Ta-Nehisi Coates has been killing it over at The Atlantic. It’s a public debate with New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait, but Chait’s voice is receding in the face of the truths that Coates is telling.
I won’t summarize, because the pieces should be read in full. Coates is a beautiful and powerful writer. I am left with an image of the wealthy white libertarian, boot planted firmly on the neck of the poverty-stricken black fast food worker or Walmart stocker, yelling that his misery is his own damn fault and to get up off the ground and make something of himself. And not moving from that position (or silencing the yelling) for approximately 500 years.
It saddens me that a movie like 12 Years a Slave had to come out of England – because in the US we cannot bring ourselves to talk about it. It saddens me that there are still statues to people like John C. Calhoun, the father of “You’re not the boss of me” politics that masquerade not just racism but the lie of white supremacy. It saddens me that after centuries of slavery, killing, redlining, homelessness, and mass incarceration, that anyone is equivocating on the rear view perspective that this country was founded on the vision of white supremacy.
It was not a question of “oh, black people and their civil rights just didn’t occur to anyone at the time.” Each and every step of this brutality has been intentional. Perhaps not planned, but definitely intentional.
It’s not a coincidence.