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FOCUS: ORANGE COUNTY COMMUNITY NEWS | COLLEGES / CAMPUS
SCENE: FULLERTON

Fight for Democracy, 'Race' Author Urges

October 27, 1998|CHRISTINE CASTRO and JAMES MEIER

The future is bleak for democracy in America, a well-known author said at Cal State Fullerton recently, but he will go down fighting for it.

Cornel West, a professor of religion and African American studies at Harvard University and author of the best-selling book "Race Matters," urged an audience of about 700 last week to fight along with him.

Democracy, he said, is the "precious notion" of "lifting everybody's voices." Yet that notion is being undermined by racial division and economic disparity, West said.

The United States is one of the richest nations in the world, yet 20% of its children live in poverty, he said. While executives at some Fortune 500 companies are earning nearly 10 times what they were in 1985, he said, ordinary working people are falling victim to downsizing, he said, and racial discrimination is still very much alive.

"I hope I say something that unsettles you," West said.

As West sees it, the United States faces three major obstacles in its fight for democracy: white supremacy, economic inequality and male supremacy. People continue to wrongly make judgments based on race, gender, sexual orientation and physical disabilities, he said.

The challenge, West said, is to strike a balance between ambition and compassion, individuality and commonality.

"If we can't come up with some balance," he said, "then democracy has very little prospects."

Change will begin in the home and continue in the schools, he said. The arts will also play a large role, for filmmakers and sculptors and musicians are the world's best truth tellers.

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