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Cornel West: Proponents of critical race theory should learn why some people fear it
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Cornel West: Proponents of critical race theory should learn why some people fear it

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“Love is the most powerful thing that breaks the back of fear, but love takes a number of different forms,” West said, answering a question about critical race theory.

“On one hand, you have to try to get inside the skin of people and get a sense of why they believe what they believe,” West said.

Glenn Youngkin, a Republican political newcomer, won the governor’s race Tuesday night in Virginia, defeating former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

During his campaign, Youngkin supported a ban in Virginia public schools on critical race theory, an academic framework that centers on the idea that racism is systemic in the nation’s institutions and that they function to maintain the dominance of white people.

Critical race theory isn’t being taught in Virginia’s kindergarten through 12th grade public schools. The theory is taught in many law schools and graduate schools.

West, a professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, delivered a lecture Thursday to about 700 people in Wait Chapel on the Wake Forest campus.

West’s appearance, which is part of the Mac Bryan Prophetic Preaching Series, was sponsored by the university’s School of Divinity and its African American Studies Program.

The series honors the late George McLeod “Mac” Bryan Sr., a professor of religion at Wake Forest for 37 years.

In addition to teaching courses on feminism, religion and science, and liberation theology, Bryan advocated for civil rights, pursued social reform, and helped to integrate Wake Forest College in the 1960s.

The series brings to Wake Forest preachers and speakers to inspire students to live and serve at the intersection of Christianity and social justice, WFU has said.

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West, 68, a popular professor of African American studies and a social justice activist, has worked as a professor at Harvard and Princeton universities.

In early March, West abandoned his quest for tenure at Harvard and returned to Union Theological Seminary, where he first taught 44 years ago.

In the previous weeks, West had threatened to leave Harvard because, he said, the university had balked at a recommendation by a faculty committee that his untenured position be converted to a tenured one.

During the question and answer session following his lecture, West said that proponents of critical race theory need to show that they care about the situation of the people who oppose that theory and push them to show how their views about that theory are valid, West said.

“Anybody who believes that critical race theory is taking over the curriculum in the state of Virginia have been socialized and subsumed by a world view that Black folks are taking over, and that no one is listening to them.”

The theory’s proponents are listening to people who oppose critical race theory, West said.

“We are listening to you, but we want you to make sense,” West said.

Many white people also struggle against white supremacy in the United States, he said. But other white people are unaware of that struggle, West said.

During his 30-minute lecture, West talked about the Baptist tradition at Wake Forest, the struggle and achievements of Black Americans, Christianity and the pursuit of spirituality and morality in the country.

West also talked about Bryan, West’s friend who worked to bring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to Wake Forest in 1962. West described Bryan as a “towering figure” at Wake Forest.

Lee Vickers of Winston-Salem, a retired education professor at N.C. A&T State University, said she enjoyed West’s lecture.

West explained some of issues that people are facing, such as critical race theory and the history of Black people in America, Vickers said.



The Associated Press and

The New York Times contributed

to this story.


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