Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Cornel West: "Where Are All the Black People?"

On January 14, 2006, I sat down at a computer and wrote my first post on this blog. I was responding to the requests of students who were committed to wearing me out on the topic of race. They kept me after class for hours, standing under the street lights in the parking lot. They emailed me intense and complicated questions that could only be answered by lengthy and carefully thought out and constructed missives. And they begged me without pause to meet with them outside of class to talk about it more. So -- with the most cavalier possible lack of appropriate respect for the journey I was setting out on -- I embarked on a future endeavor I couldn't and didn't actually or fully imagine.

Eight years later, here I am, older, wiser, and much, much less cavalier. It occurred to me this morning, as another new year dawned, that this blog has been (as much as anything else) a process of my own continued learning about race. It has made me notice more, think more, struggle with issues more, and arm wrestle my own demons more relentlessly than I ever would have done without its overarching presence in my life, so that it has changed me and continues to change me into the deepest reaches of my very soul.

I would not be who I am if it wasn't for this blog. I could not stop writing it if I wanted to. It teaches me and hones me and crafts me and refines my thinking and my understanding and my perspectives as only a committed and long-standing writing project can. So, since it has turned out to be about my own learning so I could pass along what I have so newly discovered, I'm going to post something everyday until the 8th anniversary of Why Am I Not Surprised? The posts will consist primarily of items, articles, videos, and links I came across in the past year, learned from, and wanted to share, but didn't as yet.

To kick us off, I'm posting a three-part YouTube video featuring Cornel West delivering the keynote address at a conference last September. It's low key and casual and even irritating when someone in the audience asks a long question we can't hear. But West beguiles with references to music and literature and historical moments, dropping gems of wisdom delivered without fanfare, as if in conversation while waiting for a late-arriving bus. Don't be fooled by his folksy tone. He's a professor of philosophy and a man committed to consciousness-raising.

Happy New Year, faithful readers. Thank you for refusing to take no for an answer, for coming back again and again, so that I would feel compelled, as well, to come back again and again myself. Who knew we would become so bonded?

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