February 12, 2001
Dynamic speakers rock
reconciliation, race panel
By Eric Rangus firstname.lastname@example.org
The crowd of several hundred at Glenn Auditorium for the Reconciling Race: The Future of American Race Relations panel discussion Feb. 7 didnt have to look very hard for provocative statements.
Author and former head of the Black Panther Party Elaine Brown: There
is a new class of Negro with a slave mentalitygood massa
versus bad massa. Somebody like, say, Colin Powell.
DePaul University professor Michael Eric Dyson: Its easier
to see the decadence of hip-hop culture than it is to see the decadence
of the black middle class.
California state senator and civil rights activist Tom Hayden: People
now are branded. Companies used to make goods; now they make brands. If
you reject the brand, [companies] collapse. Theyre frightened of
West again: Most of the great leaders of the 1960s; we dont
know the names. Dont confuse television leaders with community leaders.
Dyson again: We live in a state of amnesia when it comes to race.
We are addicted to forgetfulness.
The evening provided no easy answers, only a litany of perspectives to
consider. Dyson spoke of the contexts, subtexts and pretexts of race;
Brown asked for a proper definition of race; Hayden questioned the corporate
destination of slave-trade profits; and West vilified a corporate- and
market-driven culture that feeds racism.
Each of the speakers made salient points throughout, but Dyson was a
revelation. Never consulting a note or even stopping to take a breath,
it seemed, when he spoke, the religion and cultural studies professor
elicited loud applause with every pointnot only because of what
he said, certainly, but because of a clear, rapid-fire delivery that mesmerized
The panelists 40-minute dialogue following their opening addresses
(scheduled for four minutes each but stretching to 45 total in what was
a masters clinic in public speaking) began as a cordial trade of
monologues, flowed into a casual back-and-forth, then erupted into a full-blown
argument with West implicating hip-hop culture as too market driven and
Dyson defending the artistic relevance of the music and pointing out the
fight for the soul of hip hop, which prevents all members
of the culture from being lumped together.
With West and Dyson leaning forward pointing at each other, their loud
discussion lost in Glenns echoes, moderator Johnnetta Cole stepped
in, arms extended like a boxing referee, and glided to the podium with
amazing dexterity. She then turned the floor over to the audience for
Both West and Dyson leaned back in their chairs and smiled broadly.