Thus far, this course has examined the ways in which society is structured and how social reality is constructed based on race, class and gender. By using our sociological imaginations, (seeing the connection between individual lived experience and larger processes) we are able to see that the ways that our society is organized favor some groups, individuals and economic models over others - with life and death consequences. Consider the terrible threats of climate change and nuclear war.
For this prompt - one day after the Fourth of July holiday - let us reflect on the legacy of tremendous inequality, with moments of promise, in the United States. Please read the short Preface and Introduction of Race Matters the most famous book written by the highly esteemed public intellectual Cornel West (pages: vii – xix). Available at link below:
Now, view this short clip of James Earl Jones reading the words of the great abolitionist Fredrick Douglass, in one of his most famous speeches given in 1852 titled, "The Meaning of July Fourth For The Negro."
West notes that, "we are in one of the darkest moments in American history - a bleak time of spiritual blackout and imperial meltdown" (page xv). Please consider both pieces and your own unique perspectives, as you answer the following questions.
1. What is Fredrick Douglass' critique of the Fourth of July when he says, "this Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn."
2. What central arguments do Frederick Douglass and Cornel West share - even though both men wrote more than 150 years apart?
3. Read the quote from the great writer and public intellectual James Baldwin in the Preface to the 1993 edition on page xi. What do you believe Baldwin means when he says, "for the sake of one's children, in order to minimize the bill they must pay, one must be careful not to take refuge in any delusion."
4. What, in your opinion, is needed to allow what West calls: 'prophetic fightback' - an awakening that puts a premium on courageous truth-telling?