Re-posted by Nicholas Stix
Hateful, mean-spirited, self-serving, badly written and probably counterproductive
By Mad Dog
August 4, 2015
This is one of the worst books I have ever managed to slog through to the end. America currently regards Ta-Nehisi Coates as probably the leading writer on race relations in America and one of the greatest political writers in general, but I for one have no clue why, and I think a lot of people are being fooled. He has written a book that, with its hateful, downright nasty tone, unsupported arguments, and at times even outright racism, will wind up doing nothing but making some blacks more racist and angering whites for no good reason and make them justify their racism.
Why is it mean-spirited? How 'bout this? He says he watched 9/11 with a "cold heart", and didn't shed a tear for all the police and firemen that lost their lives that day. I understand why you might not be terribly distraught, after seeing your friend Prince Jones get shot by a cop for no good reason, about a few cops meeting their Maker, but firemen?? Last time I checked, firemen were not known for letting a home burn down if they found out the residents were black - yep, they'll even put out that fire if you're black, isn't that great?! But Coates is totally cool with seeing 343 of them getting killed by terrorists. That's not just mean-spirited, that comes close to being downright evil. Maybe firemen won't ignore a fire if the home belongs to a black family, but maybe they should ignore it if they find out that the home belongs to Ta-Nehisi Coates.
Why is it hateful? It's hateful because Coates forthrightly blames all the problems that blacks have on whites as a group, and refuses to assign any individual responsibility. That 70% out of wedlock birth rate? All the whites' fault. Sky-high black-on-black crime? All the whites' fault. Black cops who kill black suspects already in handcuffs? All the whites' fault. That woman who pushed his kid off the escalator? Just a typical white racist, doing what whites do. Never mind that there are myriad ways to be a total jerk without being a racist, but Coates lit into her mercilessly, and though he does not give the exact dialog, I'll bet my bonus it was probably a racist temper tantrum. He uses the phrase "people who regard themselves as white" frequently, which I think alludes to the arbitrariness of race. That's actually a concept I wish he had run with, but he does not, instead he just uses it as another way to insult and justify hating whites. I've got to believe that a lot of blacks must find him patronizing, in that he believes that all their problems are due to racism and white privilege, and leaves no room for them to excel on their own.
Why is it self-serving? Here's why: Coates writes this as a letter to his son (I wonder if he'll read the whole thing), and offers him almost no advice about how to have a good life in this admittedly unfair world. Don't bother fighting racism and white privilege, it will always be there, it will never get better, and it's the nature of the white beast. No tips on how to succeed, what fields to pursue that have the least bias, or any of that, other than "struggle for wisdom". Since Coates is making no attempt to improve anything, it dawns on me why he's really doing this. You see, Coates wants racism and white privilege to be a "manageable chronic illness", the same way Big Pharma regards AIDS. You know how those guys make billions of dollars selling expensive drugs that people with AIDS have to take until they die? Well as long as there's racism, as long as there are abusive cops, Coates will be doing quite well thank you. Same idea. It's all about the money - for those of you living in a particular very nice part of Manhattan, that loud and very annoying cackling noise you hear outside your window is the sound of Ta-Nehisi Coates laughing hysterically as he walks down the street from his very nice apartment to his private banker. And those white guys who run the publishing house are laughing pretty hard too; they don't mind publishing a hateful racist screed as long as it makes them millions. So Coates is just exploiting the memories of Prince Jones, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and all those firemen solely for his own gain. It's shameful.
Why is it badly written? I want to let you in on a little secret - Coates can't write his way out of a thin paper bag. In the quest to use a lot of sophisticated language and sound vaguely "poetic", he throws straightforward communication to the wind. While I got most of the basic message, this book is chock-full of phrases, sentences and even entire paragraphs that I could not parse. And I have a Ph.D. from an Ivy-league university! "My Caesar was geometric" - what the hell does that mean?? You could dip into almost any page and find gems like that.
The book is probably counterproductive because in the end it will not make people less racist on average. It will make blacks and whites angrier at each other and make things worse. Since I bought the kindle edition, I paid only 10 bucks and probably put about a dollar into Coates' pocket. That's a dollar I wish had gone elsewhere, not to mention the hours I spent reading this. Read it if you must, but try to get it for free. On second thought, don't even bother because nothing good will ever come of it.