|his unusual approach has not been without controversy. Wests association with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan has produced frowns of disapproval from his supporters. Farrakhans loud voice and fist-shaking style inspired hundreds of thousands of African-American men to congregate in Washington, D. C., for the Million Man March in 1995. However, Farrakhan is openly anti-Semitic and xenophobic. How could West, co-author of a book dedicated to healing the relationship between blacks and Jews, rub shoulders with such a man? West told the Jewish journal Tikkun that people must often work with individuals with whom they disagree. Although West does not condone Farrakhans anti-Semitic statements, he recognizes Farrakhans strength as a leader. West said, "Ive never given up on those in the progressive, liberal, or even conservative movement...so I refuse to give up on Minister Louis Farrakhan or any other black person because of his or her xenophobic sensibility." West believes in working with people and pushing them beyond where they are.
In Race Matters, West praises liberals for advocating urban renewal, welfare and education as a means to alleviate suffering. Yet he also praises conservatives for advocating rugged individualism because it generates "a sense of agency" that encourages the downtrodden to help themselves and prevents them from feeling like victims. But can West marry these competing viewpoints? He argues that each approach is incomplete on its own. Conservatives overlook the reality of urban strife while liberals pigeonhole themselves as caretakers of the underprivileged. As it stands, the left and right are like two hands on the same body that refuse to cooperate. West wants to see this change.
By appealing to liberals and conservatives, West generates doubt among both. That also makes him hard to peg. His approach often confounds listeners because he seems to want it both ways. Critics feel hes trying so hard to be a part of the academic and activist worlds that he falls short of both. Reviewing Race Matters for College Literature, Keith Byerman wrote: "Race Matters is best understood as a manifesto of black Christian Marxism rather than an analysis of the issues it raises. West makes little effort to examine the sources of the problems he identifies in American culture generally and African-American culture specifically." Byerman goes on to write that West offers few solutions to the problems he identifies.