It’s Not Him, It’s You

I probably won’t read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between The World And Me but never say never.  I’m a great admirer of his long-form pieces at The Atlantic but I do think he has a slight tendency to over-write at times.  I agree with his central point — that an American society which treats blacks, particularly young black men, differently than it does whites, is a barbarous society and possibly irredeemable.

Would I get more out of reading a book-length take, in addition to the fact that memoirs aren’t my thing?  Maybe.  My loss.  (I am interested on his take on Black Panther though, but again I don’t read comic books any longer but what a masterstroke by Marvel.  Maybe I’ll download some issues when they come out.)

But what’s truly fascinating to me is to see the vivid, dripping resentment among conservative, mostly male, and entirely white second- and third-stringers of the right-wing media world.  I’m not going to link to any of the butthurt, but a few things stand out:

a) His name is Mr. Coates, or more simply, Coates.  Your attempt to tear him down by using “TNC” is adorably pathetic.

b) Yes, he has sold a lot more books than you and he will in the future.  I’m glad you admit this but it doesn’t mean your genius remains difficult to see while he somehow whored himself out to a “librul” reading audience.  It means he’s a better and — natch — a much more important writer than you.

c) So what if he’s moving to Paris?  He’s a writer.  Writers, especially American ones, have tended to do that since World War I or so.  The fact that you can’t afford to do so is entirely your problem, not his.

Honestly, so much of the subtext of the vitriol against Coates basically seems to boil down to, “Go back to Baltimore, boy.”

Again, the basic question he’s asking is this — can the racial injustice upon which America was built and has thrived be redeemed by any amount of reconciliation or spectacular act of forgiveness of the part of blacks towards whites?

His answer is, obviously, a resounding “no” but there are plenty of opportunities to disagree with him.  (And note: his position isn’t one of “nihilism.”  Quite the opposite in fact — the need for racial justice is a universal.)

But the rank condescension towards Coates doesn’t even stem from a critique of ideas.  It really has more to do with a black guy having the utter temerity to frame the ongoing discussion of race in America around his own (often devastating) experiences.

Like I said, very ugly stuff but it’s also kind of astonishing to see wingers so blind to their own obvious biases.

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