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.”

“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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“No More” Say Critics of Obama’s Morehouse Speech

"Okay, enough encouragement.  Here comes the scolding."

“Okay, enough encouragement. Here comes the scolding.”

The president is invited to give the commencement speech to colleges all across the country.   As far as speakers go, President Obama and  First Lady Michelle Obama are considered major “gets.”

However, his speech last week at Morehouse College got on the nerves of some of his critics.

    “We know that too many young men in our community continue to make bad choices. Growing up, I made a few myself. And I have to confess, sometimes I wrote off my own failings as just another example of the world trying to keep a black man down. But one of the things you’ve learned over the last four years is that there’s no longer any room for excuses. I understand that there’s a common fraternity creed here at Morehouse: ‘excuses are tools of the incompetent, used to build bridges to nowhere and monuments of nothingness.’ We’ve got no time for excuses – not because the bitter legacies of slavery and segregation have vanished entirely; they haven’t.

Not because racism and discrimination no longer exist; that’s still out there. It’s just that in today’s hyperconnected, hypercompetitive world, with a billion young people from China and India and Brazil entering the global workforce alongside you, nobody is going to give you anything you haven’t earned. And whatever hardships you may experience because of your race, they pale in comparison to the hardships previous generations endured – and overcame.

    “You now hail from a lineage and legacy of immeasurably strong men – men who bore tremendous burdens and still laid the stones for the path on which we now walk. You wear the mantle of Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington, Ralph Bunche and Langston Hughes, George Washington Carver and Ralph Abernathy, Thurgood Marshall and yes, Dr. King. These men were many things to many people. They knew full well the role that racism played in their lives. But when it came to their own accomplishments and sense of purpose, they had no time for excuses.”

    “I was raised by a heroic single mother and wonderful grandparents who made incredible sacrifices for me. And I know there are moms and grandparents here today who did the same thing for all of you. But I still wish I had a father who was not only present, but involved. And so my whole life, I’ve tried to be for Michelle and my girls what my father wasn’t for my mother and me. I’ve tried to be a better husband, a better father, and a better man.

ta-nehisi-coates

“I’m going to scold the Black president for scolding Black people.”

    “It’s hard work that demands your constant attention, and frequent sacrifice. And Michelle will be the first to tell you that I’m not perfect. Even now, I’m still learning how to be the best husband and father I can be. Because success in everything else is unfulfilling if we fail at family. I know that when I’m on my deathbed someday, I won’t be thinking about any particular legislation I passed, or policy I promoted; I won’t be thinking about the speech I gave, or the Nobel Prize I received. I’ll be thinking about a walk I took with my daughters. A lazy afternoon with my wife. Whether I did right by all of them.

    “Be a good role model and set a good example for that young brother coming up. If you know someone who isn’t on point, go back and bring that brother along. The brothers who have been left behind – who haven’t had the same opportunities we have – they need to hear from us. We’ve got to be in the barbershops with them, at church with them, spending time and energy and presence helping pull them up, exposing them to new opportunities, and supporting their dreams. We have to teach them what it means to be a man – to serve your city like Maynard Jackson; to shape the culture like Spike Lee. Chester Davenport was one of the first people to integrate the University of Georgia law school. When he got there, no one would sit next to him in class. But Chester didn’t mind. Later on, he said, ‘It was the thing for me to do. Someone needed to be the first.’ Today, Chester is here celebrating his 50th reunion. If you’ve had role models, fathers, brothers like that – thank them today. If you haven’t, commit yourself to being that man for someone else.”

This was a pretty standard Obama riff: be responsible. Be a man.  Take care of your responsibilities.  Don’t blame others for your lot in life.  We’ve heard variations of this uplift-the-race speech from Obama since 2008.   This is not new.

What is news is how some Black commentators have had enough and don’t want to hear it anymore.  They want President Obama to talk to them the way he talks to predominantly White audiences.

Ta-Neshi Coates:  Taking the full measure of the Obama presidency thus far, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that this White House has one way of addressing the social ills that afflict black people — and particularly black youth — and another way of addressing everyone else. I would have a hard time imagining the president telling the women of Barnard that “there’s no longer room for any excuses” — as though they were in the business of making them. Barack Obama is, indeed, the president of “all America,” but he also is singularly the scold of “black America.”

Courtland Milloy There is something vaguely contemptuous about the president’s style of criticism when addressing black audiences. Invariably, his rosy rhetoric comes with insensitive scolding — his mesmerizing visage leaving them oblivious to the blood he has drawn.

“Heh-heh. I have destroyed their youthful spirit.”

“The blood he has drawn?”  Come on, Courtland.  You can make your point without resorting to heavy-handed and silly exaggerations.   Coates has also written much better columns than this and he, as well as nearly every Black columnist I’ve ever read have all scolded Black Americans over one thing or another.    Sitting back and pointing out where others have come up short is practically what the job description for a columnist.

What the President said was not drastically different from what others from Bill Cosby to Minister Farrakhan have previously said. I, like many others here have “called out” my own people for our failings. Leadership is not always telling us what we want to hear, but what we need to hear. Why should this be more of an irritant coming from Obama than anyone else?

And to my Super Soul Sister Tonyaa Weathersbee , who took the president to task on Facebook, I must take issue with your observation that “Obama’s speech on black male responsibility is wasted on an audience of Morehouse graduates who get it. They’ve already been responsible enough to pursue a degree, so why drive home what they already know?”

How do we KNOW the president is telling these grads “what they already know?” Who’s to say the social conscience of a Morehouse man is more highly attuned than the working class brutha holdin’ down a 9 to 5? You don’t have to accept W.E.B. DuBois “Talented Tenth” concept to know more than a few Blacks who graduate from institutions of higher learning, have no intentions of doing anything to uplift the race and are going to run as far and as fast from those who haven’t been as blessed as they are. Their top priority is finding a high-paying gig with a Fortune 500 company because baby needs a new pair of shoes and to pay off those student loans too!

If Obama’s tone to the grads at Morehouse is different from that of The Ohio State University, perhaps he realizes the odds differ for their success and the stakes are higher.  A graduate of OSU that blows it once they live school may have alternative paths to success.   A Morehouse man may only get one shot to make it and if they fall short, that failure reflects on not just them and their family, but the collective hopes of the Black community.

If the educates classes of Blacks don’t want to hear any more “tut-tut-tutting” from the President and the working class masses aren’t paying attention, who’s left?

Instead of saying, “I’m tired of hearing Obama telling me what I already know” a better way of looking at it is, “Is he saying anything that isn’t still a problem?” Maybe we should pull ourselves away from Kerry Washington’s imaginary love affair with the fictional White Republican Chief Executive long enough to look at the unresolved real world issues the Black Democratic one is bringing to our seemingly unwanted attention.

Those bitching about the president’s speech are probably the same ones who bitch about how Obama ignores the concerns of Blacks.   Now when he mentions them  and suggests its up to Black grads to address some of the outstanding issues that have plagued the race for decades,  if not centuries, he’s lecturing Black audiences in a way he doesn’t do White audiences.   Well, duh.   Black folks don’t have the same problems as White, gay, Latino and female audiences do.

Don’t kill the messenger because you don’t dig the message.   If we truly want Obama to be the Black president, don’t complain when he speaks to problems peculiar to Black people.    It’s unfortunate Obama’s speech fell on so many deaf ears among the Black illuminati.  Instead of telling the president he has no business talking about the problems Black folks have, they should be writing columns proposing solutions to them.

Next year when Obama doesn’t speak at any Black colleges and says, “Who needs that drama,”  he’ll catch hell for only speaking to White graduates.   You can see this train coming long before it gets here.

I went to college for four years and all I got was rained on and a lecture from the President.

Ron Paul Can’t Run From His Racist Roots

Just say no to Dr. No

As a writer and journalist since 1992, I have written hundreds of articles, editorials and essays and thousands of words on hundreds of topics, but the one thing that connects each and every one is I own all those words.  It does not matter if the words are wise, silly, entertaining or dull as a dish rag.

They are all my words and no matter how much distance time puts between me and my words, they’re never too far and never too distant for me to be held accountable for them.

The reality for every writer is we may forget what we’ve written, but as long as it is written down somewhere those words are never truly lost and once found, they are potentially capable of returning to bedevil us anew.

This is a reality Ron Paul would rather not face.

Paul’s appeal to voters isn’t lost on me.  He seems like the perfect anti-politician.  He’s not a pretty boy with polished teeth and a fussed over hairstyle and a meticulously managed media image.  Paul is rumpled, short, not particularly photogenic or worried about tailoring his message to fit a particular focus group or demographic.   What Paul is strong on his message of individual freedom, non-intervention in foreign affairs, not spending money on non-essential frills and pet projects

Paul is also strong on his ties to the racist newsletters published under his name and weak on answering  questions about them.

You can’t blame the Paulinistas for trying to frame the debate on their own terms on the issues they think are winning ones for them. Unfortunately for them (and Paul), he can’t run from his coziness with the racism he permitted to be published under his name.

Pile up enough of Paul’s hostility toward civil rights, his indifference to racist rants on a publication with his name on the title, and his refusal to distance himself from his ties to extremists like the John Birch Society and you can conclude once you get past the kindly, but slightly crazy old uncle act, if Ron Paul isn’t a bigot himself you couldn’t slide a piece of paper between him and those that are.

Claiming he never read the newsletters is an extraordinary admission to Paul’s lack of accountability and responsibility. If Ron Paul can’t be bothered to care about running a raggedy newsletter, why should anyone trust him to run the whole damn country?

Separating Ron Paul’s various explanations over the years about the newsletters is a laborious process, but it comes down to this: if you’re a publisher, you may not read everything that goes into your publication, but it stretches credulity to say you had no idea what was going in it, never read it, didn’t disavow the statements when they originally occurred. don’t know who wrote them and only disagreed with them after you decided to run for president.

Paul’s dilemma is once upon a time he seemed quite aware of what the content of his newsletters were as he explained in 1995 to CSPAN.

Along with that I also put out a political — type of business investment newsletter, sort of covered all these areas. And it covered a lot about what was going on in Washington and financial events, especially some of the monetary events since I had been especially interested in monetary policy, had been on the banking committee, and still very interested in, in that subject. That — this newsletter dealt with that.

That is a completely weak and inadequate explanation of the bigoted content of his newsletters. It’s also a reason to ask—no, DEMAND that Paul explain himself totally, fully and completely.

So far he hasn’t.

WASHINGTON – Rep. Ron Paul has tried since 2001 to disavow racist and incendiary language published in Texas newsletters that bore his name, denying he wrote them and even walking out of an interview on CNN Wednesday. But he vouched for the accuracy of the writings and admitted writing at least some of the passages when first asked about them in an interview in 1996.

Some issues of the newsletters included racist, anti-Israel or anti-gay comments, including a 1992 newsletter in which he said 95% of black men in Washington “are semi-criminal or entirely criminal.”

Paul told The Dallas Morning News in 1996 that the contents of his newsletters were accurate but needed to be taken in context. Wednesday, he told CNN he didn’t write the newsletters and didn’t know what was in them.

Paul, who leads polls in Iowa leading up to the caucuses there on Jan. 3, published a series of newsletters while he was out of Congress in the 1980s and 1990s called The Ron Paul Political Report, Ron Paul’s Freedom Report, The Ron Paul Survival Report and The Ron Paul Investment Letter.

In 1996, Paul told The Dallas Morning News that his comment about black men in Washington came while writing about a 1992 study by the National Center on Incarceration and Alternatives, a criminal justice think tank in Virginia.

Paul cited the study and wrote: “Given the inefficiencies of what DC laughingly calls the criminal justice system,“These aren’t my figures,” Paul told the Morning News. “That is the assumption you can gather from the report.” I think we can safely assume that 95 percent of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal.”

Nor did Paul dispute in 1996 his 1992 newsletter statement that said,”If you have ever been robbed by a black teenaged male, you know how unbelievably fleet of foot they can be.”

Paul believes the Civil War was unnecessary. A better alternative would have been to buy the slaves instead.

Paul voted for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, but says he would have voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act as he explains at the 4:20 mark during an interview with Chris Matthews.

On July 3, 2004, He cast the only vote against a bill commemorating  the 40th anniversary  of the Act as he explained in remarks from the floor of the House of Representatives.  Taken from his own website, Paul is obviously proud of his opposition.

Ron Paul: Mr. Speaker, I rise to explain my objection to H.Res. 676. I certainly join my colleagues in urging Americans to celebrate the progress this country has made in race relations. However, contrary to the claims of the supporters of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the sponsors of H.Res. 676, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not improve race relations or enhance freedom. Instead, the forced integration dictated by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 increased racial tensions while diminishing individual liberty.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 not only violated the Constitution and reduced individual liberty; it also failed to achieve its stated goals of promoting racial harmony and a color-blind society. Federal bureaucrats and judges cannot read minds to see if actions are motivated by racism. Therefore, the only way the federal government could ensure an employer was not violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was to ensure that the racial composition of a business’s workforce matched the racial composition of a bureaucrat or judge’s defined body of potential employees.

(snip)

Thus, bureaucrats began forcing employers to hire by racial quota. Racial quotas have not contributed to racial harmony or advanced the goal of a color-blind society. Instead, these quotas encouraged racial balkanization, and fostered racial strife.

Of course, America has made great strides in race relations over the past forty years. However, this progress is due to changes in public attitudes and private efforts. Relations between the races have improved despite, not because of, the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, while I join the sponsors of H.Res. 676 in promoting racial harmony and individual liberty, the fact is the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not accomplish these goals. Instead, this law unconstitutionally expanded federal power, thus reducing liberty. Furthermore, by prompting raced-based quotas, this law undermined efforts to achieve a color-blind society and increased racial strife. Therefore, I must oppose H.Res. 676.

Maybe there is a good explanation for Paul’s out of touch views on race, but I haven’t read or heard a good one yet.  The 1964 Civil Rights Act made life easier for minorities and harder on racists, but Paul considers this to be a bad thing.  I consider this makes him unelectable and unworthy to be seriously considered presidential material.

The Atlantic’s Ta-Neshi Coates isn’t buying the “Ron Paul is the Victim” rap either.

Racism, like all forms of bigotry, is what it claims to oppose–victimology. The bigot is never to blame. Always is he besieged–by gays and their radical agenda, by women and their miniskirts, by fleet-footed blacks. It is an ideology of “not my fault.” It is not Ron Paul’s fault that people with an NAACP view of the world would twist his words. It is not Ron Paul’s fault that his newsletter trafficked in racism. It is not Ron Paul’s fault that he allowed people to author that racism in his name. It is anonymous political aids and writers, who now cowardly refuse to own their words. There’s always someone else to blame–as long as it isn’t Ron Paul, if only because it never was Ron Paul.

Next:  What’s actually in the Ron Paul newsletters and some strange comments from Paul about race.