragic, comic hope” of the Blues. My use of the word “Negritude” therefore means that Cornel West demonstrates—without doubt—that he is coming from a Negro perspective.

The Negro perspective is not “evil” or “stupid.” When you judge by the social life and economic life Cornel West leads, then clearly this lifestyle is materially superior. However, as Cornel syncopates in his speech, there is Africa in the “backdrop.” The Negro perspective (that is respected here in the kinté space by providing Cornel West’s speech in full) deliberately stops short and stays ‘safely’ in America with its impressive Black inventions—but the depths of this Blackness stays forever “mysterious” and in the “backdrop”—or is even mistaken for “tragic hope”—when the intellectual power of Africa is ignored. Not one African scientist, novelist, playwright, poet, agriculturalist, stonemason or bricklayer—ancient or modern—is mentioned in this one-hour-plus sermon and discussion! And I am more than certain that Cornel West knows the Christian price he would have to pay to recognize Africa’s relationship to Greek and Jewish “inventions.” When you literally have the choice of partying with some of the finest (and smartest) women in the “real” world or honoring your oldest ancestors, most of us guys will choose the ladies and the perils of modern love. That’s just keeping it real—in this “Constantinianreality. It’s not really work; it’s just the power to charm…

And, yes, let us ‘play fair’ and stay in America and look for indigenous contributions to democracy: again Cornel West gave more time to gender-bending politics and no time to the indigenous people of the Americas and their democratic systems. Does Cornel West find the Iroquois Confederacy out of style with the current fashion trends? Can’t he at least mention for a few rapid-fire seconds the “new research” that supposedly undermines this “Red Indian” theory of non-white democracy? Wasn’t there at least one cute Iroquois woman in the audience? And, yes again: let us bend over backwards to fit in the Cornel West disco and dance with Socrates. So now let us ask, ‘Why was Socrates killed by his own people?’ Cornel West could have explored that one for at least a few sentences—or is his obligation to be fair, inclusive, liberal and balanced so strong that he can’t even go there? Is not this a “truncated dialog” or are the words you are reading now coming from a “sad” place of “dangerous nationalism” and deifying certain “slices of humanity”?

My words come from a place so old that the concept of nation and the concept of family are one and the same. My words come from a place so old that the very idea of “slicing” humanity sounds like science fiction from a post-apocalyptic world of unimaginable violence and egocentric neurosis.

Credits

Words and Flow by . . . . . . . Cornel West

Original Audio Production by . . . . . . . L.A. Sound Posse

Post Production and Sound Design by . . . . . . . Bryan Wilhite

Interactive and Visual Design by . . . . . . . Bryan Wilhite