Community & Government
Be a Love Warrior
Cornel West discusses why we cannot ignore or deny Black nihilism. He also highlights esteemed Harvard Law professor Derrick Bell, who believed racism was a permanent feature of the American experience but also dedicated his life to fighting it.
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Topics include: Derrick Bell
Lessons from Influential Black Voices
Seven preeminent Black thought leaders share their insight on the reckoning with race in America in three parts: past, present, and future.Sign Up
[MUSIC PLAYING] - Yes, yes, indeed, indeed. Yes, Black nihilism is the Black experience of lack of meaning, lack of hope, lack of intimacy, lack of community, and, at the deepest level, it's the lack of love. It's the lack of touch, the sense that all the forces of society and the world are against you, the sense that you cannot fall back on anything in order to sustain you, you see. So it's like the blues without the music. If all you had was just the blues, then all you got is catastrophe. But as long as you're singing about the catastrophe, you have a response to the catastrophe to push it back. And therefore, there's always a particular truth for any of us in our lives, when it comes to nihilism. There are moments in our lives where we are hopeless. There are moments in our lives where we may lack intimacy. The challenge is to not allow those moments to become static conditions that are so prolonged that we feel as if there is no way out. Same is true with pessimism. We have a powerful movement of Afro-pessimism these days, especially among the younger and middling generations. And it's understandable. There are certain truths in pessimism, you see. It is true that, after all of these 400 years in America, that Black life still doesn't matter to too many people. That's just the truth. If that's all you see then you might become a pessimist who is chronic. But if you recognize that there are Black folk who are struggling to make Black lives matter, there's some non-Black folk struggling to make Black lives matter, then you've got hope because you're in motion. It might be a moment in your life where you lack love. That's real. Opt for lust for a while. Go on and try it out and see how long that sustains you. It's not going to last too long. And if it does, your soul might numb. But sooner or later, when love does hit you, I hope you don't view it just as a threat. You'd better be ready for it. You'd better be fortified for it. So that all of a sudden when you do then fall in love, all of your nihilism gets shattered because you're in a new moment, a new state. But just realize that you're always in motion. And as long as you recognize you're in motion, there's always possibility. There's always potentiality. There's always the chance of turning that corner, as it were. And so I think the worst thing we could do is deny Black nihilism, deny Black pessimism, deny the relative lack of meaning and hope and love in the Black community. That's what it is to have to come to terms with forms of spiritual decay and moral decline in our society, in our world, and in our lives. We just must never, ever allow the lack of hope to become so static that it has the last word, that it becomes permanent. [MUSIC PLAYING] BARACK OBAMA: Now how did this one man do all this? How's he accomplished all this? He hasn't done it simply by his good looks and easy charm, although he has both in ample measure. He hasn'...
About the Instructor
From critical race theory to the 1619 Project, Black intellectuals are reshaping conversations on race in America. Now seven of those preeminent voices share their insight on the reckoning with race in America in three parts: past, present, and future. Gain a foundational understanding of the history of white supremacy and discover a path forward through the limitless capacity and resilience of Black love.
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Angela Davis, Cornel West, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, Nikole Hannah-Jones, Sherrilyn Ifill, Jelani Cobb, and John McWhorter
Seven preeminent Black thought leaders share their insight on the reckoning with race in America in three parts: past, present, and future.Explore the Class