Princeton professor critiques a culture
Cornel West, Princeton African-American studies professor, said 40 years after the Civil Rights Movement, problems with discrimination, indifference, materialism and ignorance are still prevalent.
"This is a critique of all of us," West said Friday.’√Ñ’uacute;Young folk are looking for exemplar support. Exemplars are the movement of judgment. If they have great examples, they have great judgment.’√Ñ√π
West, an author and recording artist, said a prevailing selfish attitude, which he defined as "rapacious individuality" is one of the issues affecting the younger generation of African-Americans.
"Now is the time for a wake-up call," Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-TX, said at the event.
West characterized the difference between financial success and moral integrity by defining the former as material possessions and the latter as upstanding principles.
"Success has to do with individual security,"West said. "Greatness has to do with personal integrity."
West also spoke about social indifference caused by a lack of social consciousness in the younger generation – especially in contemporary popular culture.
West said unlike most contemporary athletes, celebrities and music artists, past public figures were not concerned with pursuing materials gains, such as money and expensive property, or of making a public image for themselves.
"How many celebrities even concern themselves with their legacy?" West said. "They’re too scared, they’re worried about their careers. They don’t want to miss out on the inner circle of the elite."
Instead, past figures, such as jazz musician John Coltrane and baseball player Willie Mays had a social conscious in both their fields and their social work.
"It can’t be just about the money, it can’t be just about success’√Ñ√Æ that breeds mediocrity, it breeds a closing of the conscience, of the soul, of the heart," he said. "It breeds indifference to the suffering of the others.’√Ñ√π
An overwhelming concern with gaining material wealth is one of the main reasons that has made the current generation indifferent to social concerns and fosters mediocrity, West said.
The perceptions of misogyny, homophobia and overt sexuality in the media also need to be changed, West said. Historical and current racism in society is also another topic that West said should not be ignored.
"You can’t talk about the legacy of white supremacy without its dehumanizing effects unless you counter it with the question of: What does it mean to be human?"he said.
Hosted by Prodigium Media Group, local businesses, religious institutions and the Council of Ethnic Organizations, the event also included a panel discussion with local community leaders.
Before making an appearance in Egypt, West’s visit to Houston also included an appearance at the Breakfast Klub to sign copies of his latest album Never Forget: A Journey of Revelations, the Houston Chronicle reported Friday.