Socialist advises Bradley

Rakesh Bhandari bhandari at
Tue Nov 16 22:11:46 PST 1999

>Peter Kilander, quoting Jacob Weisberg:
>>West doesn't exonerate victims of racism for irresponsibility or criminality
>>(something for which his critics on the conventional academic left, like
>>Adolph Reed, can't forgive him). West is blunt about what he calls black
>>"nihilism"--what he defines as "a numbing detachment from others and a
>>self-destructive disposition toward the world."

Reed is a social scientist, not a theologian. It seems that the most obvious manifestation of West's nihilism is black on black homicide. The question then becomes whether such numbing detachment, if it is indeed unique to blacks, can be explained by a moral vacuum or nihilism experienced uniquely as well by blacks. I read Reed expressing skepticism towards both assumptions (the greater numbing detachment of especially poor blacks towards each other and themselves--remember that lower life black expectancy is not in fact mainly caused by higher homicide or OD rates but higher rates of cardiovascular disease-- and the cause of that putative unique detachment being 'nihilism'). I don't see Reed denying that black people can be nasty towards each other.

It is clear that Reed doesn't think the Church, whether in Christian or Islamic form, can create a moral universe from which that nihilism would disappear. It is not surprising that Reed repudiated Farrakhan while West tried to work with him--perhaps in the hope that Farrakhan could fill that moral vacuum.

Reed has long been skeptical of the possibility of the middle class, whether embodied in the clergy or not, becoming a moral compass for poor workers and the unemployed (see Reed's criticism of West's colleague WJ Wilson). I think the debate between Reed and West are over such issues, not Reed's putative politically correct denial of the complexity of oppressed black people.

Yours, Rakesh

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