Sunday, September 19, 2021

Cornel West Says Ta-Nehisi Coates ‘Cowardly Silent’ on New Militancy

Cornel West & Ta-Nehisi Coates
Cornel West & Ta-Nehisi Coates, Flickr / Creative Commons

*The often controversial and outspoken Cornel West is back at sippin’ tea and serving shade to melenated folks who remain silent on racial bias and police brutality, and especially those who refuse to criticize President Obama for not being radical enough on race and poverty.

West’s latest target is Atlantic writer Ta-Nehisi Coates. Last week, Cornel slammed Coates in a post on his Facebook page, ripping him as “a mere darling of White and Black Neo-liberals, paralyzed by their Obama worship and hence a distraction from the necessary courage and vision we need in our catastrophic times.”

West also said “Coates’s fear-driven self-absorption leads to individual escape and flight to safety – he is cowardly silent on the marvelous new militancy in Ferguson, Baltimore, New York, Oakland, Cleveland and other places.”

Coates has not responded West’s remarks, though it triggered a frenzy in social media, with many users accusing West of petty jealousy. Michael Eric Dyson, a professor of sociology at Georgetown University who wrote scathing takedown of Cornel in the April issue of The New Republic, described West’s Facebook post as an “acrimonious dirge,” a “bitter, nasty, sorrowful blue note,” and “despotically and willfully intolerant of the gifts and talents of those who may potentially eclipse him.”

Read West’s full passionate statement below. Do you agree that he is “jealous and petty” or are his arguments and assessments often valid?

Cornel West’s Facebook post about Ta-Nehisi Coates:

Dr. Cornel West

July 16 at 10:53am · Edited ·

In Defense of James Baldwin – Why Toni Morrison (a literary genius) is Wrong about Ta-Nehisi Coates. Baldwin was a great writer of profound courage who spoke truth to power. Coates is a clever wordsmith with journalistic talent who avoids any critique of the Black president in power. Baldwin’s painful self-examination led to collective action and a focus on social movements. He reveled in the examples of Medgar, Martin, Malcolm, Fannie Lou Hamer and Angela Davis. Coates’s fear-driven self-absorption leads to individual escape and flight to safety – he is cowardly silent on the marvelous new militancy in Ferguson, Baltimore, New York, Oakland, Cleveland and other places.

Coates can grow and mature, but without an analysis of capitalist wealth inequality, gender domination, homophobic degradation, Imperial occupation (all concrete forms of plunder) and collective fight back (not just personal struggle) Coates will remain a mere darling of White and Black Neo-liberals, paralyzed by their Obama worship and hence a distraction from the necessary courage and vision we need in our catastrophic times.

How I wish the prophetic work of serious intellectuals like Robin DG Kelley, Imani Perry, Gerald Horne, Eddie Glaude commanded the attention the corporate media gives Coates. But in our age of superficial spectacle, even the great Morrison is seduced by the linguistic glitz and political silences of Coates as we all hunger for the literary genius and political engagement of Baldwin. As in jazz, we must teach our youth that immature imitation is suicide and premature elevation is death. Brother Coates continue to lift your gifted voice to your precious son and all of us, just beware of the white noise and become connected to the people’s movements!

Ny MaGee
Ny MaGee is a screenwriter and freelance reporter from Chicago -- currently living in Los Angeles and covering A-list entertainment for various outlets, including Emmys.com. She has worked for: Miramax, MTV & VH1, The Jim Henson Company, Hallmark Channel, Paramount Pictures, and for iconic indie film producer Roger Corman.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Some of us can think for ourselves, freedom of speech is a powerful tool, the truth is know one want to hear the truth , i don’t think,mr west is jealous ,when you have two great writers with different opinions and the future of young black lives is at state , it can get very nasty not to mention, everything they both have learn being educated and smart and street smart, it a mean world out there and if you black from the time you was born,you have three strikes against you already, once our black president term is over ,where do we go from there ,can we all come together, sometime i feel there’s no real leadership in America, but going at each other or our president, it not the way, we know what coming ,it’s happening now all over the country in black community, we can not let white news media try to destroy us black America.

  2. Why Cornel got to be “jealous and petty” for keeping it real?

    As for Michael Eric Dyson, it would be best for him to keep quiet. He has already been revealed as someone who cannot be counted on when needed most. Dyson, like Obama, is more about style than substance. While he likes to amaze us with his verbal verbosity when speaking on matters of race, he’s still willing to sell out to the likes of MSNBC, rather than speak truth to power.

    He’s exactly as Cornel described Coates:
    “a clever wordsmith with journalistic talent who avoids any critique of the Black president in power.”

  3. Anyone that labels his critique as “jealousy” is foolish. West offered his opinion and backed it up and Coates chose to stay silent.

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