Ta-Nehisi Coates is a Faker

Ta-Nehisi Coates is one of those guy people like talking about, but seldom ever engage with his arguments. Beautiful people will name drop him in conversation, for example, without mentioning what it is they like about him. Progressive writers will reference him in their writing, but never actually talk about his writing. In a way, he is like the Atlantic Magazine, his current employer. Like the magazine, his value is symbolic.

Eve n accounting for the magical black guy stuff, Coates is a rather callow person.  His style is mostly conventional black whining about whitey with a heavy dose of references intended to imply erudition. He likes to mention how he can order food in French (and how the always white waiter is shocked to see a black speak such great French!), but there’s never a reason for  mentioning in his posts.

Similarly, he drops references to writers the reader is expected to think he has read, but he never actually writes anything that says he learned anything but the book title. It is the type of name dropping you get from college sophomores. He’s a weird combination of magical black guy and ridiculous dilettante. His magical status means he does not have to work to hard at being a convincing phony. This post is a good example.

If you haven’t yet, it’s work checking out Barack Obama’s address before the National Action Network, last week. I think it’s one of the most significant and morally grounded speeches of his presidency. I think we will eventually regard this current effort to suppress the vote through voter-ID laws, ending early voting, restricting voting hours, etc., in the same way we regard literacy tests and poll taxes. (It’s worth recalling this piece for the magazine by Mariah Blake which helps historicize voter suppression.)

There are two assertions here. One is that this speech, that has been ignored by everyone, is his most significant as president. That’s not a very high bar for a president who has exactly zero memorable speeches according to his fans. Ask yourself, when was the last time you heard anyone quote an Obama speech? When have you heard anyone talk about one of his speeches a month after it was given?

As far as “morally grounded” is concerned, that’s simply emotive gibberish the Left uses to signal. The signal in this issue is not debatable. The people pushing voting reform are evil and those opposed are good. There can be no compromise. The fact that Coates misses this entirely suggests he is not the thinking man he would like us to believe, but instead is just decorating his word salad with emotive language.

The second claim is that cleaning up voter fraud, a well documented problem in every state, is voter suppression. He is correct in so far as requiring positive identification suppresses the dead vote and other methods for stuffing the ballot box. Otherwise, comparing these measures to Democratic efforts to keep blacks from voting is the sort of thing very stupid people repeat because they heard a flak on TV say it.

I believe in judging Barack Obama’s rhetoric and policies not as though he were the president of black America, but of the United States of America. On that count his speech soared. There aren’t many topics more important than the security of our democracy. The president did not attack that topic gingerly, but forcefully, directly and without hedge.
This is an obvious lie. No white person has ever used the phrase “president of black America.” This is, as they say, a black thing. It is not unreasonable or evil. Given our history, blacks would be reasonable to think their guy was in the White House and he would focus on their specific issues. Eric Holder has made that point on many occasions. Coates is simply making up stuff his audience is ready to accept.
What is puzzling about Coates is a bitterness. Coates has a really good thing going on that could not happen anywhere but a white country. Instead of being grateful, he is angry and resentful. Even crazier is this ungratefulness is exactly what his white audience wants from their house negro. Maybe that is why he is bitter, but most likely it is just an act that pays well for doing very little.

2 thoughts on “Ta-Nehisi Coates is a Faker

  1. The sociologist Digby Baltzell once offered Grace Kelly as an example of white ethnic achievement. R.S. McCain has offered that at The Atlantic, ‘diversity’ has meant adding Megan McArdle to the line-up. You see, she attended Penn and the University of Chicago rather than Harvard.

    Then you have Ta-Nehisi Coates, who’s a college dropout. Nothing wrong with that, but it must occur to him sometime that his position there requires a dispensation from the usual hiring rules in effect. I suspect some of what you read is an effort on his part to process that.

    Sorry to be repetitive on this point, but the man grew up in the Baltimore slums. I was living in Baltimore at the time. Not a pleasant place in many respects, even in the agreeable neighborhoods (though I remain fond of it). The thing is, actually acknowledging what the problems are in Baltimore would fry TNC’s circuits (as it does Baltimore’s political class). Some of this verbiage is just rationalization.

    One other point: BO really is not ‘their guy’. BO’s connection to the black community is that he married into it. What Gov. Blagojevic said (“I’m blacker than Obama”) remains ever true. Eric Holder, a mulattish 2d generation American whose family is from Barbados, is certainly atypical within the black community as well (though he did grow up around American blacks, which BO did not).

    • I’ve had the same thoughts about Coates maybe struggling to square observable reality with what he would like to believe. Maybe he is smart enough to know he is not the smartest guy in the room, but he really wants to believe he is the smartest guys in the room. I must admit that it is this puzzle that fascinates me. Nothing that he writes is all that interesting but his place at the Atlantic has a turtle on a fence post feel to it.

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