politics | May 20, 2013

Not Quite There Yet: Ta-Nehisi Coates On Obama & Race In America

Last year, Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote the highly talked-about National Magazine Award-winning article titled "Fear of a Black President." This week, he followed up that acclaimed Atlantic piece with another poignant exploration of President Obama's victories and failures in his relationship with black America. Coates stresses that the Obama administration should not be expected to right all the wrongs of the past. However, President Obama should be more than "a president who sought to hold black people accountable for their communities, but was disdainful of those who looked at him and sought the same," Coates writes.

As the first African American man to become president of the United States, the expectations of how Obama will  combat sensitive and heated racial issues are high. However, the fact that Coates sees Obama as a "remarkable human being," that he believes the prominence of the Obama family is a "great blow in the war against racism," and that he is "filled with pride whenever [he sees] them" may not be enough. Further, Coates argues that the President has attempted to avoid targeting policy toward African Americans specifically by saying that he is not the president of black America, but of all America. Simultaneously, however, his contrasting rhetoric "has one way of addressing the social ills that afflict black people—and particularly black youth—and another way of addressing everyone else."

"I would not suggest that it is in his power to singlehandedly repair history," Coates asserts. He does, however, argue that Obama's approach to addressing his community contains a "discomfiting pattern of convenient race-talk." And, Coates also says, the people who came out in droves to cast ballots for the President deserve more than that. Always an insightful and perceptive voice on black culture, Coates has penned his fair share of widely influential articles for The Atlantic. Not only that, but his Atlantic blog was named by Time as one of the 25 Best in the World. On stage, he draws from his body of work to deliver a personalized presentation about race and culture that spans from the impacts the past has had on society today to the steps we need to take to slowly move toward a more inclusive and prospering society.