Community & Government

Using Your Greatness for Service

True greatness requires service, sacrifice, and humility. Cornel West encourages young Black Americans to look beyond financial gain and publicity when seeking success.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Never Confuse Greatness With Success • Don’t Be a Brand, Be a Cause

Seven preeminent Black thought leaders share their insight on the reckoning with race in America in three parts: past, present, and future.

Sign Up


- Millions of dollars, Mama. And half the time, they don't look no older than me. - Oh, son, how come you talk, talk, talk, so much about money? - Because it's life. - Oh, so now money is life. Once upon a time, freedom used to be life. But now it's money. - Mama, it was always money. We just didn't know it. - No, no, no. Something's changed. You're something new boy. In my time, we was worried about not being lynched, and getting to the North, and how to stay alive and still have a pinch of dignity, too. [MUSIC PLAYING] - Let's jump right into it. Now, when the boy said the problem of the 20th century is the color line, he meant that the masses of Black people, the masses of Brown people-- and he included Asians and Indigenous people-- was too often one of subordination to European colonialism and imperialism. And so the issue of empire, predatory capitalism, and white supremacy all went hand in hand. Now, he would have developmentment over time in terms of how he understood them, but he knew they had to be hit head-on. Now, it is true that when I reflected on this many, many, many decades later, and said, well, the problem of the 21st century is the relation of empire and predatory capitalism and white supremacy, it was a kind of reiteration of Du Bois. But it was a reiteration of Du Bois after the Black middle class had expanded and enacted its profound allegiance to the American empire, so that militarism, so that imperialism, more and more dropped off of the agenda for Black freedom. And Black freedom became more and more confined to just upward mobility of talented Black individuals in a mainstream so that the empire becomes more colorful at the top, capitalism becomes more colorful at the top, but the same effects and consequences are felt for poor and working people, no matter what color, disproportionately are targeting Black, Brown, and Indigenous people. So they have unprecedented opportunities for the Black middle class and upper middle class and some Black top dogs, and they ask the Black poor to live vicariously through them. And so no matter how many middle class and Black elites we have at the top, if the system is still generating suffering at the bottom, then I still have a critique and an indictment. Not in the spirit of self-righteousness, because I'm not broke as the Ten Commandments financially. I got some cash flow. But I don't even want to be rich. I don't mind some-- I don't want to be rich if I got to sell my soul. I don't want to be rich if that in any way makes me more indifferent to my precious Jamal and Latisha suffering in the hood and it's not just Black folk. I'm concerned about poor Brown, poor white, poor Indigenous, poor Asian-- not just here, but around the world. That's part of our tradition. We talked about W.E.B Du Bois That's Du Bois. That's C.L.R. James of Trinidad. That's Claudia Jones-- deported in the 1950. We got a long tradition of th...

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.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

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
Sign Up