I would like to continue with our earlier conversation.
Andrew Sullivan shared some of his readers' comments on Ta-Nehisi Coates' public debate with Jonathan Chait and how some readers feel that Coates is increasingly "depressed" or "negative".
Coates is always lethal. He deploys his liquid sword of writing dexterity and demolishes those who either choose to not truly grapple with his writing or presume to know the "real" him through his intellectual performance online:
I think it's hard for people who know you for your work, to grasp that they don't actually know you. And it's hard for people to get that if they refer to you as an acronym, they probably have never referred to "you" at all. And none of my friends are anonymous. The work gets dark and people think I must be dark. But they don't know and they can't see what's right in front of them--I was born dark.To presume to speak for the inner mind of Ta-Nehisi Coates is an act of hubris and arrogance. I will instead make an observation, one based on my appreciation of his work, and how in some ways he is a fellow traveler of sorts.
Coates is fascinated by white supremacy because it is one of the dominant social forces in modern world history. White supremacy is not the only topic which interests him intellectually. But, as a curious person who is interested in truth-telling, to overlook such a powerful force is to engage in an act of lying to oneself, as well as those others who choose to fully participate in the online salon he has curated over at The Atlantic.
As I have discovered in the reactions to my own work, the phrase "white supremacy" is very frightening, upsetting, and enraging to many white folks. The irony is of course that both historically and in the present, it is people of color who--as a function of realpolitik and self-preservation--should be the most upset and enraged by white supremacy. In all, post racial America is beset by many paradoxes and distortions of reality: myths such as "reverse racism" and how white people are "victims" of "racism" are a reflection of a larger social problem.
I would suggest that the idea of "white supremacy" is upsetting to many white people because it forces them to confront that both metaphorically and literally their hands may not be clean of the stains and blood that birthed and perpetuates a system of systemic white racial privilege and advantage in the United States and the West.
It is easy for a KKK member's white robes to show dirt as they are soiled from a cross burning; it is far more difficult for good, rank and file, decent white folks to acknowledge that their finery, and even more modest day-to-day clothing, are also stained by white racism.
Unfortunately, there are also people of color--especially those born after the civil rights era--who are upset by the phrase "white supremacy" because its plain statement about how their life chances are still heavily influenced in a negative way by racism terrifies them. It upsets the lie of unlimited personal self-fulfillment which they and their peers have been fed by parents, schools, and advertising agencies.
I would like to make a detour back to the Coates-Chait dialogue/fracas. It began as a response to Paul Ryan's suggestion that black people are pathological and have "bad culture". This is a lie. It is a tired talking point of a White identity organization known as the Republican Party, and its political crack rock the Southern Strategy.
Smart and serious people have peeled and exposed Ryan's foolishness like an onion before throwing it in the refuse bin; his followers on the Right will of course pick through the garbage and take out the rotted onion and continue to eat from it.
The language of "black pathology" masks a simple assumption.
The type of white supremacy deployed by Paul Ryan and his allies on the Right is based on a union of racism and classism which presupposes that being poor and black is fun. When Bill O'Reilly talks about how "poor" black people "can't read and speak and they have tattoos on their neck and can't compete in the marketplace. And that's what's going on", he furthers this fantastic notion that the black and brown poor are some type of idle leisure class.
Fox News features "research" about the spoiled and resplendent lives of "poor people" with their "luxury" items such as refrigerators and televisions. Empirical reality has been beaten into a state of surrender in the Right-wing echo chamber by its propaganda machine. Poor people yearn to work. America is beset by structural unemployment. Most recipients of food stamps and other types of public assistance are in fact employed, many of them at multiple jobs. In fact, it is the rich and the super-rich who are idle, parasitic, unethical, sociopathic, and whose corporations and institutions engage in rent-seeking and other exploitative behavior that hurts the American economy and is destroying the middle and working classes.
Paul Ryan and his ilk's lies about the "black poor", "inner city people", or "black pathology" are acts of race baiting designed to gin up white racial resentment while simultaneously legitimizing the pity party, white victimhood of millionaires and billionaires who actually believe that they are suffering in America, and how the poor should be envied.
Those white conservatives who sermonize about the lives of the black and brown poor are projecting their fantasies and fictions on to the lives of others. Their gaze is distorted and sick. But then again, the intention of Paul Ryan and other Right-wing poverty pimps--and those who shill for the "black pathology" meme--was never to see clearly or engage in a truth-seeking project. No. Racism and classism are intertwined. White conservatives are more interested in validating their own superiority over "those people" in an act of racial narcissism and white supremacist dreaming.