Obama’s Racial Counter-Revolution and the Disappointment of Ta-Nehisi Coates
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Obama’s Racial Counter-Revolution & the Disappointment of Ta-Nehisi Coates
by PAUL STREET ** Jan. 11, 2017 ** Counterpunch
I had, to be sure, many concerns, about the Obama phenomenon, which dates from the future president’s remarkably right-wing and nationalistic Keynote Address to the Democratic National Convention in the summer of 2004 Like other left writers and activists, I was troubled by his “vacuous to repressive neoliberal politics” (Adolph Reed Jr. on Obama in January of 1996), his related CFR-informed imperialism (hidden beneath his carefully crafted “antiwar” branding), and his underlying post-racial accommodations of white racism (more on that below). I was also uneasy about the great renewed opportunity an Obama presidency would give white America to congratulate itself yet again on its supposed transcendence of racism and to argue that racism no longer posed serious obstacles to Black advancement and Black equality. Related to that, I was concerned that Obama’s ascendancy to the White House would reinforce the nation’s prevalent superficial understanding of racism as being all about subjective personal prejudice and outward bigotry instead of being more fundamentally about how the nation’s dominant daily institutions – the labor market, the credit system, the housing market, the criminal justice system, the schools, and more – function to perpetuate Black disadvantage and inequality. I worried that Obama’s symbolically “revolutionary” election would help cloak societal and institutional racism, deeply understood, rendering it even more invisible than before.
Those fears have been born out. Again, and again during the Obama years, I have heard whites articulate sentiments pretty much exactly along the lines I had worried about during the Age of Obama. “See? Don’t talk to us about racism anymore. The president is Black for crying out loud!” …
What’s the deal with the liberal Black novelist, political commentator, and occasional Barack Obama courtier Ta-Nahesi Coates? Look at this passage from an interview he did three weeks ago, with the white Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) member and “Public” Broadcasting System “NewsHour” host Judy Woodruff:
Judy Woodruff, CFR and PBS: “One of the things you write [in The Atlantic – P.S.] is that — it has to do with the election of Donald Trump being the price that has to be paid for having Barack Obama as president. What did you mean by that?”
Ta-Nahesi Coates, The Atlantic: “Well, I meant that if having an African-American president was as revolutionary as we claim it was, that there’d probably be some sort of backlash or some sort of counter…a great deal of Barack Obama’s power is symbolic and is in the symbolism in what it communicates to African-Americans. … [the existence of a Black president] communicated great… power to African-Americans…. But that also communicate[d] things to other people also, who may not necessarily be so happy about that kind of progress, you know, who have all sorts of feelings wrapped up in that, and so I think a lot of that culminated in the election of president-elect [Trump].”OCMI, NuttyFluffers, Downwinder like this
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