Words Fail: Ta-Nehisi Coates on Obama, Trump & White Fear of “Good Negro Government”

“We Were 8 Years in Power”: Ta-Nehisi Coates on Obama, Trump & White Fear of “Good Negro Government”, democracynow.com, August 14, 2017

“And the great W.E.B. Du Bois pointed out that the one thing white South Carolinians feared more than bad Negro government was good Negro government. It was precisely the fact of having made all of these accomplishments, because they ran counter to the ideas of white supremacy, that gave the disenfranchisement movement and the redeemers their fuel.

And I don’t think it was very different under President Barack Obama. I think it was, in fact, you know, his modesty. It was the lack of radicalism. It was the fact that he wasn’t out, you know, firebombing or, you know, throwing up the Black Power sign or doing such that made him so scary, because I think what folks ultimately fear is Africans—is kind of the ease with which African Americans could be integrated into the system, because it assaults the very ideas of white supremacy in the first place.

(Good gawd all-Friday; head in the oven time, I reckon.)

Bonus: ‘Obama’s tweet after Charlottesville becomes the most-liked tweet ever’, thehill.com, August 15

“The tweet became the most popular of all time on Tuesday night, with more than 2.7 million likes, three days after it was posted.”


(This is sorta by way of a place-holder; I’m working on a George Clooney piece that’s going more slowly than I’d…hoped.  And Mr. wd’s father is reportedly ‘actively dying’, bless his heart, and things are a bit strained here at home, of course. But it’s past time for him to leave this mortal coil, and may he soon rest in peace…)

26 responses to “Words Fail: Ta-Nehisi Coates on Obama, Trump & White Fear of “Good Negro Government”

  1. small wonder that coates was awarded a “Genius Grant” of $625,000 by the MacArthur Foundation in 2015, no? stir in ‘Race Without Class: the “Bougie” Sensibility of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ by Paul Street, CP Jan. 2016

    “But note the difference between Coates on one hand and DuBois on the other. Coates doesn’t bother or perhaps care to subject Calhoun’s preposterous notion that rich white and poor white folks in the Antebellum era were both in the “upper class” to any basic Marxian or elementary Bernie Sanders-like critique. He just quotes the “great” (a curious word choice for the vicious South Carolina fire-eater) Calhoun from the 1830s and says “there it is”…nothing more to remark. The DuBois-Roediger thesis may lurk silently and ironically behind his judgement. Or it may not. Who knows? Coates shows none of DuBois’ or King’s sense of how the Great Lies (indeed) of race and whiteness have been a cancer not only for America’s claim to democracy and (most obviously) for Blacks but also (if less obviously) for a white working class that is also very much (and today increasingly) “below” even if it is less further down than the hyper-segregated and mass incarcerated Black ghettoized poor (and the all too rarely mentioned Native American poor).” [large snip]

    “Truth be told, and speaking of Obama. I am not sure how well Coates understands contemporary racism even on his own cynical and/or impoverished class-blind terms. I recently found the following exchange in an interview Coates gave to Slate last July:

    Slate: “How else do you think black Americans will react to Obama leaving office?”
    Coates: “I think black folks know what this was. A painful, lovely, beautiful, once in a lifetime thing.”

    Interesting. Obama’s time in the White House has overlapped with astonishing drops in Black net-worth and home-ownership and an ongoing epidemic of police murders of young Black men. Black mass incarceration and criminal supervision remain deeply entrenched. And what has the president (who Coates once preposterously identified with Malcolm X) brought Black America in the way of a response to its deepening crisis but repeated bourgeois lectures on poor Blacks’ supposed personal and cultural responsibility for their own worsening plight – a nasty Obama habit that Coates has (to his credit) himself criticized – and the potent symbolism of a Black family entering the White House in the land of slavery? (Imagine, the contempt Malcolm X would have for the nation’s first technically Black president!) Sadly but predictably, the bourgeois-representational victory (a first technically Black president) [2] has reinforced white America’s false majority belief that racism no longer poses a significant barrier to black advancement and equality.”

    well, you get the drift. night; i’m worn to a frazzle-rock. hope to get out to see the night sky and the milky way tonight. there’ve been clouds for days and days, and cold temps in the night. 47 degrees in SW colorado in august?

  2. It is not a prescriptive observation, but it is nonetheless true that Obama’s very neoliberalism drove the GOP over the edge. And his no-drama tact made it very difficult for mounting a strategy within the Democratic Party to put away GOP “ethnic strategy” racist appeals, not that there was any appeal to white Democrats taking that risk.

    Noticing that whites prefer black misbehavior over black good behavior is not a mental stretch. It was what caused the Mississippi Plan of 1875 and what caused sustained birtherism by Trump and company.

    What made Obama scary was the normalization of black politicians as nothing special and the competitiveness on an equal footing with white politicians. Where goes the GOP’s Wallace-ite “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever” destiny with that? Oh well, that was just dog-whistled anyway.

    On the SC Redeemer movement (Calhoun was long gone; Wade Hampton was the beneficiary, if not the instigator.) Coates is historically correct. The coming re-election of Republican candidates (what a difference 150 years makes) was so intolerable that nothing but a terrorist movement and threatened insurrection could reverse the Southern aristocracy’s declining political power and cultural status. Economically, they were beginning to do quite well, thank you very much. The competence of the Reconstruction governments did in fact drive them nuts.

    And contemporaries had the same issues with Grant that a lot of lefties have with Obama– capitalism and half-measures. And unwillingness to have a second civil war in 1875.

    First as tragedy; then as farce. Remember the beer summit.

    • while i agree that some whites might prefer black misbehavior, by my lights the media have focused on it, most esp. when they’re reporting on killings by police of black ‘suspects’, who are largely found guilty before trials. as in: educated in bias and bigotry.

      i agree that amerika’s *second black president* was scary for some, but i dunno that white supremacists needed that extra leg up. i’m not arguing that coates’ got the history wrong, but as street called it, it moved the US to a ‘post-racial society’ without having that conversation that obomba swore we’d have one day. pfffft.

      as far as ‘no drama abomba’ he was silver-tongued and low key as he waged war on the people in amerika, and brown people around the world, wasn’t he? the ultimate comprador.

      and yep, coates is indeed the librul class’s favorite black journalist. that video clip will have been tweeted millions of times. but just consider if in his writing he’d not stuck with identity politics, but had mentioned the intersection of ‘class and color’, how that might have actually helped his favorite, most moral president to not have paved the way for trump.

      i find solidarity with ely and walsh’s column in most respects (i can’t say about their take on calhoun) at wsws.org

      “However, at a certain point, a figure such as Coates, who claims to be a keen observer of social life, has to accept a certain responsibility for what he writes about and what he does not write about.

      Let’s consider the words and phrases that—astonishingly—do not appear once in Between the World and Me: “capitalism” (or “capitalist”), “working class,” “unemployment,” “oppression,” “repression,” “demonstration,” “trade unions,” “factory,” “economy,” “socialism,” “inequality,” “polarization,” “elite” [in the sense of ruling elite], “ruling,” “bourgeois,” “masses,” “left-wing,” “right-wing,” “imperialism,” “colonialism,” “globalization,” “transnational,” “multinational,” “oligarchy,” “plutocracy,” “aristocracy,” “cutback,” “welfare reform,” “affirmative action.”

      their paragraphs on the WH goodbye party kinda cheered me up, to say the truth, perhaps i needed some extra gallows humor right now. ;-) oh, and thanks for the grant-opposition mini-history; i either never knew, or didn’t remember that.

      and again, paul street: “Coates shows none of DuBois’ or King’s sense of how the Great Lies (indeed) of race and whiteness have been a cancer not only for America’s claim to democracy and (most obviously) for Blacks but also (if less obviously) for a white working class that is also very much (and today increasingly) “below” even if it is less further down than the hyper-segregated and mass incarcerated Black ghettoized poor (and the all too rarely mentioned Native American poor).”

      • Arr – so busy can hardly get here much less keep up…
        I do have agree with THD here WD. Obama was the perfect normalizer for black [mis]rule – so smooth and very much missed by many now that we have our own infantile Trumpolini spewing half sentences full of darker appeal than any skin tone. He was the most effective evil in many ways, fer sure, and yet Obama’s confidence did exude acceptance of other people.
        I note that one of Mr. Coates primary arguments for reparations was the way that black communities went from mortgage redlining and RE contract ripoff to penury and landlessness under Clinton+Bush+Obama, right through the intentional crash and its millions of repos. Forget reparations for slavery – just look at Jim Crow’s grandson: James Crow, Esq.

        • ha ha! another coates disconnect that is! i ♥ it; thanks. and just think: none of them went to jail. and post 2008 meltdown, the white house, obomba, shut down any attempt at bringing back earlier financial laws that could have stopped the next meltdown (but the craptastic dodd-frank was given his blessing).

          can’t say i’m understanding where you’re agreeing w/ thd, but maybe i hadn’t caught his meaning to begin with. on edit: i duzn’t speak ‘academic’ so goodly, yanno?

          but anyway, he could smile purdy while he stabbed us in the back, and call it ‘back-scratching’ (and get away w/ it. more teflon that bubba clinton, eh?.

          nice to see you, stranger. lotta work? or other endeavors?

  3. win won for the zipper

    Obama was shepherded into office partly b/c his handlers knew that a certain % of racist Amerikkkans would go ballistic (mostly from their couches). His election & utter bullshit legacy is part of the divide and rule strategy of tension. I was in DC during the 1st inauguration. It was so sad, all this wasted energy over a complete fraud. the hopes of black American, and to a large degree, the nation, to be dumped down the toilet. I already knew that his candidacy was an act of utter cynicism, of absolute nihilistic denial of the struggles of blacks in this country. Ad Age’s Man of the Year won. Him getting to bomb Libya is some kind of compensation or justice arc of history? fuck that.

    Coates’ nostalgia for O-asshole sounds like Peggy Noonan’s fawning reminiscences of the grace, dignity, and wisdom that inhabited the WH during “win one the for the Gipper’s” years. I wonder if Coates gets as boozy & weepy over O-slaughter as Noonan over Raygun. The only pulse Coates’s has his thumb on is the one emanating from his own butt crack.

    “go out there & win won for the Zipper” Leslie Nielsen in “Airplane.”

    • yeppers, mr. wd and i could tell by watching his nomination speech in 2004 (?) that he would be the D nominee soon. “he’s soooo articulate and soft-spoken!” (and pliable of course. most transformative prez he said was ronald reagan. we assumed he wasn’t lauding him, lol. loved O-slaughter, by the by. on edit: i did vote for him the first time, because: mccain/palin?

      the bestest and most moralist president evah! and that’s what the nazis couldn’t handle, see. but he’s the atlantic’s ‘international correspondent, writing now from gay paree’, so he must be…correct.

      of course coates would have gotten boozy and teary; his words from the good-bye party tell the tale. do butt cracks have pulses? funny stuff, win won for the zipper.

      but yes, wouldn’t you think, since he’s such a keen observe of the global zeitgeist, that hi might have known about how far this nation’s rulers love and support nazis abroad?

      ajamu baraka sees white supremacy in much the same way we were discussing on the other thread. good on him.

      • win won for the zipper

        look! it’s a black guy getting his bucks in one of the country’s perennially best-selling products: nostalgia for something that never existed. Obama preached that “Uncle is besties,” “city on a hill,” “great white hope” (even for black people) nonsense while in office. coates seems like a good mirror of o-bombfest, whitewashing all his tombs – w/blackface. in any case, he, like everyone in the MSM, largely appeals to archetypes, symbols, & ontologies, abstractions, & not to the concrete materiality of actual history. the main thing is what Obama (or the nation) *symbolizes*, not *what they do*. and so anger/disappointment at Obama (reflected in Trump’s election, to a degree) is white racism, not a reflection of what an actual smiling, glad-handing piece of shit he is (*is*, based on his deeds, or rather, colossal misdeeds.) you know a tree by its fruit, not by the shuckin’ & jivin’ self-promoting, childish illusion-coddling & fear-mongering bullshit they spew in front of the camera.

        this is why coates (& npr & & &) don’t talk about numbers. or when they do, they are deceptive. how many more kids of all races are now going hungry? and b/c of Obama himself? meh, no biggie. his presidency was transplendent. why clutter our beautiful minds w/the numbers of dead, starving, maimed and miserable under this turd? why count pennies on actual wealth distribution trends & wilt the lovely flowers a-blossom in the fields of your mind? or, even more important, count the bombs dropped? no one can count that high, so why bother?

        i’d read that wsws piece reviewing his famous memoir, what was it called? not The Road to Serfdom, but what was it? the Gilded Slip – n – Slide into Vast Pools of Cash & Fame? was that what his “memoir” was called? anyway, not one mention of the word “affirmative action.” much less all that other more important stuff, like class. (not to get back on this hobbyhorse, but intellectual products are ruled by money just like everything else. making readers of the New Yorker feel smart is big business, g.d. big. stupid people don’t shop out of New Yorker mag, do they? so they drive a dump truck full of money up to some mediocrity like Malcolm Gladwell’s front door, a bribe he’s all too willing to accept to write social science horseshit justifying NYC’s “broken windows” policing tactics. have someone rationalize massive police violence w/social science and leave your own conscience at the door. see? cops terrorizing people is good for society cuz science says so. Coates got a Macarthur grant, so I guess that settles it, doesn’t it?)

        • a phantasmagoric polemical, zipper. wish i had the wherewithal to respond right now. but: family communications must take precedence.

          please add what you’re experiencing on your cross-country journey to look for amerika that is totally down to the courtesies of the last recipient of the nobel peace prize, barack o’comprador in blackface.

        • yep, obomba smiled as he stabbed us in the back, hoisted the most wealth ever to the top tiers; gads, mr. market loved his ass! as did the defense contractors, for-profit jails and prisons…including the ICE ones. but you bet your bippy that ‘Between the World and Me’ was on his ‘summer reading list’. wonder if this short-lived marvel series was? (i’d peeked into coates’ twit account, couldn’t decode all the mentions of this, but i found):

          Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Black Panther & the Crew comic has been canceled’, may 13, 2017, the verge

          cuz not only did coates liken ‘the most moral prez evah’ to malcolm x, he likened himself to him, as well. (X rolls in his grave.) still dunno gladwell, sorry i’ve forgotten.

          • win won for the zipper

            the more people that forget Gladwell the better. here’s the analogy:
            M Gladwell: Tom Friedman:: the New Yorker: NYT. they both got books out that aren’t even worth burning, bunches of ’em. write pretensious nonsense for big named deep thinking fish rags. he’s not as bad Friedman, who could be? but that’s why he writes for the New Yorker.

            Bannon is out, Tim Wise sounds like a good candidate. I think i’m done w/knowing who is in/out in the Trump court. it’s a blight on the mind to even know who some of these people are.

            No, no, no, no! Come, let’s away to prison:
            We two alone will sing like birds i’ the cage:
            When thou dost ask me blessing, I’ll kneel down,
            And ask of thee forgiveness: so we’ll live,
            And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh
            At gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues
            Talk of court news; and we’ll talk with them too,
            Who loses and who wins; who’s in, who’s out;
            And take upon’s the mystery of things,
            As if we were God’s spies: and we’ll wear out,
            In a wall’d prison, packs and sects of great ones,
            That ebb and flow by the moon.-Lear to Cordelia

            • ta for explaining gladwell again, though. worse than the current glitterati fareed zakaria became then, too, i suspect.

              yeah, his administration is now just a re-run of his teevee show with some real life consequence. i dunno all their names, either. but oh, how elegant and apropos the lear is. speaking of the moon, dunno if you can see the night sky where you are, but at first light the crescent moon is rising above the horizon in the northeast with venus big as a plum above her…la luna bella.

              • win won for the zipper

                waiting on the eclipse…I’ve got $5 w/some local looneys that Jesus does NOT return w/this sign & portent in the heavens. “ok, ok, you were right this time, Jason. double or nothing?”

                fareed z is a good analogy.

                • lol, but what if you can’t demand proof that jesus dinnae return, eh? . gonna stick up an eclipse diary…semi-soonish. might be folks waiting in the wings auditioning for the part right now. mebbe even a few (gasp) women. ;-)

                  • win won for the zipper

                    the Jehovah’s witnesses, watchtower society, insist JC returned in…1912 or 1917 or whatever. how did we miss it? on the good side of the JW’s, they have been persecuted for their refusal to participate in Uncle Sam’s b.s. wars. whatever other crazy stuff they believe, that’s more than most of us can say.

                    • well now, i just had to look. here’s what i found, correct or not. ‘turned his attention to earth’ (invisibly) might be the shorthand version. i’d forgotten about their anti-war participation, though.

  4. I used to have a lot of respect for Coates; for a time I thought he might be the next James Baldwin, but I lost all respect for him when he wrote that disgusting paean to Obomber last year. Just like I lost respect for Tim Wise when he tweeted that awful chauvinistic comment about Russia (What has Russia ever given the world but authoritarianism, Faberge’ eggs and…..er, something else I don’t quite remember?)

    Oh, gee Tim, I don’t know……maybe almost singlehandedly saving the world from a particularly nasty and aggressive form of fascism in the 1940s?

    • well hello, stranger; good to see you here. yeah, some gag-worthy hagiography, and in the end…so counterproductive a piece of democrat identity politics gate-keeping. a different version of white rebecca solnit’s ‘oh, rancid left; sure he did a few bad things™…’

      eeep, i had to look up tim wise; is he vice.com or such? his photo i’ve seen in the radical left twittersphere, and let’s say…he wasn’t being treated kindly. ;-)

      i never received email from you w/ your music an art work. i’d even been musing about showcasing any of it you might care to at the café, davidly’s as well. do let me know if that would be something you’d like. and heeeere’s more tim. oh, and how many times recently have putin and lavrov’s diplomatic efforts saved amerikan bacon? of course, one never knows if amerika *wants* its bacon saved, or rather just fight more wars… sorry to be so…cynical. ooopsie. ;-)

      • Wow wd, you read my mind, i haven’t sent the e-mail yet or posted here in awhile due to mounting real world problems: the scariest being not being able to get my pain meds due to (don’t ask, Kafkaesque beauracracy mostly) and the fear of not being able to work after i just signed my 200th client, E. and I having our first “fight” (not really a fight, it’s complicated and we made up) but it happened right on the cusp of our second anniversary, which i spent sans E at the local pub getting monumentally drunk and singing “Happy Anniversary Baby” deliberately off key, even though I hate that stupid song and flirting with women half my age (successfully, I might add, which is quite a feat considering I turned 59 the week after that, still got it! Yay!) and I was in major anxiety for weeks and had to take a break from politics for a bit.

        But i finally got my meds and realized i can handle the other crap as long as I’m not in pain and can work. It was my first breakdown in 3 years, so I’m making progress and I’m now learning from it and E and I learned more about each other, so one again the Phoenix rises from the ashes ( that’s the nickname my partner gave me, and ironically his name is griffin: a law firm comprised of mythical birds, what’s not to like.

        But I’m babbling, a bit triumphantly, and hope i don’t sound too full of myself but i was just thinking of sending you my art and music and secretly hoping you would put it on here if you like it; it’s not everybody’s cup of tea but i never show my work or play gigs anymore and i would not mind a little exposure.

        May I say here that the commentariat on your site is such the creme de la creme, I’m reading some of the comments here and I’m awed at the intellectual and poetic quality so much I’m a little intimidated, and going through a period of uncertainty about the proper response to white supremacy: ignore the fascists or counterprotest, leave the statues up or take them down? I’ve read good arguments on both sides.

        I’ve been reading John Spritzler lately on racial issues and i like a lot of his ideas. Tim Wise is a white southern anti-racist who amazed me a decade ago by articulating ideas I’ve sensed all my life but couldn’t put into words. That was before I began reading Baldwin and Wright and other black authors, what does that say about the insidiousness of white privilege? (Spritzler doesn’t like the term but is down with the basic idea and I find him a fresh voice on the subject of racism in Amerikkkan society).

        Then I read two articles on Op Ed News by Ted Rall and Thomas Knapp taking opposite sides on the issue of whether it’s morally wrong to out white supremacists to their employers, and I agreed with both (though Knapp apparrently read Rall’s article and backtracked a little (wish i knew how to copy links on my phone, i keep meaning to have E teach me)) but I recommend all three writers, they can be found on Oped news and sometimes counterpunch.

        Well, this is all i can manage for now but i have more to say. I’ll be back. Knapp btw is my kind of libertarian, seems to share most of the goals as we on the left and not pushing free market fundamentalism down your throat like the ones at Lew Rockwell).

        Oh gawd, I see Tim hasn’t let up on his Russia-bashing. I haven’t been able to stomach going to his site since the one i read back in December. I think maybe you and i are alike in that way wd, after reading your comnents on the Intercept. I still read articles there sometimes even though I too am put off by Omidyar and the big bucks, i still find things of value there. But I had to stop reading Lew Rockwell after the millionteenth article calling Trayvon Martin a “thug” and had to stop reading We Hunted the Mammoth after their Hillary fanaticism during the election. Both those sites I used to read almost daily, but some things are beyond my head-in-the-oven threshhold, and I guess those kinds of things are it.:)

        Good to be here again. Thanks to all.:)



        • holy crow, seeker; what the hell’s in those pain meds, anyway? lol. but sure, email me, we’ll see what pops as far as what…formats, for instance, your music and art are in, etc.

          glad ya had a scrap w/ e, myownself. reationships that are never in conflict i find suspect, as i’d said before. and learning how fight fair is of supreme importance. her kids will also need to know that parents (or de facto parents) can scrap and it doesn’t signify a divorce or break-up.

          but hold those thoughts on doxxing; i’m about to put up a post that takes the antifa/white supremacist…wars?…struggles?…resistance? to a whole n’other level. i have material for four other diaries, but this one has my knickers in a knot, so….

          and thanks for the condolences, i passed them on to mr. wd. it’s great he finally let go of this world; he’s fought against it for far, far, too long. but no, he didn’t die in our sluttish 12-sided hogan, he died in a nursing home in lincoln, ne. i do hope he’s found peace.

          • Just saw this for the first time. Thanks. And I’m glad he had a good and serene transition.

            I found, for the first time, a list on here of all replies of you to my comments. I’m replying to that, could this be why it’s coming to you as an e-mail?

            from your host and overlord: email address deleted.

    • that was hard to look at, but yes: very moral murders, including on terror tuesdays. now i’m reeling back in time to the dedicated afghan men who went to every drone killing site they were able to, and what hideous stories they told. one image has been burned into my brain forever. fuck him.

  5. Matthew Karp is a meticulous historian on the foreign policy domination of Southern politicians before the Civil War. He ventures a few political parallels in the current climate. I think he has the Obama casting on target; what an interesting consequence.


    • ta, thd. and i’ll just bet you read the interview in about 10 minutes, lol. can’t say i’ll find the time in the near future, and it looks waaaay too long for cliffs notes, esp. given such deep historical narrative.

      but i’m gonna post soon on a new twist in the antifa world, and i reckon we’ll all have an opinion or two. ;-)

  6. Oh, and my condolences about your father-in-law. It’s my beloved late sister’s birthday today, she would have been 70. She was 11 yrs older than me but now I’m 8 years older than her ( sorry, i know you don’t like math problems:) but at least he’s making the transition surrounded by loved ones in a nice warm place and sounds like he had a good long life. (Or at least that’s how I picture your house, even though you may have gotten a little “slutty” with it lately);) Don’t feel bad, so have I , Raging fibromyalgia is not good for the decor, but I have the homeless people to help me. They are leaving on the 1st, they finally saved enough for a bus ticket home. I’m going to miss them but I already have more lined up. I’m going to keep sheltering people as long as I can or until if and when I marry E, too risky to do that with small children around.

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