Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Rethinking West

After our discussion in class yesterday I would like to offer a "rethinking" of West's article.

I still think that "the threat of nihilism" is a cop out. And these are my reasons: First, West argues that when Africans were brought to the New World that there was a struggle against nihilism, but that the people overcame it by turning to culture and community (277). Second, he states the reason nihilism is a threat now is because of the "commodification of black life and the crisis of black leadership" (278). Ok, I would like to address the commodification of black life first. It was brought up in class that this commodification is of the "hip-hop" culture. I am confused how this leads to nihilism. Is this because other races/cultures are taking on the attributes of a traditionally black culture? In my opinion, and granted it may not be the "correct" one, much of the hip-hop culture has brought community and agency to black Americans. I realize that now, in this day and age, that there is a ongoing debate as to the content of rap and hip-hop, but at the time of this article, I don't think that debate was as prevalent - maybe I am wrong. It seems that many black Americans have been able to pull themselves out of the "asphalt jungles" because of the commodification of black life. Although, this may be an example of what he is arguing is part of the threat of nihilism.

On page 279, West argues that the nihilistic threat was "at bay" because of the breakthroughs in the 60's. But "the combination of the market way of life, poverty-ridden conditions, black existential angst, and the lessoning of fear towards white authorities has driected most of the anger, rage, and despair toward fellow black citizens, especially black women" (279). Is he arguing that history is causing black Americans to turn against their own race? I am confused. I understand that living in poverty would make someone angry or feel hopeless, howver, I don't see the connection between a lessoning fear of white authority and the turning of this anger towards their own people. The market way of life also makes me think that West is arguing that commodities, or the lack their of, are a problem within black communities. Obviously, poverty addresses this issue.

I hope this helps to make my point more clear. I realize my abstract wasn't as concise as it could have been.

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