West And Torgovnick Essay Research Paper West

West And Torgovnick Essay, Research Paper West and Torgovnick: Manichean Ideologies Both Cornel West and Marianna De Marco Torgovnick discuss the idea of supremacy, Manichean theologies, and

West And Torgovnick Essay, Research Paper

West and Torgovnick: Manichean Ideologies

Both Cornel West and Marianna De Marco Torgovnick

discuss the idea of supremacy, Manichean theologies, and

authoritarian behavior in their essays. However, they deal

with these ideas differently and for different reasons. In

West?s essay, ?Malcolm X and Black Rage?, he explains Mal?

colm X?s views on how to transfer black rage in such a way

that it would reject supremacy. In Torgovnick?s essay, ?On

Being White, Female, and Born in Bensonhurst?, she writes

how her hometown held supremacist ideas and how this af?

fected her. West is still pursuing the goal of black free?

dom by looking into the past, especially Malcolm X?s writ?

ings. Whereas, Torgovnick kind of runs away from things and

refers to living in Bensonhurst as having ?simultaneously

choking and nutritive power. This difference is mainly due

because West wants to try to make things better, while

Torgovnick leaves her hometown feeling that she needs to

start things over.

Torgovnick writes about supremacist ideas in her cul?

tural background. For example, she says, ?Italian Americans

in Bensonhurst are notable for their cohesiveness and pro?

vinciality; the slightest pressure turns those qualities

into prejudice and racism? (Torgovnick 123). In other words

there is a lot of racism and prejudice, especially towards

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blacks, in Bensonhurst. Torgovnick?s father also held

supremacist ideas. Her father reacted with indifference to

the death of a black man in Bensonhurst. As Torgovnick


? ?Oh, no,? my father says when he hears the news

about the shooting…He has no trouble acknowledging

the wrongness of the death…The explanation is right

before him but, ?Yeah,? he says, still shaking his

head, ?yeah, but what were they doing there?

(Torgovnick 125).

Even though, he recognizes the wrongness of the death, he

says the blacks weren?t supposed to be there. His reason

for his death holds supremacist ideas, because here he is

being a racist. To say that blacks don?t belong in a cer?

tain neighborhood, is just like saying that they aren?t good

enough. Thus, Torgovnick father is being a racist.

Torgovnick?s hometown also holds Manichean ideologies,

which means to see things only as black and white, right and

wrong. In other words people who hold Manichean ideologies

usually don?t see things in between. She writes,

?Bensonhurst is a neighborhood dedicated to believing that

its values are the only values; it tends to towards certain

forms of inertia? (Torgovnick 124). Thus, the people of

Bensonhurst believe that any other values are wrong, and

their values are right. Here you can see how Torgovnick?s

hometown held Manichean ideologies because the people feel

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that there values are the only right values. Any other

values would be viewed as unacceptable to the people of


Authoritarian behavior also exists in Bensonhurst. For

example, when she was entering high school, her parents and

counselor recommended a secretarial track despite her high

scores. Torgovnick writes, ?Although my scores are superb,

the guidance counselor has recommend the secretarial

track…My mother?s preference is clear: the secretarial

track…My father also prefers the secretarial track?

(Torgovnick 128). This is authoritarian behavior because

rather that asking Torgovnick which track she wanted to

follow, they wanted to choose it for her. Just because she

is a girl, they wanted to put her in a track that is below

her standards.

Cornel West uses Malcolm X?s writings to explain su?

premacy, Manichean ideologies, and authoritarian behavior.

West agrees with most of Malcolm X?s ideas, however he

disagrees with Malcolm X?s rejection of black church and

music. West argues by using the metaphor of jazz that, ?an

improvisational mode of protean, fluid, and flexible dispo?

sitions toward reality suspicious of ?either/or? viewpoints,

dogmatic pronouncements, or supremacist ideologies? (West

119). In other words, to West the black church and black

music represents freedom, something that Malcolm X does not


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In order to explain Manichean ideologies and authori?

tarian behavior, one must look at Malcolm X?s fear of cul?

tural hybridity. West writes,

?Malcolm X?s fear of cultural hybridity rests upon two

political concerns: that cultural hybridity downplayed

the vicious character of white supremacy and that

cultural hybridity intimately linked the destinies of

black and white people such that the possibility of

black freedom was far-fetched? (West 117).

Meaning that if blacks and whites are to share things

(cultural hybridity) whites will always have the advantage.

Therefore, blacks will never achieve total freedom. Malcolm

X saw this as a weakness, which does seem understandable.

However, Malcolm X fails to realize that if blacks are to go

off on their own, this would lead to supremacy and Manichean

ideologies. West says, ?Furthermore, the cultural hybrid

character of black life leads us to highlight a metaphor

alien to Malcolm X?s perspective…? (West 119). If blacks

are to go off on their own, this would lead to Manichean

ideologies; blacks against whites. As a result, there will

be no change in terms of racist views by whites and suprema?

cist behavior as each group begins to fight for control.

One can see how some of Malcolm X?s views can lead to su?

premacy, and Manichean ideologies.

West feels that Malcolm X?s best view is his notion of

psychic conversion. He writes, ?…we must preserve and

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expand his notion of psychic conversion …These

spaces…-beyond the best of black music and black religion-

reject Manichean ideologies and authoritarian…? (West

119). West explains that Malcolm X?s notion of psychic

conversion will channel black rage to black humanity and


Both West and Torgovnick deal with supremacy, Manichean

ideologies, and authoritarian behavior. However, they have

different ways of dealing with things. Cornal West uses

Malcolm X?s writings to deal with these ideologies, while

Marianna De Marco Torgovnick does so by referring to her

hometown of Bensonhurst.