*This paper was presented at the Diverse Lineages of Existentialism Conference in St. Louis. Because of a panel change, the paper I was initially going to present on Keiji Nishitani was no longer topical.
I. Introductory Notes
Cornel West sees an atomic bomb poised to drop on the black United States. In the shadow of this bomb, existence is fashioned into a miserable “?”. West calls this despair the “nihilistic threat” to black America. It’s a train approaching a ravine which no one wants to think of, much less speak truthfully about it. Many fail to recognize the fact they are on board. It will wait until everyone is on board and then it will promptly go off a cliff. This hesitance to speak comes, West is certain, from a lack of respect for the black people suffering from “the monumental eclipse of hope, the unprecedented collapse of meaning, [and] the incredible disregard for human […] life and property in much of black America” (West 19). The leadership black United Stateseans have now, West argues, is distinguishable solely by their diminished quality. These leaders don’t care enough to listen; they don’t love enough to tell the bold truth. Cornel West is outraged. His indignation is, in part, righteous. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was murdered and Malcolm X was too. All the world seems to have left of them are harmless icons of their dispatched sunlight.