A writer will write what is important to him or her – nothing more. Ta-Nehisi Paul Coates, author of Between the World and Me and A Case for Reparations strikes again in his new piece for the Atlantic, My President Was Black. Without pause or excuse, the essay is about race in America and how President Obama has handled the topic the past eight years. The weight of Coates career as a writer is truth minus solutionism (a term Coates uses frequently).
I first heard of Coates in the pages of the Atlantic. His piece, A Case for Reparationsgarnered so much online attention I had to check it out. The piece is honest, methodical, and tells a story of how redistricting, redlining and policies limited the upward mobility of African-Americans throughout the United States. After listening to all four of Coate’s interviews on the Longform Podcast, I have learned that nothing is more important to Coates then the story. His essays get to the heart of the matter by getting to the heart – his compositions are about the lives of real people who have experienced the things he is interested in discussing. Unlike me as a writer, he does not romanticize the idea of writing by trying to dress it up and send it on a first date. He sticks to the story, the parts that matter, only to tell the truth in a world that is slowly losing its grip on reality.
Between the World and Me is genius and heartfelt. A book for anyone that enjoys a good story told from a place of self-actualization and reflection. He writes to his son in such a way that you become envious of the insight. If you are not a person of color, you gain a front row seat to live an experience detached from your own. If you are a person of color, then you know all too well the story told in the book’s pages because you have lived it or know someone who has. If you are looking for solutions, you will not find them in Coates’s work. He argues this point obsessively. In life, there are not answers for every question we seek but seeking the fun part. It is the substance of the story.
My President Was Black is Coate’s latest piece for the Atlantic. The 16,764-word piece is a look back at Obama’s presidency. Obama and Coates have an indescribable relationship. Coates has criticized Obama for his rhetoric to the black community on “taking responsibility” and “not blaming white people for all your problems.” The President, in my opinion, having appeared to read the Case For Reparations failed to mention laws and programs that have kept black people behind – but Coate’s described the President as an “innate optimist.” I believe Obama leans towards the Tony Robbins – T.D. Jakes philosophy, reminding us that we are not our circumstance, and all that mind over matter stuff. I cannot say I disagree. I tend to subscribe to this was of thinking.
The piece by Coates is another mind-bender, bringing together so much information on what President Obama has had to endure as the first black president of the United States of America. Coates refers to Whites in one section of the piece as ‘badge holders’ and goes on to state, “for eight long years, the badge-holders watched him” and that they “wanted their country back.” The writing of Ta-Nehisi Coates is poignant, explicit, and controversial. He offers an alternative dialogue that can be built on over the next four years.