Ta-Neshi Coates Gets Trolled by Cornel West

“Eat your heart out, Cornel.”

Ta-Neshi Coates is widely regarded as America’s best and brightest social critic (and I share the sentiment). If writers wield power through their employment and arrangement of words, Coates flexed his muscles in the 2014 essay in The Atlantic, “The Case For Reparations” which moved the debate in an entirely new direction. It certainly opened to the possibility of a legitimate claim for reparations which avoided the non-starter argument of slavery as the justification.

Coates is having his moment in the spotlight as he makes the rounds of television, magazine, web interviews to promote his new book, Between the World and Me. Already the book has been lauded by liberals, crapped on by critics and its author praised by one of America’s literary lions.

“I’ve been wondering who might fill the intellectual void that plagued me after James Baldwin died. Clearly it is Ta-Nehisi Coates.” Toni Morrison in a note to Ta-Neshi Coates’ agent.

That annoting did not sit well with one Cornel West who took to his Facebook page to retort:

In Defense of James Baldwin – Why Toni Morrison (a literary genius) is Wrong about Ta-Nehisi Coates. Baldwin was a great writer of profound courage who spoke truth to power. Coates is a clever wordsmith with journalistic talent who avoids any critique of the Black president in power. Baldwin’s painful self-examination led to collective action and a focus on social movements. He reveled in the examples of Medgar, Martin, Malcolm, Fannie Lou Hamer and Angela Davis. Coates’s fear-driven self-absorption leads to individual escape and flight to safety – he is cowardly silent on the marvelous new militancy in Ferguson, Baltimore, New York, Oakland, Cleveland and other places. Coates can grow and mature, but without an analysis of capitalist wealth inequality, gender domination, homophobic degradation, Imperial occupation (all concrete forms of plunder) and collective fightback (not just personal struggle) Coates will remain a mere darling of White and Black Neo-liberals, paralyzed by their Obama worship and hence a distraction from the necessary courage and vision we need in our catastrophic times. How I wish the prophetic work of serious intellectuals like Robin DG Kelley, Imani Perry, Gerald Horne, Eddie Glaude commanded the attention the corporate media gives Coates. But in our age of superficial spectacle, even the great Morrison is seduced by the linguistic glitz and political silences of Coates as we all hunger for the literary genius and political engagement of Baldwin. As in jazz, we must teach our youth that immature imitation is suicide and premature elevation is death. Brother Coates continue to lift your gifted voice to your precious son and all of us, just beware of the white noise and become connected to the people’s movements!


There are many ways to take that. I take that to mean Cornel West thinks Toni Morrison and Ta-Neshi Coates are full of shit.

But so is West if he (a) thinks James Baldwin needs defending and (b) he’s the guy to do the defending.

Michael Eric Dyson,  the former West ally turned bitter enemy went public with his break in a New Republic piece,  dumped derision on West’s kneecapping of Coates in an interview  “It shows the vast ineptitude of Professor West’s scholarship. The point I made in my piece is that he doesn’t keep up, he doesn’t read the freshest, newest, most insightful scholarship, nor does he write about it in any serious fashion or teach it in his curriculum, and it shows here.”

Dyson described Coates as a “greatly gifted writer” who forms “sentences and thoughts that sing on the page and stick to the mind.”

“Every charge he made against Ta-Nehisi is patently false,”  Dyson added. “Shall I introduce you to his essay on reparations? It has every bit of the analysis that West was hankering for,”

Dyson rallied to Morrison’s defense.  “And so now that makes her look like a dupe and a boob when she is a literary genius who possesses a Nobel Prize in literature,” he said. “I think her pedigree of assessment is far more convincing than Cornel West’s.”

Ta-Nehisi Coates_book

Coates may have incurred West’s undying wrath in 2011 in an essay entitled,    where he wrote:

In the matter at hand, there is no real difference between the tribalism offered by [Dinesh] D’Souza and his ilk, and the tribalism offered by West and his defenders. There is no real difference between Tea Partiers who insist that NAACP are the actual racists, and those who believe Obama is a “black mascot” damning the influence of identity politics. There is no real difference between those who push their agenda by implying that Obama isn’t really American, and those who push their agenda by implying that Obama isn’t really black.

Both are afflicted with a species of blindness, and intellectual sloth. Understanding and debating actual policy is hard. Enumerating perceived slights and name-calling, and dubbing it a black agenda, is not.

It may have taken him four years to return fire, but West never forgets an insult and never forgives the insulter.

West has become a small, petty, vulgar, envious and shriveled little man. His ego is second only to the equally vulgar Donald J. Trump. I now consider him a failed intellectual who has invalidated his earlier status as one of the leading voices in Black Thought.

West has nearly abrogated any claim to being a serious thinker to be taken seriously.   His pathological hatred of Barack Obama  coupled with his envy and spitefulness for anyone  like Coates who disagrees with or eclipses him is sad beyond words.   He’s become a really smart rapper with no flow  who enjoys playing the Dozens with big words.

West is a crank living off his rep and is clearly on the down escalator of his career  as Coates passes him on the way up.

“I repudiate Obama and I repudiate myself for supporting Obama.”

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The System Didn’t Fail. It Was Supposed to Work This Way.

Great White Hunter.

“The American Negro has the great advantage of having never believed the collection of myths to which white Americans cling: that their ancestors were all freedom-loving heroes, that they were born in the greatest country the world has ever seen, or that Americans are invincible in battle and wise in peace, that Americans have always dealt honorably with Mexicans and Indians and all other neighbors or inferiors, that American men are the world’s most direct and virile, that American women are pure. Negroes know far more about white Americans than that; it can almost be said, in fact, that they know about white Americans what parents—or, anyway, mothers—know about their children, and that they very often regard white Americans that way. And perhaps this attitude, held in spite of what they know and have endured, helps to explain why Negroes, on the whole, and until lately, have allowed themselves to feel so little hatred. The tendency has really been, insofar as this was possible, to dismiss white people as the slightly mad victims of their own brainwashing.”
James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

In the wake of the grand jury’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson and the return of violent unrest in Ferguson, I’ve read and heard a lot about how Blacks and Whites need to stay calm and have a rational discussion.

Okay. Let’s calmly talk rationally about the shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice by a Cleveland police officer last Friday, why don’t we?

CLEVELAND, Ohio – A Cleveland police officer fatally shot Tamir Rice immediately after leaving his moving patrol car while his partner stayed at the wheel, surveillance video shows.

The video showed Wednesday by police captures the Saturday afternoon shooting at a West Side recreation center in which 12-year-old Rice was shot.

The video contains no audio.

A rookie officer pulled the trigger, said Jeffrey Follmer, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association.

Police were sent to the Cudell Recreation Center at Detroit Avenue and West Boulevard about 3:30 p.m. when someone called 9-1-1 to report a “guy with a gun pointing it at people.”

The caller told dispatchers twice that the gun was “probably fake,” but that detail was not relayed to the responding officers, Follmer said.

Over the past few days I’ve read so much amateur analysis, part-time forensic experts and ex-cop war stories and “woulda/shoulda/coulda” scenarios made up of skewing some facts and misinterpreting and excluding others of what happened and all the while with fawning deference for Support Your Local Police Officer no matter what because gee they do a tough damn job and they are they only thing that stands between the nice people and the jungle predators.

Frankly, it makes me want to vomit.

I see no point in holding a rational discussion with anyone who can rationalize the actions of a murderer. A rational discussion serves no purpose when the intent to shame and embarrass one member of a racial minority into apologizing for the actions of a few while assuaging the fears of the majority that “we’re all not like that.”

I have no interest in having a rational discussion with anyone more upset by broken windows and the looting of cheap stores and shoddy merchandise and are untroubled by a young man losing first his life and then his humanity.  They shrug it off with a blase “Well, I wasn’t there but he must have done something to deserve it.”

Something like boosting some smokes, jaywalking and maybe smarting off to a cop? Yeah, that’s some serious flaunting of the law there. Better pump 12 in him since he’s such a big target.

a System cannot fail

“A system cannot fail those it was never meant to protect.”W.E.B. Du Bois

A rational discussion is a pointless waste of time when the same “rational discussions” have followed after the cops killed Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, Oscar Grant, Michael Brown, Patrick Dorismond, Darrien Hunt, Joseph Ferrell,

Now add Tamir Rice to the roll call of the dead. What happened to him wasn’t a shooting. It was an execution. The trail of Michael Brown’s blood has flowed all the way from Ferguson, Missouri to Cleveland Ohio.

Some say the problem is the BB gun Rice was carrying looked too realistic.   Okay,  I see how that come lead to complications but how about training rookie cops better so they don’t zoom up to a 12-year-old suspect and fucking immediately blow him out of his shoes? Would that work?  Shoot first, shoot last and keep shooting and asking no questions later is a prime example of piss-poor policing. You could paint the toy guns in all the colors of the rainbow and it still wouldn’t stop some of these trigger-happy cretins.

This is a problem situation which has to be resolved by addressing the issue of the realism of the toy and the overkill response of the cops. You have to start demilitarizing the warrior cop mindset when they zip around in their cars, never know anything about the people in the neighborhoods they patrol and start trying to change the adversarial relationship between cops and communities of color. Until both sides meet each other halfway nothing will ever change.

Changing the “I am a hammer and everything is a nail” philosophy of the warrior cop would help.  Community policing isn’t a new idea and has had both its unqualified successes and dismal failures, but an adversarial relationship between cops and the communities they patrol is poisonous. Nothing positive can come from cops calling civilians as “fucking animals” while the civvies serenade the cops with a chorus of “Fuck the Police.”

The cops have the bullets and the weaponry to fight the community, but the community has bullets and weaponry too. Neither side can win so where does that get us to but M.A.D. (mutually assured destruction)?

 

ferguson

White critics think violence and destruction are indefensible. They need to ask what brings people to react this way. Tweet by Steve Chapman

Darren Wilson resigned from the Ferguson police department and possibly with a million dollars raised from supporters for a trial he was never going to face.  Like George Zimmerman before him, Wilson has become the recipient of  charity from supporters who hate the idea just because you shoot and kill and unarmed teenager that’s no reason you should be punished for it.

A million dollars. Imagine that. Who would have thought one dead Black kid was worth that kind of money?  For Darren and George, despite being the ones with the guns its okay to take Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin’s lives a long as they claim were frightened for theirs.  Not only will you go free, you’ll get paid too!

Get rich or kill trying.

While rioting is terrible a riot is not the most terrible thing.   People never really understand something until it happens to them and sometimes not even then.

Peace will never be present where justice is absent.

It's settled down for the moment, but at any moment Ferguson could go up in flames again.

“A riot is the language of the unheard.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

17 America-Related Things James Baldwin Said Better Than Anybody Else.

 

American Wise Man

Here on the Fourth of July, the day this great nation celebrates its independence with fireworks, hot dogs and collective attack of amnesia over its bloody, violent and racist past, it’s good to read some of the writings of James Baldwin.

1. “The most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose.”

2.  “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.”

3. “I’m not interested in anybody’s guilt. Guilt is a luxury that we can no longer afford. I know you didn’t do it, and I didn’t do it either, but I am responsible for it because I am a man and a citizen of this country and you are responsible for it, too, for the very same reason… Anyone who is trying to be conscious must begin to dismiss the vocabulary which we’ve used so long to cover it up, to lie about the way things are.”

4. “Do I really want to be integrated into a burning house?”

5.  “It comes as a great shock…to discover that the flag to which you have pledged allegiance…has not pledged allegiance to you.”

6.  “It is dangerous to be an American Negro male. America has never wanted its Negroes to be men, and does not, generally, treat them as men. It treats them as mascots, pets, or things.”

7. “It is very nearly impossible to become an educated person in a country so distrustful of the independent mind.”

8. “Not a thousand years ago, it was illegal to teach a slave to read. Not a thousand years ago, the Supreme Court decided that separate could not be equal. And today, as we sit here, no one is learning anything in this country. You see a nation which is the leader of the rest of the world, that had to pay the price of that ticket, and the price of that ticket is we’re sitting in the most illiterate nation in the world. THE MOST ILLITERATE NATION IN THE WORLD. A monument to illiteracy. And if you doubt me, all you have to do is spend a day in Washington. I am serious as a heart attack.”

9.  “The American revolution, the terms are these: not that I drive you out or that you drive me out, but that we come together and embrace and learn to live together. That is the only way that we can have achieved the American revolution. “

10. “American history is longer, larger, more various, more beautiful, and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it.”

11.  “I have met only a very few people – and most of these were not Americans – who had any real desire to be free. Freedom is hard to bear. It can be objected that I am speaking of political freedom in spiritual terms, but the political institutions of any nation are always menaced and are ultimately controlled by the spiritual state of that nation. We are controlled here by our confusion, far more than we know, and the American dream has therefore become something much more closely resembling a nightmare, on the private, domestic, and international levels.”

12.  “Freedom is not something that anybody can be given. Freedom is something people take, and people are as free as they want to be”

13. “The American ideal is, after all, that everyone should be as much alike as possible.”

14.  “I can’t believe what you say, because I see what you do.”

15.  “I know what the world has done to my brother and how narrowly he has survived it. And I know, which is much worse, and this is the crime of which I accuse my country and my countrymen, and for which neither I nor time nor history will ever forgive them, that they have destroyed and are destroying hundreds of thousands of lives and do not know it and do not want to know it. “

welcome to america

16.  “A big, sandy-haired man held his daughter on his shoulders, showing her the Statue of Liberty. I would never know what this statue meant to others, she had always been an ugly joke for me. And the American flag was flying from the top of the ship, above my head. I had seen the French flag drive the French into the most unspeakable frenzies, I had seen the flag which was nominally mine used to dignify the vilest purposes: now I would never, as long as I lived, know what other saw when they saw a flag.”

17.  “I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”

“If They Take You In The Morning, They Will Be Coming For Us That Night”

Jordan Davis is Dead. But not murdered?

I wish I had something more to say about the fact that Michael Dunn was not convicted for killing a black boy. Except I said it after George Zimmerman was not convicted of killing a black boy. Except the parents of black boys already know this. Except the parents of black boys have long said this, and they have been answered with mockery.

Jordan Davis had a mother and a father. It did not save him. Trayvon Martin had a mother and a father. They could not save him. My son has a father and mother. We cannot protect him from our country, which is our aegis and our assailant. We cannot protect our children because racism in America is not merely a belief system but a heritage, and the inability of black parents to protect their children is an ancient tradition.

Ta-Neshi Coates/”On the Killing of Jordan Davis by Michael Dunn”

James Baldwin (photo credit ReciteThis.com)

One might have hoped that, by this hour, the very sight of chains on black flesh, or the very sight of chains, would be so intolerable a sight for the American people, and so unbearable a memory, that they would themselves spontaneously rise up and strike off the manacles. But, no, they appear to glory in their chains; now, more than ever, they appear to measure their safety in chains and corpses.

The American triumph—in which the American tragedy has always been implicit—was to make black people despise themselves. When I was little I despised myself, I did not know any better. And this meant, albeit unconsciously, or against my will, or in great pain, that I also despised my father. And my mother. And my brothers. And my sisters. Black people were killing each other every Saturday night out on Lenox Avenue, when I was growing up; and no one explained to them, or to me, that it was intended that they should; that they were penned where they were, like animals, in order that they should consider themselves no better than animals. Everything supported this sense of reality, nothing denied it: and so one was ready, when it came time to go to work, to be treated as a slave. So one was ready, when human terrors came, to bow before a white God and beg Jesus for salvation—this same white God who was unable to raise a finger to do so little as to help you pay your rent, unable to be awakened in time to help you save your child!

Angela Davis

Angela Davis

We know that we, the blacks, and not only we, the blacks, have been, and are, the victims of a system whose only fuel is greed, whose only god is profit. We know that the fruits of this system have been ignorance, despair, and death, and we know that the system is doomed because the world can no longer afford it—if, indeed, it ever could have. And we know that, for the perpetuation of this system, we have all been mercilessly brutalized, and have been told nothing but lies, lies about ourselves and our kinsmen and our past, and about love, life, and death, so that both soul and body have been bound in hell.

Some of us, white and black, know how great a price has already been paid to bring into existence a new consciousness, a new people, an unprecedented nation. If we know, and do nothing, we are worse than the murderers hired in our name.

If we know, then we must fight for your life as though it were our own—which it is—and render impassable with our bodies the corridor to the gas chamber. For, if they take you in the morning, they will be coming for us that night.

An Open Letter to My Sister, Miss Angela Davis by James Baldwin/November 19, 1970

This innocent country set you down in a ghetto in which, in fact, it intended that you should perish. Let me spell out precisely what I mean by that for the heart of the matter is here and the crux of my dispute with my country. You were born where you were born and faced the future that you faced because you were black and for no other reason. The limits to your ambition were thus expected to be settled. You were born into a society which spelled out with brutal clarity and in as many ways as possible that you were a worthless human being. You were not expected to aspire to excellence. You were expected to make peace with mediocrity. Wherever you have turned, James, in your short time on this earth, you have been told where you could go and what you could do and how you could do it, where you could live and whom you could marry.

Please try to be clear, dear James, through the storm which rages about your youthful head today, about the reality which lies behind the words “acceptance” and “integration.” There is no reason for you to try to become like white men and there is no basis whatever for their impertinent assumption that they must accept you. The really terrible thing, old buddy, is that you must accept them, and I mean that very seriously. You must accept them and accept them with love, for these innocent people have no other hope. They are in effect still trapped in a history which they do not understand and until they understand it, they cannot be released from it. They have had to believe for many years, and for innumerable reasons, that black men are inferior to white men.

Many of them indeed know better, but as you will discover, people find it very difficult to act on what they know. To act is to be committed and to be committed is to be in danger. In this case the danger in the minds and hearts of most white Americans is the loss of their identity. Try to imagine how you would feel if you woke up one morning to find the sun shivering and all the stars aflame. You would be frightened because it is out of the order of nature. Any upheaval in the universe is terrifying because it so profoundly attacks one’s sense of one’s own reality. Well, the black man has functioned in the white man’s world as a fixed star, as an immovable pillar, and as he moves out of his place, heaven and earth are shaken to their foundations.

A Letter to My Nephew by James Baldwin/ December 1962

James Baldwin. Right then. Still right now.

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A Few Words From James Baldwin About Liberal Arrogance

Some of my heroes do appear on stamps.

“A liberal is someone who thinks he knows more about your experience than you do.

James Baldwin

I run an application on Facebook that sends me an update when I am “defriended.”   Sometimes it’s a matter of an account becoming inactive.  Others because someone has had enough of me and cut me loose.   That’s fine.  I never was much interested in collecting as many “friends” and for the person who waxed me from existence because I don’t share your blind hatred of Barack Obama and single-minded obsession that Edward Snowden is an American hero, I thank you for the favor.   I’m only upset I didn’t cut you loose first.

I understand this story is very important to you.  But you cannot make it as important to me as it is for you.

Because I have enough with Good White Liberals telling me, “Yeah, what happened to Trayvon Martin? Damn shame. But what REALLY matters is Edward Snowden and the NSA. That’s more important than this trial. “

How am I supposed to process that as anything but an insult and yet another reminder that not only are Black lives less important than White lives, but our life and death issues as well?   It’s fine by me if the Zimmerman trial isn’t a major priority for others.  Just don’t tell me your priorities mean so much more than mine.

What is important to whom?   The Snowden case may be of burning importance to my friends on the Left, but I do not hang on every detail of where this so-called “whistleblower” may eventually abandon his country for.  I care a lot more about a dead Black teenager than a live White traitor.

One person’s cause is another’s lack of concern.

I decide for myself what’s important to me and I don’t seek anyone’s agreement.    The  Left should not ask for it from me and I will not I ask it from them.   It has often been a bone of contention for me that there are liberals whom seem to care more about their causes than they do people;  an ugly trait they share with their some of their more callous conservative cousins.

It is a matter of practicality for African-Americans to always look at their allegiances and work with liberals when their interests are mutually served or with conservatives  when they are not.    No one who seeks to demean your humanness or marginalize your issues should be considered a reliable friend.

Let no one try to tell you they know more about you than you know about yourself.    This was what Baldwin was warning Blacks about their relationships with liberalism  Even if you agree with liberals more often than not politically,  be ready to hold them at arm’s length when they disrespect you.     They DON’T know what matters to you better than you know yourself and NO ONE should ever try to tell African-Americans they know what they should be worked up over.   There are some well-meaning liberals who think being liberals means they are racially born again.

It ain’t necessarily so.  Any of us can be racist and none of us are exempt from that particular philosophical blindness.   No matter how many times they may have read Baldwin, Why We Can’t Wait or The Autobiography of Malcolm X.

To be good allies each side must respect the issues that are important to one side if not the other.   I understand why Snowden’s revelations about the NSA’s surveillance program is important to White liberals.   I don’t believe it’s too much to expect White liberals to respect, if not necessarily understand why the Trayvon Martin case is as vitally  important to Black liberals.

As the Zimmerman trial winds down and the jury begins its deliberations, now would be a particularly good time for both sides to remember they work best as allies than adversaries and Trivializing Trayvon will not score liberals any points with their Black allies.