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Cornel West September 30, 2008

Posted by Jordan in Books, Quotes, Thoughts.
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Here’s Cornel West, Professor of Religion at Princeton, being interviewed in Rolling Stone last fall. The interviewer has just asked West whether or not he is optimistic about the future …

“The categories of optimism and pessimism don’t exist for me. I’m a blues man. A blues man is a prisoner of hope, and hope is a qualitatively different category than optimism. Optimism is a secular construct, a calculation of probability. Black folk in America have never been optimistic about the future – what have we had to be optimistic about? But we are people of hope. Hope wrestles with despair, but it doesn’t generate optimism. It just generates this energy to be courageous, to bear witness, to see what the end is going to be. No guarantee, unfinished, open-ended. I am a prisoner of hope. I’m going to die full of hope. There’s no doubt about that, because that is a choice I make. But at the same time, the end doesn’t look too good right now.”

Now, I don’t agree with some of West’s views, but that is nothing close to an opinionated invalidation of all of them, and his clarity and honesty here are just fantastic. In my most recent example of biting off more than I can chew, I bought The Cornel West Reader the other day, and I hope to be able to start digesting some of that soon. It’s the kind of meal that requires many sittings to polish off. At over 600 pages total, and around 550 pages of legit content, it’s quite the tome, but it deserves to be, as the material encompasses decades of essays and interviews. You might (heavy, heavy emphasis on “might”) see some thoughts on his ideas in this space at some point, but don’t quote me on that one.

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