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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Best-selling author calls for more misfits

Best-selling author, Dr. Cornel West, addressed a near-capacity crowd in Centennial Hall on Friday as part of the “”Who Draws the Line? Social Justice Perspectives on Diversity”” series.

West, a Princeton professor who gained national attention for his analytical look at racism in his book “”Race Matters,”” was given a standing ovation from the crowd for his speech.

West spoke on a variety of topics and focused on what is hindering racism, discrimination, and poverty from declining in modern American culture.

“”Too many citizens and humans and students don’t want to be courageous,”” West said. “”… They just want to make money. They just want contentment and convenience.””

West went on to say that America is living in a “”culture that specializes in weapons of mass distraction”” and urged the audience to find courage to challenge the status quo and to face social issues, such as biases and prejudices, head on.

West also said that the “”warped priorities”” of the nation, such as the dangers of falling for materialistic and superficial values, such as greed and instant gratification, are resulting in an indifference toward social justice that leads to “”empty souls and spiritual malnutrition.””

“”No healthy society … can survive without having a significant slice of their fellow citizens willing to be courageous, to cut against the grain and not to fit in,”” West said. “”We need more misfits.””

West also commended the UA for educating its students and not “”schooling”” them, which he noted was all the more important because young people are “”100 percent of the future.””

“”Education is wrestling with what it means to be human. It’s trying to get us to engage in that shift, that turning of the soul from the superficial to the substantial, from the frivolous to the serious,”” West said.

West also called upon a younger generation of students to focus on higher levels of thinking and avoid temptations and distractions.

“”No high quality human life can flower and flourish without the courage to think critically,”” West said.

Navneet Khera, a pre-physiology freshman, said she found West’s speech inspiring.

“”He was extremely inspirational, the way he talked about race and diversity so openly. You don’t really hear this often. It was nice to here a different output.””

Jai Smith, a sociology senior and co-director of ASUA’s Pride Alliance, said West’s words resonated with him.

“”It was interesting to me because I work in the social justice arena,”” Smith said. “”To hear so many perspectives that I had never experienced before was really awesome to me as an individual for the work that I do.””

Smith, one of roughly 300 volunteers at the event, said that social justice commentary is not uncommon, but was impressed with the way West captivated an entire audience.

“”We are constantly discussing in an academic setting these sort of border policies, immigration rights and humanitarian rights,”” Smith said. “”To actually talk about it in a really raw and emotional manner doesn’t happen a lot. To have a speaker come in and do that was really powerful.””

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