Coates-of-one-color edition: We've been trying to read the latest piece in The Atlantic by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
The assignment isn't easy. The essay begins as shown below. Do you have any idea this means?
COATES (10/17): It is insufficient to state the obvious of Donald Trump: that he is a white man who would not be president were it not for this fact. With one immediate exception, Trump’s predecessors made their way to high office through the passive power of whiteness—that bloody heirloom which cannot ensure mastery of all events but can conjure a tailwind for most of them. Land theft and human plunder cleared the grounds for Trump’s forefathers and barred others from it. Once upon the field, these men became soldiers, statesmen, and scholars; held court in Paris; presided at Princeton; advanced into the Wilderness and then into the White House. Their individual triumphs made this exclusive party seem above America’s founding sins, and it was forgotten that the former was in fact bound to the latter, that all their victories had transpired on cleared grounds. No such elegant detachment can be attributed to Donald Trump—a president who, more than any other, has made the awful inheritance explicit.Do you have any idea what that highlighted chain of words means? To cite one example, did Abraham Lincoln "make his way to high office through the passive power of whiteness—that bloody heirloom which cannot ensure mastery of all events but can conjure a tailwind for most of them?"
More to the point, do you have any real idea what such claims might mean?
Would they mean that Lincoln couldn't have reached the White House if he'd been a woman, or if he'd been socially defined as black? Each statement is true, of course, but each can also be easily stated in a clear distinct way.
Instead, Coates resorts to a chain of words which conveys a vast great powerful sense of grievance and, truth to tell, little else. In our increasingly pitiful tribe, we defer to such silly plays.
It's hard to force oneself through the big bag of air which is the current version of Coates. Our culture runs on celebrification, and celebrity tends to destroy the mind. Coates was reinvented as a celebrity in the aftermath of his book, Between the World and Me, which started with a lengthy, sobbing story about the way he was mistreated on one of the Sunday shows in November 2014.
Out in the actual world, the program in question was Face the Nation. Coates didn't name the program in his book, perhaps to lessen the likelihood that anyone would bother to fact-check his ridiculous claims about the way he was treated.
On a factual basis, Coates' account of what happened on the TV show was baldly, blatantly false. In his book, there followed a very sad tale, in which he hurls himself, sobbing, through the streets of New York, so upset is the great bag of air about the (nonexistent) way he claimed to have been mistreated.
This blatant deception was the way he chose to start a book he dedicated and addressed to his teenage son. Rather than marvel at the oddness of this behavior, our liberal world bowed and scraped and hurried off to offer him many prizes.
Earlier, Coates had written that the not guilty verdict for George Zimmerman had been legally appropriate. He had noted, in some detail, that Trayvon Martin could easily have killed Zimmerman in the incident which ended with Martin's killing.
These assessments were offered for all to see, perhaps at a time when Coates didn't realize that claims like these would be treated as poison within our pitiful tribe. (He had just returned from Paris.) Apparently as a result, he rather quickly reversed himself on the matters of hand, failing to offer any explanation for his rather dramatic flip.
Celebrity tends to harm or destroy those on whom it's bestowed. Today, it's hard to read work by Coates because you'll quickly encounter passages like this, from his current third paragraph:
COATES: It is often said that Trump has no real ideology, which is not true—his ideology is white supremacy, in all its truculent and sanctimonious power. Trump inaugurated his campaign by casting himself as the defender of white maidenhood against Mexican “rapists,” only to be later alleged by multiple accusers, and by his own proud words, to be a sexual violator himself. White supremacy has always had a perverse sexual tint. Trump’s rise was shepherded by Steve Bannon, a man who mocks his white male critics as “cucks.” The word, derived from cuckold, is specifically meant to debase by fear and fantasy—the target is so weak that he would submit to the humiliation of having his white wife lie with black men. That the slur cuck casts white men as victims aligns with the dicta of whiteness, which seek to alchemize one’s profligate sins into virtue. So it was with Virginia slaveholders claiming that Britain sought to make slaves of them. So it was with marauding Klansmen organized against alleged rapes and other outrages. So it was with a candidate who called for a foreign power to hack his opponent’s email and who now, as president, is claiming to be the victim of “the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history.”The word "cuck" is indeed derived from "cuckold." Does anyone know why we're being told that, as used by Bannon, it means that the so-called cuckold's wife would get it on with someone who is black?
Our team is pitiful, pathetic, faux. We're becoming more so every day.
Tomorrow, we'll return to the recent works of our fiery assistant, associate, adjunct and even full professors. Our team is increasingly bigly sad. Sadly, others can see this.