The real problem in the West-Coates spat is Coates’s atheism

Ta-Nehisi Coates delves into the conflicted and hopeful state of black America today. What does "black culture" mean? What is the continuing role of both the older and younger generations in shaping it? Where will gentrification, education, and the splintering (or unifying) of families take it? With an easy-going manner, an unashamedly erudite approach, and a journalist's grasp of narrative and clarity, Coates delivers an ear-to-the-ground (and Eyes on the Prize) talk that asks the small personal questions as well as the big historic ones. Presented on January 21, 2015 by the Institute for Research on Women & Gender and the Women’s Studies Department, with cosponsorship from the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies, the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, and the Office of the Vice Provost for Equity, Inclusion, and Academic Affairs, the biennial Motorola Lecture features an outstanding journalist who routinely addresses issues concerning gender in his or her reporting. Photo credit: Sean Carter Photography Details: http://fordschool.umich.edu/events/2015/deeper-black-race-america CC BY-ND 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/), via Flickr
Ta-Nehisi Coates delves into the conflicted and hopeful state of black America today. What does “black culture” mean? What is the continuing role of both the older and younger generations in shaping it? Where will gentrification, education, and the splintering (or unifying) of families take it? With an easy-going manner, an unashamedly erudite approach, and a journalist’s grasp of narrative and clarity, Coates delivers an ear-to-the-ground (and Eyes on the Prize) talk that asks the small personal questions as well as the big historic ones.
Presented on January 21, 2015 by the Institute for Research on Women & Gender and the Women’s Studies Department, with cosponsorship from the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies, the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, and the Office of the Vice Provost for Equity, Inclusion, and Academic Affairs, the biennial Motorola Lecture features an outstanding journalist who routinely addresses issues concerning gender in his or her reporting.
Photo credit: Sean Carter Photography
Details: http://fordschool.umich.edu/events/2015/deeper-black-race-america
CC BY-ND 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/), via Flickr

In the online spat between Cornel West and Ta-Nehisi Coates, West is softening up and giving a page number now. This does not change two things, though:

1. West did not read more than the title We Were Eight Years in Power when he first commented on Coates and translated his beef with Obama to the book. He did not read the first page where Coates explains the quote where he got the ‘eight years’ and ‘good negro government.’ Now that he’s been caught with his exegetical pants down, he’s read more of the book – up to page 103. Good for him.

2. In reflecting on Obama, Coates is indeed a little too grateful. He is of course critical of Obama – see ‘Fear of a Black President‘ – but he does admit in his self-critique of his piece on Bill Cosby that he might skip over some things when writing about neoconservatives (of which Obama is one) because he’s nervous about the charisma. This is understandable, but West is right to say that Coates is no prophet. Coates himself says that he’s no prophet. In fact, as I was talking to a colleague about Coates’s ‘atheism’ (about which I have doubts, having read The Beautiful Struggle), the real question for Coates is: when are you going to get religion back?!!

Also, the whole thing with Richard Spencer dogpiling with West, along with feminists and leftists, is such a red herring, and Coates knows it. He also knows that West’s review in the Guardian was absolute crap because every single accusation he threw at Coates was factually wrong. Calling out West and the radical Left for cavorting with white supremacists might indeed be born of frustration, but the real problem really seems to be the atheism. Having abandoned his black nationalism with African folk religion, Coates doesn’t have much of a spiritual core from which he writes. Obama’s strategic political calculations about the black church are much the same way. West sees this malaise and calls him out. Spencer also sees this malaise, but it is as a mirror for his own empty existence.

The result? Coates leaves Twitter. Therefore, he will be more productive than he has ever been, without all the distractions that social media have afforded him. Let us pray that he finds his theological core.

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