Ta-Nehisi Coates and the broken culture of progressive America

Obama-era progressives view white supremacy as something awful that happened in the past whose historical vestiges still afflict black people today. Coates.

There is a tiny little fictional Obama who lives in the tiny little stale imaginations of progressive intellectuals - one that they don’t ever want to bother to compare with the flesh and blood man. This fictional Obama, surprise, is just like the right wing Obama in being weak, stupid, out of his depth. He is that “feeble” affirmative action hire that both Conservatives and Left Wing Intellectuals are sure somehow lucked into the White House:

" feebly urging "positive habits and behavior"

The Progressive Intellectuals are too smart, too educated, too intellectual to ever need to learn more about the actual Obama administration than what  Politico teaches them. Here Coates is not complaining about the record of the Obama administration: the resuscitation of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights division and the Labor Department from the wreckage left by G.W. Bush, the effects of the health care reform, the attack on discriminatory crack sentencing (which has freed thousands of people from prison), and many other things. He is not making a critique of actual policy - perhaps one that could demand more radical action or discuss the battle that the Administration is having with the Confederate Supreme Court. Instead Coates is whining about what the Imaginary Obama said.  What the actual Obama said is never discussed - for example to the NAACP in 2009:

The first thing we need to do is make real the words of the NAACP charter and eradicate prejudice, bigotry, and discrimination among citizens of the United States. (Applause.) I understand there may be a temptation among some to think that discrimination is no longer a problem in 2009. And I believe that overall, there probably has never been less discrimination in America than there is today. I think we can say that.

But make no mistake: The pain of discrimination is still felt in America. (Applause.) By African American women paid less for doing the same work as colleagues of a different color and a different gender. […]


But we also know that prejudice and discrimination — at least the most blatant types of prejudice and discrimination — are not even the steepest barriers to opportunity today. The most difficult barriers include structural inequalities that our nation’s legacy of discrimination has left behind; inequalities still plaguing too many communities and too often the object of national neglect.

These are barriers we are beginning to tear down one by one — by rewarding work with an expanded tax credit; by making housing more affordable; by giving ex-offenders a second chance. (Applause.) These are barriers we’re targeting through our White House Office on Urban Affairs, through programs like Promise Neighborhoods that builds on Geoffrey Canada’s success with the Harlem Children’s Zone — (applause) — that foster a comprehensive approach to ending poverty by putting all children on a pathway to college, and giving them the schooling and after-school support that they need to get there. (Applause.)

One could take issue with what the President proposed here, but to do that, you’d have to go beyond Politico and even beyond the libertarian bullshit of Harpers and the whiny pages of The Nation where all the progressive intellectuals who have never won a school board seat lecture the fictional stupid, inept weak black guy in the White House in the most condescending tone imaginable. You’d have to go look up transcripts for the speeches of the real President Obama - on the internet even. And then read them until the end.

To dismiss the magnitude of this progress — to suggest, as some sometimes do, that little has changed — that dishonors the courage and the sacrifice of those who paid the price to march in those years. Medgar Evers, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, Martin Luther King Jr. — they did not die in vain. Their victory was great.

But we would dishonor those heroes as well to suggest that the work of this nation is somehow complete. The arc of the moral universe may bend towards justice, but it doesn’t bend on its own. To secure the gains this country has made requires constant vigilance, not complacency. Whether by challenging those who erect new barriers to the vote, or ensuring that the scales of justice work equally for all, and the criminal justice system is not simply a pipeline from underfunded schools to overcrowded jails, it requires vigilance. 2013

Or maybe you could even go further and look up what the Justice Department and the Department of Labor have done. Maybe, probably, an actual left wing critic would find all of that work far from enough. That real progressive intellectual might even propose real changes, not just what words he or she wants the President to speak.  But the broken, pathologically broken culture of left intellectuals is a profoundly lazy one. While out in the real world, people are hard at work at Moral Monday and in OFA and in thousands of political campaigns, economic development efforts, legal struggles, and more, in the progressive intellectual coffee house, sneering ignorantly is all that is expected.

That these Left Wing Intellectuals are paid by people like Nixon intern and self-described neo-con, David Bradley, would, of course, have nothing to do with it.

See also: Ta-Nehisi Coates runs interference for Paul Ryan

and Criticism from the Left