Full disclosure. I probably should read at least one Ta Nehisi Coates book. To the best of my knowledge, my first introduction to him was through Very Smart Brothers, as they delicately “dissected” him for being pretentiously loquacious in his writings. And like Panama Jackson, I have no desire to pay my money to read about something I already know.
Now before you start your pro-Ta Nehisi Coates dissertation, this isn’t another pretentiously annoying counter-argument to any of Coates’ stances. I pretty much agree with all of his assessments of what’s going on in the world today. However, there are essentially two audiences Coates’ works speak to—Think-Piece Twitter and guilty White people. You can ask any average Black person on the street, and I’ll guarantee that less than half of the population will know who in the fizzuck a man named Ta Nehisi Coates is. This isn’t a jab at Coates’ brilliance. Any man who can make White liberals wallow like a hippopotamus in their own shitty guilt while making money from it is a GENIUS! (If only I could be a master the art of doing the same.) My concern is the impact his pessimistic take on America will have on Black people, particularly Black youth.
Don’t get me wrong. Coates doesn’t owe White people shit. In fact, it gives me great pleasure to see him give a resounding, frank and blunt “no” in response to Stephen Colbert’s plea for a more positive perspective of America’s future. Yet, at the same time, it gives me great pause. Think-Piece Twitter (the place where Black intellectuals complain about how exhausting it is to be “woke”) has latched on to this nihilistic idea of a hopeless America. This is where my beef with Coates lies. He’s making money off of Black apathy while he reaps all the benefits of Black hope.
There’s a strong case for Black people’s right to validate their apathy towards “the system.” After having electing our first Black president, there are many who naively thought that racism was going to end and that one man would be able to break the chains of over 400 years of institutional racism. That was the trap many of us fell into without taking a strategic look at, and often underestimating, the racial opposition America’s first Black president would face. #MAGA With the rise of technology, where you can watch injustices streamed online, many young Black folks became “woke” after being sheltered, numbed and distanced from the blatant forms of racism experienced by their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. Now we deal with things like microagressions and systematic disadvantages—racism that isn’t as apparent in our day-to-day lives as it once was. Barack Obama preached about the audacity of hope. But that newly-found, proclaimed hope relied solely on one person for many people, and that person was Barack Obama.
But still hope lives on, and we are still benefiting from it. There’s not one Black person who would prefer to live in any time before this era in America (minus 8-years of course…but then again, the Great Recession). Not one. So, why are we not fighting for our America, a better America as much as our predecessors had? We cannot afford to just point out what’s wrong with America. We need to gain our generational restitution and claim our place in America’s history, because I refuse to believe that the America my people have survived and fought for can’t hold up to its promise that we are created equal. That we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable Rights. That among these are Life, Liberty, the pursuit of Happiness, and now, Hope.