I think I have figured out my man-crush on Ta-Nehisi Coates. He reminds me of Amy Gardner from “The West Wing”. There is this scene where Josh is complaining to Amy that she’s supposed to be on their side and she responds: “First of all, I’m crazy about the President, Josh. I’ve been crazy about him for longer than you’ve known who he was. And I’ll keep poking him with a stick. That’s how I show my love.” That’s exactly what Coates is doing here where he’s talking about the Obamas and race:
I think the stature of the Obama family — the most visible black family in American history — is a great blow in the war against racism. I am filled with pride whenever I see them: there is simply no other way to say that. I think Barack Obama, specifically, is a remarkable human being — wise, self-aware, genuinely curious and patient. It takes a man of particular vision to know, as Obama did, that the country really was ready to send an African American to the White House.
But I also think that some day historians will pore over his many speeches to black audiences. They will see a president who sought to hold black people accountable for their communities, but was disdainful of those who looked at him and sought the same. They will match his rhetoric of individual responsibility, with the aggression the administration showed to bail out the banks, and the timidity they showed in addressing a foreclosure crisis which devastated black America (again.)They wil weigh the rhetoric against an administration whose efforts against housing segregation have been run of the mill. And they will match the talk of the importance of black fathers with the paradox of a president who smoked marijuana in his youth but continued a drug-war which daily wrecks the lives of black men and their families. In all of this, those historians will see a discomfiting pattern of convenient race-talk.
I think the president owes black people more than this. In the 2012 election, the black community voted at a higher rate than any other ethnic community in the country. Their vote went almost entirely to Barack Obama. They did this despite of an effort to keep them from voting, and they deserve more than a sermon. Perhaps they cannot practically receive targeted policy. But surely they have earned something more than targeted scorn.
Read the whole thing. It’s a wonderful poking of of the stick at someone Ta-Nehisi Coates loves.