Meet The Rich Man’s Malcolm X
White liberals have found a prophet, and his name is Ta-Nehisi Coates.
The Atlantic scribe is enjoying acclaim bordering on religious hysteria for his new book, “Between the World and Me.”
Famed novelist Toni Morrison said it should be “required reading.” The New Yorker declared it an “extraordinary” work. A reviewer for The New York Times went as far as to say it was “essential, like water or air.”
This supposed life-necessity comes in the form of Coates writing to his son to warn him how America was founded upon the brutalization of “black bodies” and how this cruelty extends into the contemporary era.
Pretty radical required reading, but that actually seems to be why it has earned such an effusive reception.
Coates’s caustic message has managed to attract a very enthusiastic audience: white liberals.
This may be odd considering the journalist’s extraordinary obsession with race and blaming almost every social ill, past and present, on white people. He’s most famous for writing “The Case for Reparations,” an argument for why white America should make financial penance for its sins against black bodies. (RELATED: The Case Against Reparations)
So why would the recipients of his wrath go wild for his words?
It’s because Coates has mastered the art of exploiting white guilt. What he produces is not any meaningful or constructive insight into race relations, but stimulants for the masochistic tendencies of benighted Caucasians. His supposed analysis is high on “feels” and low on facts, and essentially amounts to unrelenting screeds against white people and the unforgivable sins of their ancestors.
There is no redemption, no solution, no reconciliation. Only hate and bitterness can follow from the keyboard of Ta-Nehisi Coates.
This is catnip for a particular kind of holier-than-thou white who is looking to get off to white guilt porn. They seem to love the Manichean quality of Coates’s writing where white is always evil and black is always good. They’re desperate to know that other Caucasians have done countless wrongs, but that the enlightened liberal can achieve some kind of redemption by reading “Between the World and Me.”
By indulging in this feeling, the white liberal hopes to attain a sense of superiority over the Caucasian peons that can’t keep up with the tide of progress.
To those who are not white, Coates’s works serve as tinder for the flames of anger and alienation against America and its majority population. Who wouldn’t hate this country and want reparations after suffering through lines like: “The laments about ‘black pathology,’ the criticism of black family structures by pundits and intellectuals, ring hollow in a country whose existence was predicated on the torture of black fathers, on the rape of black mothers, on the sale of black children”?
This is the writer’s stock-and-trade. This is what he’s earning accolades for.
While he might say he has become “radicalized,” Coates lives a life true radicals could only dream of come the revolution. He’s attended every exclusive, super-luxurious Aspen Ideas Festival since 2008. He’s planning on taking a year-long sojourn to Paris to live as a pampered expat. The most powerful man in the world allows the writer to yell at him at the White House.
This is not a radical; this is a privileged court philosopher.
Which explains why Coates is granted so much authority over our public discourse. For an example of the deference given unto him, one should read New York magazine’s report of the “debate” the prophet had with New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu at the Aspen Festival. “Debate” is put in quotation marks because it appeared to be less of an exchange of ideas and more of the Bayou politico groveling before the all-wise Coates.
The debate was supposed to be a discussion on how to deal with crime. It instead became a torturous exercise for Landrieu to prove he wasn’t a racist for saying “black-on-black crime” and wanting to curb the problem. Coates assured Landrieu that the mayor wasn’t a bigot for using the term black-on-black crime, but, as befitting for the writer, he didn’t actually have any solutions for dealing with inner city crime.
Instead, he fantasized about becoming king and freeing every criminal in America.
It is hard to blame Coates for wanting a crown when he has so many devoted subjects.
There’s the temptation to call this writer’s act radical chic. In 1970, Tom Wolfe coined the term to describe the absurdity of composer Leonard Bernstein hosting a fancy fundraiser for Black Panthers. The difference between that event and the adoring treatment of Coates is that the Panthers were actual radicals.
Coates, on the other hand, is just a comic book-loving yuppie playing up the pretense of militancy.
Whatever his faults, there is a tragic aspect to the now-celebrated author. Coates’s guiding motivation for dealing with race is based on the hope that the world will one day become a place where that category no longer exists.
Yet, all of his work seems to be working to ensure that that goal will never be attained.
When you’re deemed the foremost expert on race and your work on race appears everywhere, you’re ensuring that this concept is perpetuated. When you believe race is a false construct yet demand one artificially constructed group pay another artificially constructed group reparations, you’re keeping racial consciousness alive. When you rail against a “white supremacist” system yet you are the system, you need to take a long, hard look in the mirror at what you’re perpetuating.
Whatever Coates may say to the contrary, his work doesn’t help America overcome its racial dilemma. Rather it exacerbates it by fanning the flames of hate and constantly demanding an impossible price from whites.
But that may be the point.
If Ta-Nehisi can earn fame and fortune for such work, what’s in it for him to help resolve America’s dilemma?
Especially when this evil system treats him so well.
Follow Scott on Twitter