Friday, August 30, 2013

Meanwhile, Ta-Nehisi Coates Is Conducting a Master Class

In how to effectively give a president a "Written Warning: Employee needs to show marked and immediate improvement" on a key section of his performance evaluation:
None of us in this generation can truly know how it must have felt to be black, to have come out of the long night of slavery, into the clutches of revanchists, to have survived only to see your great ambassador slaughtered like a dog. Barack Obama doesn't know anything about this. None of us know anything about this. None of us can really know how deep that pain must have cut. Anger is human. It is fantastic to see the head of the same American state that created the ghettoes (which predictably exploded) attack the people imprisoned there for being self-defeating. 

Like Du Bois, Barack Obama has taken the stage at a moment when it is popular to assert that black people are the agents of their own doom. The response to Trayvon Martin, indeed the response to Barack Obama himself, has been to attack black morality, to highlight black criminality and thus change the conversation from what the American state has done to black people, to what black people have done to themselves. Like Du Bois, Barack Obama believes that these people have a point. Du Bois's biographer, David Levering Lewis, says that Du Bois came to look back back on that speech with some embarrassment. I don't know that Barack Obama will ever reach such a conclusion.
Indeed, if we are -- as the president asks us to be -- honest with ourselves, we will see that we have elected a president who claims to oppose racial profiling one minute, and then flirts with inaugurating the country's greatest racial profiler the next. If we are honest with ourselves we will see that we have a president who can condemn the riots as "self-defeating," but can't see his way clear to enforce the fair housing law that came out of them. If we are honest with ourselves we will see a president who believes in particular black morality, but eschews particular black policy.
Barack Obama works for us and, as his employers, we should demand that he competently execute the duties we elected him to perform, within the limits of what it humanly possible given the complete psychotic implosion of the GOP and the gummy uselessness of most of the media.

Uncritical adoration of his every pronouncement will not move our employee in the direction we want him to go.

Neither will screaming "Fascist!  Liar!" every time he opens his mouth.


DeistPaladin said...

Some have commented that telling the truth on race relations isn't a vote winner. The assumption is that the American people still aren't fully ready or that the need for a realistic self-assessment that runs contrary to our collective narcissistic belief in American exceptionalism. Maybe this is so but I also wonder if this cynical defeatist attitude might not be part of the problem with the progressive movement.

Consider the abortion debate. The pro-choice movement could have succumbed to the defeatist attitude that "we live in a center-right country" and concluded the best we could hope for is some sort of compromise, like exceptions for rape. Instead, the pro-choice movement reached for the brass ring, that it's between a woman and her doctor. The case was made to the American people and the result is the majority are pro-choice. The pro-life movement has been frustrated into extra-democratic means, such as terrorism and back-door methods like over-regulation.

Could our success in that area be a clue for how we might succeed elsewhere?

Anonymous said...

Yes. Right. Of course. Neither will yelling, "I'm a lumberjack and I'm okay," bring anybody to his senses. Coates has failed here, I believe. He's using a move of high school epistemology. "None of us ... can truly know ..." Yes. Right.

"Barack Obama works for us ..." Ha ha ha ha ha! That's a good one! If I read this correctly, you're...uh...serious. He works for us. Yeah! Of course! For us! Ha ha ha fucking ha!

Lit3Bolt said...

Once you realize Obama wants to be the ONLY African-American President in US History, it starts to make a disturbing amount of sense.

(I kid, to a point...)

I guess the explanation from Coates is that Obama has internalized the "twice as good" mindset. Obama can't show emotion, he can hardly have fun, and everything he does as "teh frst black prezident" is so heavily scrutinized that it's bound to be wearing. As such, he's had to be Bill Cosby to the Nth degree.

He will probably be a better ex-President than president, but it's been 8 years of obstruction now, and the Republican Party death spiral will continue until we enter the REAL second great depression. The instant we set a hard cap to our spending, the US will receive B+ credit ratings, the financial industry will move to London and Asia, and we'll hemorrhage some more to try to stabilize the world economy.

drbopperthp said...

Mr. Coates and I have had our own "failure to communicate" moments on his site and via email. He has matured a bit beyond his earlier, and self admitted, thin-skinned uber-sensitivity and when he is focused can shoot laser beams of insight like this with frightening ease. Now if only he can slide past the hip hop poseur B.S., he might make some serious headway towards becoming a real political voice-to-be-reckoned-with versus a Saturday/Sunday talk show sidekick.

Anonymous said...

Er...I'm not seeing the improvement. TNC is still the blogosphere's leading victim of thin-skin disorder.

He was doing so much banning/deleting on his blog that the Atlantic had to deputize a couple readers to help him keep up with the hard work of expunging anyone who hurt his feelings, offended his taste, made him look bad, etc.