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Cornel West wrote his classic Race Matters in 1993 in the wake of the Rodney King beating and uprising in Los Angeles. The video of that incident was the first in a long line of videos of police brutality on African Americans, as we have seen in recent weeks with the killing of George Floyd among others. We asked Prof. West what if anything has changed in the last 28 years since the first edition of his book, and what might be the way forward. In a wide-ranging conversation, he discusses the history of race in America from the middle passage and slavery, through its legacy in Jim Crow laws and lynchings, to the persistent systemic racism and violence that black people experience in the justice system and nearly every aspect of American life.
Suraj Yengde’s bestselling book Caste Matters went into reprint within a week of its publication last year. In conversation with Prof. West, he also discusses the larger connections of the Black Lives Matter movement with Dalit issues in India and with struggles around the world.
Cornel West is a prominent and provocative democratic intellectual. He is Professor of the Practice of Public Philosophy at Harvard University and holds the title of Professor Emeritus at Princeton University. He has also taught at Union Theological Seminary, Yale, Harvard, and the University of Paris. Cornel West graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard in three years and obtained his M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy at Princeton.
He has written 20 books and has edited 13. He is best known for his classics, Race Matters and Democracy Matters, and for his memoir, Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud. His most recent book, Black Prophetic Fire, offers an unflinching look at nineteenth and twentieth-century African American leaders and their visionary legacies.
Dr. West is a frequent guest on the Bill Maher Show, CNN, C-Span and Democracy Now. He made his film debut in the Matrix – and was the commentator (with Ken Wilbur) on the official trilogy released in 2004. He also has appeared in over 25 documentaries and films including Examined Life, Call & Response, Sidewalk and Stand.
He has produced three spoken word albums including Never Forget, collaborating with Prince, Jill Scott, Andre 3000, Talib Kweli, KRS-One and the late Gerald Levert. His spoken word interludes are featured on productions by Terence Blanchard, The Cornel West Theory, Raheem DeVaughn, and Bootsy Collins.
In short, Cornel West has a passion to communicate to a vast variety of publics in order to keep alive the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. – a legacy of telling the truth and bearing witness to love and justice.
Dr. Suraj Yengde is an award-winning scholar and activist from India. He is an author of bestseller Caste Matters. The book went to reprint within a week of it’s publication date. Caste Matters was recently featured in the prestigious “Best Non-fiction Books of the Decade” list by The Hindu.
Suraj is an inaugural postdoctoral fellow at the Initiative for Institutional Anti-racism and Accountability, Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.
Suraj is India’s first Dalit Ph.D. holder from an African university (University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg) in the nation’s history.
Suraj is a published author in the field of Caste, Race, Ethnicity studies, and inter-regional labor migration in the global south. Currently, he is involved in developing a critical theory of Dalit and Black Studies.
Suraj is nominated to India’s highest literary award, “Sahitya Akademi” and is a recipient of “Dr. Ambedkar Social Justice Award” Canada 2019, “Rohith Vemula Memorial Scholar Award” 2018.
Suraj inaugurated a popular column ‘Dalitality’ at the Indian Express that centers on the issues of caste in India. Dalitality is the currently the only column in the print media to have Dalit centric opinions.