Philosopher With a Mission: CORNEL WEST

With his new, hot-selling book on race, CORNEL WEST could become the most important black intellectual of the 1990s

With his full-blown Afro, close-fitting three-piece suits and fondness for rap music, Cornel West comes across as too hip to be a philosopher. That helps explain why people are always confusing him with someone considerably less highbrow, especially when he's not on campus:

-- Driving through upstate New York to lecture at a New England college a few years ago, West was pulled over by a cop who figured him for a drug runner because of his flashy clothes, jewelry and sporty Camaro. When West protested that he was in fact a professor of religion, the officer scoffed, "Yeah, and I'm...

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