West Speaks on Struggle

Only the study of the best aspects of the Black freedom struggle and a strong sense of self-identity can alleviate Blacks' rage and feeling of "nobodiness," Cornel West '74 said yesterday in this year's first W.E.B. Du Bois Lecture.

West--who was introduced as "perhaps the preeminent Black intellectual of our era" by Du Bois Professor of the Humanities Henry Louis Gates Jr.--is the director of Princeton's Afro-American Studies Department. He addressed a crowd of approximately 250 in Emerson Hall.

Quoting sources ranging from philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre to rap artist Sister Souljah, West outlined the positive legacies of the Black struggle for freedom, which he said is often not studied "critically" but looked at sentimentally.

One of its lessons, he said, is to understand the importance of "ordinary people" and their diverse heritages: such an outlook "does not allow one to deify or demonize others."

Another is the need to "preserve an audacioushope" that people's efforts can make a difference,the Princeton scholar said.

West then presented his synthesis of theseideas and his answer to the problem of Black"nobodiness" in today's world, which he called"DuBoisian archaeological ontology."


Black self-identity is destroyed, he said, by aconstant onslaught of racist and white-supremacistteachings.

"To be Black in the modern world," he said, "isto be thrown...into a state where one is at war"with the onslaught of identity-denying tenets.

"The struggle of Africans is a struggle againstnobodiness," he said. "You can still get tenurearguing the question that Black people are not asintelligent as white people."

To "contest the bombardment of negative Blackstereotypes put forth by white supremacists,"Blacks need "the power to represent ourselves toourselves" and to resist "the colonized soul," hesaid.

If the resistance tradition that comes from thefreedom struggle cannot be maintained, he said,the "nihilistic rage" sparked by Blacks strugglefor acceptance into society is inevitable and willnot disappear from today's world.

Yesterday's lecture was the first in a seriesof three. The Du Bois lectures were established in1981 with a grant from the Ford Foundation