Why Cornel West Beat up His Third Grade Teacher
Cornel West is a prominent and provocative democratic intellectual. He is a Professor of Philosophy and Christian Practice at Union Theological Seminary and Professor Emeritus at Princeton University. He has also taught at Yale, Harvard, and the University of Paris. Cornel West graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard in three years and obtained his M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy at Princeton. He has written over 20 books and has edited 13. Though he is best known for his classics, Race Matters and Democracy Matters, and for his memoir, Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud, his most recent releases, Black Prophetic Fire and Radical King, were received with critical acclaim.
Question: Can you describe your upbringing?
Cornel West: Well, one, of course, I'm my momma's child and my daddy's kid. Irene and the late Clifton West. That West family is just so precious. I was saturated with love that's beyond description; I don't have the language; words cannot convey the kind of love that I received, and it was inseparable from Shiloh Baptist Church: Reverend Willie P. Cooke, my pastor; head of the deacon board, Deacon Hinton; my Sunday School teacher Sarah Ray. Fundamental for me. My Little League coach Mr. Peters, my cross-country coach Bill Mahan. I mean, all of these magnificent human being shaped me in fundamental ways. At the same time I was full of rage; I had a Robin Hood mentality that I tended to coerce people and take their money to make sure that people who had no money had something, because I couldn't stand to see the weak used and abused. And I was wrong to be coercive in that way, but I needed to find a positive channel for my rage.
I beat up my teacher when I was in the third grade, refused to salute the flag. Why? I had a great uncle who was lynched, and they wrapped his body with the U.S. flag as he hung from the tree in Jim Crow Texas. It was in my mind at eight years old, so I refused to salute the flag. Mrs. [IB], lovely teacher that she was, slapped me; I had a Joe Frazier counterpunch, hit her. The principal jumped on me, my brother and his partner jumped on the principal; a riot was on. Got kicked out of school. No school would take me. My mother was kind enough to have me take an I.Q. test; I got about 160-something, and they said, this little negro has some potential. They sent me over to another school across the way. So I went from the chocolate side of town to the vanilla side of town, Earl Warren Elementary School. Had a wonderful time. Two white sisters who were magnificent, Nona Sall and Cecilia Angell, helped me channel my rage. And so I'm still full of rage, but now it's a righteous indignation at injustice; it's not the kind of gangster orientation that's full of revenge and bitterness and so forth. That had something to do with the power of love, my Christian faith, which I hold onto and intend to be faithful unto death.
But it's self-styled; it goes through Chekov, it goes through Samuel Beckett, who are two of the great lapsed Christians, two of the great agnostics, probably two of the greatest writers of the 20th century, actually, Chekov and Beckett. Can't live without them. Kafka would be the other for me. Another agnostic in that sense. Full of love, though. Gregor Samsa in the Metamorphosis. Full of deep, loving compassion for family, especially his violin-playing sister Greta. They mean much to me. But it's the power of love, the power of education connecting life of the mind to struggle for justice. That's my story.
Recorded on: November 3, 2009
His third-grade teacher slapped him when he didn’t salute the flag, and he hit her back.
Explore how alcohol affects your brain, from the first sip at the bar to life-long drinking habits.
- Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
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If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.
- A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
- It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
- Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.
Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.
Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons
13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.
It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.
But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.
John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."
What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.
Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.
The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.
- The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
- The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
- It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
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