I’d forgotten that the Atlantic’s professional Aggrieved Black Man Ta-Nehisi Coates varied his production of complaints that White America ruined his life and demands for reparations for Antebellum Slavery with dabbling in writing comic books.
I’d even forgotten that it was none other than TNC who is responsible for Marvel’s current Black Panther comics and the recent movie offering Afrocentric ego-flattering on a scale that makes the claims in Black Athena (Black Africans built the pyramids and created Western Civilization) sound like moderation. Well, TNC is marching on. In the Black Panther number reviewed here, Wakanda’s got an Intergalactic Empire.
In Ta-Nehisi Coates’ improved version of the world, a Sub-Saharan African society, uncolonized and uninfluenced by European contact, is not living in the Stone Age, but has surpassed Europe and America in technology and moved on to the stars. Traditional American racial animosity indulged in unflattering stereotypes of African-Americans often focusing on a supposed penchant for hubris and overwheening arrogance. I find it impossible to look at Black Panther in the TNC redaction without being reminded of that stereotype.
It is not enough, however, for young minds to be filled with visions of Sub-Saharan African superiority and super achievement. There is also what seems to be a parable of some kind titled: “My Boyfriend is a Bear”.
Dating is hard. It just sort of happens in college, and as you traverse your 20s, you evolve into a deflated husk barely coping with the trappings of adulthood. Itâ€™s a tiresome montage and Pamela Ribonâ€™s debut novel dissects how those routines tend to push us to find love in unlikely places. As much as MBIAB is about 28-year-old Nora dating a literal 500-pound American black bear, it goes to lengths to discuss the ups and downs of relationships and the honesty and intimacy that accompanies each side. With Cat Farrisâ€™ expressive art style, it taps into various tinier moments — involving Farmerâ€™s Markets, mating season, and how “itâ€™s so much fun” that bears are open to watching anything on TV — and it never weirds itself out. Instead, it uses each unpredictable frame to help connect you to one of the greatest love stories ever told.
J.T. Zealy, Renty, A Congolese slave on plantation of B.F. Taylor, Columbia, S.C., Daguerrotype photograph taken for Louis Agassiz’s study on Polygenism, March 1850.
Harvard Magazine reports that Harvard recently invited professional race-baiter Ta-Nehisi Coates to deliver the keynote address at a day-long liberal guiltfest over the century-and-a-half extinct institution which (regrettably) brought Coates’ ancestors to American shores.
The above 19th century daguerrotype served as poster-image for the conference because the wicked and nefarious naturalist Louis Agassiz, while working at Harvard, had caused that image to be captured for use in his studies of taxonomy and human etiology. That racist bastard Agassiz working in the first half of the 19th century (Can you imagine?) actually took the differences in skin color and physiognomy exhibited in this image as evidence supporting a significant taxonomic distinction between Sub-Saharan Africans and Europeans.
The audience of Harvards trembled guiltily on their seats as Ta-Nehisi Coates demanded reparations, telling his open-mouthed listeners that “We talk about enslavement as if it were a bump in the road. And I tell people: itâ€™s the road. Itâ€™s the actual road.â€
Daniel Coquillette, Harvard Law Schoolâ€™s Warren visiting professor of American legal history, and the author of the 2015 book, On the Battlefield of Merit: Harvard Law School, the First Century, gave an account of Isaac Royall, whose bequest led to the 1817 founding of the law school and whose newly revealed slave legacy roiled the campus last year with intense protest and controversy. A West Indian planter and strikingly cruel man, Royall owned a sugar plantation on the island of Antigua during the eighteenth century. Sending gasps through the audience, Coquillette described how Royall brutally suppressed a major slave revolt there in 1736. More than 350 slaves had mobilized, but â€œat the last moment,â€ Coquillette said, they were betrayed. After it was over, 77 slaves were burned at the stake, and six others were drawn and quartered. The leader of the uprising, a slave named â€œKingâ€ Court, was gibbeted alive.
Following student-led protests, organized under the name Royall Must Fall, the law school decided last spring to change its shield, which was based on the Royall family crest. At the same time, professor Janet Halley, who is the schoolâ€™s Royall professorâ€”one of the countryâ€™s oldest named chairsâ€”began taking first-year law students on tours of the slave quarters at Royallâ€™s home in Medford, as a way of engaging the Universityâ€™s heritage.
Ta-Nehisi Coates sports one of those preposterous made-up African personal names, which is, I suppose, a vital fashion accessory for a fellow who makes his living as a professional angry black man.
TNC (as other writers often refer to him) is a college drop-out who (for some completely mysterious reason, what could it possibly be?) has managed consistently to fail upward. Starting in 2000, over a period of seven years, TNC was hired and then quickly fired by the Philadelphia Weekly, The Village Voice, and Time magazine in succession. Naturally, with a resume like that, the Atlantic was quick to hire him as national correspondent and senior editor.
At the Atlantic, TNC has a comfortable gig. When he doesn’t feel like turning in any copy, he simply posts a sign reading: “The Lost Batallion,” and that’s cool with his employers. They keep TNC on, despite his tendency to punt, because when he does write an article, he produces 200-proof, double-distilled racialist venom. Back in May, TNC argued for reparations to be paid to gentlemen of color like himself to compensate for “395 years of preferential treatment for white people” and an “early American economy built on slave labor.”
More recently, TNC has been off at Middlebury in Vermont studying French. His French lessons, you might suppose would be racially irrelevant, but you’d be wrong.
TNC, you see, finds learning French hard, and that is your fault, whitey!
There were years when I failed the majority of my classes. This was not a matter of my being better suited for the liberal arts than sciences. I was an English minor in college. I failed American Literature, British Literature, Humanities, and (voilÃ ) French. The record of failure did not end until I quit college to become a writer. My explanation for this record is unsatisfactory: I simply never saw the point of school. I loved the long process of understanding. In school, I often felt like I was doing something else.
Like many black children in this country, I did not have a culture of scholastic high achievement around me. There were very few adults around me whoâ€™d been great students and were subsequently rewarded for their studiousness. The phrase â€œIvy Leagueâ€ was an empty abstraction to me. I mostly thought of school as a place one goes so as not to be eventually killed, drugged, or jailed. These observations cannot be disconnected from the country I call home, nor from the government to which I swear fealty.
For most of American history, it has been national policy to plunder the capital accumulated by black peopleâ€”social or otherwise. It began with the prohibition against reading, proceeded to separate and wholly unequal schools, and continues to this very day in our tacit acceptance of segregation. When building capital, it helps to know the right people. One aim of American policy, historically, has been to insure that the â€œright peopleâ€ are rarely black. Segregation then ensures that these rare exceptions are spread thin, and that the rest of us have no access to other â€œright people.â€
And so a white family born into the lower middle class can expect to live around a critical mass of people who are more affluent or worldly and thus see other things, be exposed to other practices and other cultures. A black family with a middle class salary can expect to live around a critical mass of poor people, and mostly see the same things they (and the poor people around them) are working hard to escape. This too compounds.
Rod Dreher read the same TNC article, and he, too, was a bit ticked off by TNC’s revolutionary racialist BS.
TNC goes on to draw some sort of black nationalist lesson from his summer at French camp, culminating in this line: â€œSometimes you do need the masterâ€™s tools to dismantle his house.â€ OK. Whatever. Reparations scholarships to Middlebury for all!
I snark, but honestly, the idea that the enormous privilege of spending a summer studying a foreign language at a verdant Vermont college should conclude with a resolution to become even more of a militant race man is depressing. Exactly whose house will TNC be burning down as a result of the tools he acquired this summer at Middlebury? FranÃ§ois Hollandeâ€™s? I donâ€™t get it. I seriously donâ€™t. Seems to me that learning French as a middle-aged American can only do one worthwhile thing: make you more of a humanist. TNC thinks it has done that for him, I guess. Recalling his past self, he writes:
I saw no reason to learn French because it was the language of the plunderers of Haiti.
I had to be a nationalist before I could be a humanist.
What does that mean? That he had to learn to love his people before he could love all the world? I guess I understand that, but if a rural white Southerner had the same thought, what would TNC think of him? I know good and well what the overclass that TNC spent his summer with would think of that Southern kid.
Anyway, it seems that TNC is, in fact, learning French because it was the language of the plunderers of Haiti. I donâ€™t know how else to read his conclusion, referencing Audre Lordeâ€™s line, that the meaning of his summer spent immersed in the language of Baudelaire, Racine, and Rimbaud is to be found in how it empowers him to resist white supremacy. That does not sound like power to me. That sounds like impoverishment.
He is part of the Establishment now. He writes for a well-respected national magazine, about things he enjoys. He takes summers to go to language camp to learn French. Thatâ€™s great! Why is he such a sore winner?
TNC is a sore winner, of course, because that is actually his profession. TNC is a professional angry black man, employed by the elite editorial board of the Atlantic, sitting atop the heights of establishment American culture, to be a kind of in-house Caliban, to rant, to rage, to emote and accuse America generally in order to solidify and confirm that Atlantic editorial board’s claim to top-people-ship. If TNC were reasonable and rational, he might actually have to find a real job and meet editorial deadlines.
Coatesâ€™ piece is very long: 15,768 words. Thatâ€™s longer than the Book of Proverbs. I read at about 300 words a minute, so Iâ€™d have to commit almost an hour of my life to reading the wretched thing.
For another, itâ€™s about a topic I have no interest in: American blackness.
Itâ€™s just that Iâ€™m not interested in blacks in the generality, and find their endless complaining tiresome. I donâ€™t have to listen to itâ€”you canâ€™t make meâ€”so I prefer not to. …
So far as I can tell from scanning his columns, all he writes about is blackness. Does even he find it that interesting? Obviously, yes.
Thereâ€™s a narrowness, a poverty of imagination there. I count myself fairly limited in my interestsâ€”I know nothing about sport, or art, or TV, or celebritiesâ€”but in the past three months Iâ€™ve found something to say about consciousness, biohistory, literature, General Relativity, opera, science, Ireland, China, humanitarianism, eugenics, child-raising, Liverpool, Asian-Americans, psychology, poetry, Puerto Rico, global warming, genomics, robotics, and Intelligent Design. Meanwhile Coates has been droning on about blackety-blackety-blackness.
(I always assume that any black person in a well-paid position is an Affirmative Action hire. I shall cease assuming this, at least so far as new hires are concerned, when Griggs v. Duke Power is overturned and the stupid and odious doctrine of â€œdisparate impactâ€ is declared by the Supreme Court to be impermissible in legal arguments.)
Way I look at it, if God had meant me to squander my precious hours reading 15,000-word articles written by Affirmative Action mediocrities on topics of zero interest to me, He wouldnâ€™t have given me the Ctrl-F key.
So no, I havenâ€™t read all through the thing. Okay?
Derbyshire correctly identifies what Mr. Coates is really after.
What they really want is for everyone else to find blackness as infinitely fascinating as they themselves find it. This is clearer in the interview Coates gave to Bill Moyers, which comes with a full transcript. From which:
I think, one of the things is that we talk about race a lot, we do. So I think itâ€™s wrong to say we donâ€™t have conversations. No, we actually talk about it quite a bit. I donâ€™t think we talk about it in depth as much as we should. And I think part of the problem is when you start talking about it in depth, when you start getting to a level where you say, listen, everything we are, everything we have is built on past sins.
The dream of the Eric Holders and Ta-Nehisi Coateses is for us all to talk about race 24-7â€”although of course only in a vocabulary approved by them: acknowledging collective white guilt and sympathizing with the sufferings of blacks.
Personally, Iâ€™d rather pay the reparations, if I thought it would shut them up. It wouldnâ€™t, of course.
Now that Gay Marriage, on the basis of a series of fabricated popular opinion polls and even-more-shamelessly-fabricated judicial opinions, seems to be firmly established as a feature of American life, the Establishment media is competing to pick the next great liberal cause. Time Magazine plumped for Transgender Rights. The Atlantic, more conservatively, just allowed its house affirmative action senior editor to publish an interminable screed demanding reparations.
That editor, a fellow named Coates who affects the silly and pretentious Afro praenomen Ta-Nehisi, makes an essentially preposterous claim. His contention is that we all owe him money because the entire American economy and Capitalist System as we know is built upon the unremunerated contributions of black slaves prior to 1865.
There are a number of obvious problems with this theory. According to historian Eugene Genovese, the most authoritative student of the subject, during the Antebellum period, black slaves typically received a significantly larger share of the product of their production than did free laborers in the North.
Additionally, the economic contribution of black slaves was regional, overwhelmingly restricted to the agricultural and non-industrial South. Industrial America and modern American capitalism developed in the far more urban and populous North. The wealth of the South was ultimately sunk in the struggle for Southern Independence, and its economic assets, its modest industries, and its large agricultural economy was destroyed in the war. After the Civil War, the Southern states sank into provincial poverty and economic backwardness for most of a century.
If the South owed Black America anything, in 1865 it was bankrupt and in no position to pay. Congress, moreover, specifically repudiated all the debts of the late Confederacy.
The Northern States extinguished Slavery at the cost of more than 700,000 American lives, the equivalent of two and half percent of the entire population of the country, four years of war, and the expenditure of what would undoubtedly be trillions of today’s dollars in wealth. The entire record of history fails to disclose any equivalent example of so enormous an effort and so enormous a sacrifice of blood and treasure by any society for the benefit of another people. The absolutely incredible cost of the Civil War would be taken by any fair-minded person to wipe the slate clean for the entire nation, North and South.
Finally, of course, there is to be considered the obvious enormous distance of time, and the tremendous changes in American society and its population which have occurred in that century and a half since 1865. Few people living today actually even know the names of their ancestors who were living in 1865, let alone their circumstances.
For Mr. Coates to claim that America owes him, and others of his kind, for potential underpayments of wages to some great great grandfather is just ridiculous. Nor does his endless series of sob stories about bad real estate deals and segregation impress me very much.
I don’t think I owe Mr. Coates, or the rest of Black America, a damn thing. No members of my family ever set foot in this country before the mid-1890s, a full generation after slavery was extinguished. My Lithuanian ancestors settled in the Anthracite mining region of Northeastern Pennsylvania, where they enjoyed the distinctly white European privileges of digging coal, getting killed in cave-ins or gas explosions, and dying unusually young of Anthrosilicosis.
They probably would have discriminated against Mr. Coates’ ancestors, given the chance, but happily they were spared the moral burden of Black Segregation because there simply weren’t any blacks at all living in their part of the country.
Segregation would have seemed the natural order of things to my relatives, who self-segregated themselves by settling in Lithuanian communities, living in Lithuanian neighborhoods, building and attending Lithuanian churches and schools, shopping at Lithuanian butcher shops, and drinking in Lithuanian saloons.
We owned no slaves, oppressed no Negroes, denied them no public accommodations, and had nothing to do with them whatsoever. My family additionally, in generations gone by, enjoyed no particular white privileges denied to Mr. Coates’ family. I was the first member of my family to attend an elite college. My father had to leave school after the 8th grade and go to work. His father was dying of miner’s asthma and the family needed the money. My grandparents bought a house in Mahanoy City early in the 1920s. They paid it off in three years, having no more access to federal mortgage financing than Mr. Coates’ family and their peers.
But, I’m willing to be generous. I don’t believe I, or any other Americans, owe Mr. Coates anything, but let us bend over backwards to quiet his complaints and make him whole.
I agree with the philosophy expressed by Rupert Birkin, speaking for D.H. Lawrence in Women in Love:
The minute you begin to compare, one man is seen to be far better than another, all the inequality you can imagine is there by nature. I want every man to have his share in the world’s goods, so I can be rid of his importunity, so that I can tell him: “Now you’ve got what you want — you’ve got your fair share of the world’s gear. Now, you foul-mouthed fool, mind yourself and don’t obstruct me.
And what would appropriate reparation for Mr. Coates consist of?
Clearly, we need to remove all the burdens and oppressions heaped upon his shoulders by evil America and wicked European Civilization. We ought to restore to him everything he has lost. We should give Mr. Coates a spear, and grass skirt, and along with them a one-way ticket back to Africa. As part of the deal, of course, we’ll have to take away his shoes, his trousers, his personal computer, and his position as senior editor at The Atlantic. Good luck in Africa, Mr. Coates! Say hello to that panther there for me.
Christophe Fratin, Panther and Cubs Attacking an African Native, 1834, The Peabody Art Collection, Baltimore.