My Reaction to Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “My President Was Black” In January/February 2017 Issue Of The Atlantic

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Ta-Nehisi Coates does an outstanding job here as a post-Black Nationalist foil to President Obama, explaining the latter’s lifelong attempt to become Captain America.  He really does a good job undressing the first Black President as a Black man who, because he grew up in Hawaii and Indonesia and completely loved and trusted his white family, he had the attitude/worldview that allowed White America to, in turn, completely trust him with the keys. (Coates correctly points out that Obama was in younger days an activist, not a protester; that says a lot when you think about it.) In many ways, I think that this is Coates’ breakthrough article, because now he can stop being an embedded journalist to Black Star Power. So enough of this I’m-trying-to-figure-all-this-stuff-out-without-offending-you-good-white-intellectuals role he has played to his loving white audience. Clearly, he has enough power, savings and fame by now. 🙂 Under President Trump’s naked, White Nationalist oppression, I hope Coates, a very talented writer who has played the game well, will now directly say what he really feels about white Americans, and White America, to a white readership who, interestingly enough, now trusts him enough that they will be ready to hear him. (I hope the lesson that will not be learned from all this is that white trust is essential for Black success and power, but that ship has probably already sale-d.) Coates will hopefully now tell truths undiluted by “dreams” (his or anyone else’s), or “Dreamers,” his annoyingly euphemistic name for whites in “Between The World and Me,” his award-winning update of James Baldwin’s “The Fire Next Time.”  Well, that next time came about three weeks ago. It’s woke-ness for everybody. Time to share the pain. Time to stop dancing what my friend, the writer Ericka Blount Danois, calls “the soft shoe.” Or, as Baldwin himself says in “Blues For Mr. Charlie,” his play inspired by the lynching of Emmett Till:

Richard: You still determined to break your neck.

Juanita: Well, it’s a neck-breaking time. I wouldn’t like to appear to be above the battle.

 

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Mini-Book Review: For Coretta Scott King, A Time To Break Silence

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My Life, My Love, My Legacy.
Coretta Scott King, as told to the Rev. Dr. Barbara Reynolds.
Henry Holt and Company.
368 pp., $30.

The first First Lady of Black America has a lot to say, particularly since her first memoir, from 1969, was revised, not updated, about 25 years ago. Veteran Black journalist Barbara Reynolds, no stranger to chronicling the Civil Rights Movement, lets Coretta, who died in 2006, be Coretta, and the widow decided that meant turning her life into a Christian fable, a generation-filled testimony of faith and courage. The first half of the book re-hashes her time with MLK, but it’s the second half that awakens the reader from a black-and-white documentary slumber. That second act is where King details her struggles to create the Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, and makes sure to, in a gentle Christian fashion, settle old scores against her husband’s former comrades-in-arms.  So Jesse Jackson, Ralph Abernathy, Hosea Williams and, later, the Black American apartheid activist Randall Robinson, are briefly portrayed as Black men who attempted to deny King the Black leadership mantle she said she inherited from God and Martin. King wanted this book to make clear to history that she was an important part of a dangerous movement for Black liberation (“We forged a rough and blood-drenched road, but Martin never looked for easy victories”). She convinces the reader that she was a well-respected national and international human rights leader in her own right–a Blackish heir to Eleanor Roosevelt, who was dubbed “The First Lady of the World,” and, to a lesser extent, singer-activist Paul Robeson. (Her story is sometimes candid, but other times exactly that, a story: for example, ignoring reams of documented history to the contrary, she claims her husband never cheated on her.) As Black America moves to permanently claim a younger, hipper, actual First Lady, it might be important to remember when thinking about both women that maintaining a public display of dignity–something they both mastered–was not enough; that it was direct, dangerous action against the forces of war, capitalism and white supremacy, accepting a life of risk that Coretta knew all too well, that made real, lasting history.