Ta-Nehisi Coates’s ‘Visceral’ Take on Being Black in America

Jul 18, 2015 · 248 comments
Phydeaux6 (Oregon)
I do not like the reference to "African Americans" it is, to me, a term separating me from a group that should be no different from me and a sop to white America to make themselves feel better about past and current treatment of large percentage of our population. I fear we will never be able to shed the utter waste of racial prejudice. I sometimes ask myself how many Jonas Salks, Mother Teresas, George Bernard Shaws or Bill Gates of African descent have we lost due to racial fears and hatred, what a waste. To be sure there are some blacks who have been able to overcome the enormous obstacles to excel in almost every segment of endeavor but those are the exceptions. We as a people, to our own detriment have thrown away much, in the name of prejudice. Such a waste.
Steve Sailer (America)
"In the book, Mr. Coates describes racism in terms of assaults on the free movement of the black body, ... like the casual shoving of Samori when he was 4 by a white woman on an Upper West Side escalator."

It was probably Elaine from "Seinfeld:" she was always pushing people.
Cyclist (San Jose, Calif.)
I must be careful not to conflate Mr. Coates's work, with which I'm little familiar, with Ms. Schuessler's characterizations of it. I.e., it behooves me to be careful.

That said, if I take the article at face value, I note:

1. I know of no American who thinks "racism isn’t real," although thoughtful people will ask that the epithet be defined precisely. I do hear people proclaim race doesn't exist except as a social construction, which is bizarre.

2. If Mr. Coates really believes the killings of Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner are of a kind, that is cringeworthy inasmuch as it compares Mr. Brown to the other two.

3. If Mr. Coates really "expressed reluctance to be drafted as white America’s designated racial explainer," I think he need not worry that will happen, if his critiques are as harsh and bitter as the article suggests.

4. I'm not sure what valuable "national conversation" on race the reporter is talking about. Leaving aside the claim that we, as "a nation of cowards," according to former Attorney General Eric Holder, are incapable of such a thing, the fact is that any public discussion of race in America is as mannered as a Japanese tea ceremony, and as such lacks useful content.

5. If Mr. Coates really thinks all whites, or even many, naïvely believe we are "descendant[s] of noble ancestries, . . . always a force for good in the world," that is ludicrous essentialism. Some might call it racist per se, but not I, since the term is so nebulous.
Kacee (Hawaii)
The musical 'South Pacific' contains a song to be remembered . 'You Have to be Carefully Taught'. There were those who advised taking it out of the play. Rogers and Hammerstein said no because that was what it was all about.
As in feuds, you're taught to hate the 'other-side'. From then on it's back and forth.
It's been that way for 150 years in this country for black-vs-white, one clan vs another..
Someone has to step up.
Margaret Diehl (NYC)
It is a gorgeous book, fierce, truthful and full of love. I am awed by his clarity, his gentleness, his power with words and his dedication to truth.
Dcet (Baltimore, MD)
Reading the comments here really validates the points that Mr. Coates makes.
Ellyn (San Mateo)
A lot of racist comments. It makes me realize that horrible people really are elected by horrible people. I used to think it was election fraud but I've woken up.
Steve Austin (Hopkinsville KY)
Please decide what the heck happened to get Obama nominated without so much as five minutes of vetting, or an ounce of curiosity about his plans for the country and get back to us.
NYC80 (New York, NY)
The Civil Rights Act passed over 50 years ago and we've been having a national conversation about race ever since. That dialogue has been almost exclusively focused on the black/white divide.

There are now far more Hispanics in the US than blacks, and after 50 years, it's time to say, "Next topic" and start talking about Hispanics. My guess is they don't have the same interest in hashing out tired arguments or grievances stemming from African Americans.

As a citizen of this democratic Republic, I think we should now move the national conversation on to Hispanics. Let's make sure we don't plant the seeds of resentment that now plague too many in the African American community and have a dialogue about how we incorporate the many positives of Latin American culture while retaining all the good things about American culture. Perhaps we can have a national day where we eat some delicious burritos, listen to some great mariachi music, drink margaritas, and talk about how the combination of hard work and respect for family help groups get ahead.
Eyton J. Shalom, M.S. L.Ac (San Diego, CA)
if only. the "national conversation" about race has only just begun, there has been precious little conversation in the last 50 years, while plenty of incarceration and killing of black males. let a thousand flowers bloom: the so called national conversation, that has really barely begun, should include all topics and the experiences of all races, sure, but, untill now, in this "democratic republic" the effects have racism have been felt by black african americans and black latinos more than by anyone. have that margarita with some collard greens and arroz con gandules, perhaps with some carnatic music
EHR (Md)
so.....¿hispanics are Mexicans and their "many positives" are burritos, mariachi music, margaritas, hard work and family? It's hard to know if you're serious, but if you are, it's a bleak reflection of the lack of understanding of our history and our present reality as a nation. A "democratic republic" needs a shared narrative and a shared dream--in other words, it cannot continue to be the narrative of white, wealthy men--our national narrative needs to open and include all, but not on the terms of the dominant culture--and not wiping out the dominant culture, either, but adding voices to the chorus equally valued and weighted so we understand our national experience and can collectively sing a song to the future. The dominant culture, rather than trying to shout others down and insist that everyone sing our tune, should listen and find ways to harmonize rather than dictate and direct. If you tried that, you might learn something about hispanics beyond --and much richer than-- what you imagined, and you might discover how hispanics want to express their own voices in the national conversation that you seek.
bluegal (Texas)
Hard work and respect for family ARE part of Latino culture and Black culture. Do you think only "white Americans" have these ethics? How wrong you would be if you think so. Next time you are at a drive thru, look to see who is serving you, next time you are at a funeral, stay a while to see who is digging the graves, next time there is roadwork being done on your way to work, take a second to look at the races of the people on the work crews. I think you may be surprised.
Tim McCoy (NYC)
Coates sure is making dollars, while making a name for himself. Even if he is standing on James Baldwin's shoulders; and we have come a very long way since Baldwin wrote, "Notes of a Native Son."

Reparations? Reparations have been paid for decades and decades.

I myself have been the victim of black racism. But not white racism.
I call it the privilege of white victimhood.

Coates's comments about 9/11 sound like they were tailor made for that branch of the blame-American-first left with is mostly white and/or tenured, and/or trust-funded.

Good for him. It's the American way to the intellectual fast buck.
At least he's not poisoning the water.
kazi ahmed (New York)
Centuries of unbridled free enterprise of inhumanity (slavery), followed by centuries of indignity (free but caged to be in-equal), and of course flaunted decades of 'tailored reparations' & backlash of enough of it already! In deed people of color see the privileged real McCoy in you!
Lawrence (Ma)
Tells us Mr Kazi, what privleges does Mr MCoy enjoy that have been denied to you? And please tell us who denied those privileges to you, how they went about denying them to you, and what you did about it, as I assume you didn't just rollover and take it...or did you?
Steve Austin (Hopkinsville KY)
$22 trillion in money paid to the poor - more than we'll ever get repaid? - counts for many times all the reparations the rest of humanity will ever pay.

PLUS, the Pigford Settlement arranged by the lamentable fixer Eric Holder is pure reparations writ large. Congressmen have been quoted reminding each other of this.
New Improved Dave (Grand Rapids MI)
"It was very, very important, as far as I was concerned, that the book be launched in an African-American space,” Mr. Coates, 39, said in an interview the morning after the event. “I wanted to be very clear about who the book was written for, how it was written, what it came out of.”

Are white people not capable of appreciating his message?
Jerome Barry (Texas)
The message seems to have been, "Read my book before you get killed by a cop or get killed by a white man." It's a matter of ongoing disappointment to me that the black people are being killed by black people and no black leftist has commented on it.
Dcet (Baltimore, MD)
But he does speak on it, but in your bubble of privilege, you can just encase yourself in the talking points that Fox News shares with you.
bluegal (Texas)
Obama has spoken on it, and surely he must be, in your mind, a black leftist. So has Sharpton, Jackson, and myriad other black leaders. You only watch FOX or listen to Rush Limbaugh, so how would you know what these people are actually saying?
Jazz (My Head)
I've had four run ins with White cops in my life. The first time occurred in the late 60s when I was militant, angry and in my "off the pigs" phase. I was stopped for a broken taillight, and almost got killed because I angrily jumped out of the car and approached the officer as he got out of his car. He took a step back, and reached for his gun. I immediately got back in the car. I could've gotten killed, and after all the ensuing media brouhaha and images of my weeping parents was over, I'd still be dead. Lesson learned.

The next two times, a few years later, I got speeding tickets driving back and forth from L.A. to San Francisco which I deserved. I was the most polite person you could ever hope to be, and after the cops had written the tickets, they both thanked me very courteously for my cooperation.

The next time which occurred only a few weeks later, a hard-bitten jack booted motorcycle cop stopped me for making a left turn on a red light in Los Angeles. I courteously explained that I thought I had made the turn before the light turned red. He disagreed and pulled out his ticket book. I panicked and then said I'd recently gotten two moving violations for speeding, and another moving violation would cost me my license. A very silly admission on the face of it under those circumstances. He looked at me, thought for a moment, and then he let me off with a warning. Imagine that. Even though I was Black and guilty. That too was a lesson learned.
dellbabe68 (Bronx, NY)
Thanks for your stories. (and be careful driving!)
Jay (Florida)
"Mr. Coates describes racism in terms of assaults on the free movement of the black body, whether by the officers who shoot unarmed men or in more everyday incidents, like the casual shoving of Samori when he was 4 by a white woman on an Upper West Side escalator."
Ok, I get it. White people are racists. And there is no cure. If you're black in America sooner or later a white man will assault you, reject you, or discriminate against you. Because you are black. White America will deny you opportunity and access to education. We will deny you the right to live wherever you want. We will lock you up for life or for an extended term because you are black. White police officers will shoot you dead because you are black. White people, all of them believe that if you are black, you are automatically a drug abuser or criminal and should be watched out for or avoided. White people deny blacks credit and good jobs. White people are racists.
Really? All of us? Do you accept that as truth? How many whites marched with Martin Luther King? How many whites find the actions of a minority of white racists abhorrent and despicable? Actually most of us.
White people, the majority of us, find racism disgusting and discriminatory as you do Mr. Coates. We are tired of being lumped together with those who are racists. We're tired of being blamed for all the social, economic, criminal and failings of blacks. Blacks are responsible for their future. Please stop blaming all whites. That's racist.
Sharon Foster (Central CT)
I never thought I'd see a more hard-hearted collection of comments in these pages. If you can read or listen to this book and still feel no empathy whatsoever with the experiences of Black Americans today -- not 100 years ago, not 200 years ago, but today -- then there is no hope for you.
Linda OReilly (Tacoma WA)
I hope Mr. Coates never stops writing. He's writing the truth as he's lived it. He's gifted and he's brave. I admire him deeply.
Ellen K (Dallas, TX)
I teach in a very diverse suburban high school. Kids come from apartments and masnions. Most of the parents living in the area have enough education to live in a middle income community. So could someone please explain why even when we have kids just here from Vietnam, Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Ghana and Columbia that black males trail behind every other demographic? This is not a new phenomenon and it's not because my school has failed to address the problem. We have offered free tutoring before and after schoo. We have offered free food. We have offered free transportation. And in a desperate move, we moved a block lunch period to the middle of the day where students wouldn't even have to come early or stay late. Sadly, this one particular groups seems to think that skipping tutoring-along with classes-is something that makes them more urban. If this type of behavior is seen in a suburban school, what happens in urban settings? Education is the way out-but I see precious few in the black community saying that. They go along with denial of vouchers that would truly liberate minority child to seek the more elite schools that offer the lift that we're always scolded for not providing. I guess the short version is-when are folks in the black community going to take responsibility for what they have become?
John (San Rafael)
Your letter is more an indictment of the Texas education system and it's teachers than the racist reflection on black people that you intended. How can an educator in Texas not have knowledge of the history of that state's Jim Crow education system or its detritus, and how black people protested against it arguing education is the way out? "It's not because my school has failed to address the problem" is a disingenuous attempt at absolving, in this case, white school administrators. When did you decide to address the problem? Surely concerned educators would have addressed the issue when students were in grammar school, rather than waiting until they are junior and seniors in high school. You write about your experiences with "one particular group" of students, but decide it represents the entirety of a "community" that you chide because "they" don't share your political views. Coates' book rightfully demands that you take responsibility as well. Education is the way out for racists, as well.
David (New York)
Ellen has related some reasonable accommodations for her students that were taken by her school administrators. What specifically was the "racist reflection on black people" in her post? She made an observation based on her experience. Is it racist to observe and relate what one sees? What more accommodations would you suggest? You assume that the school was run by "white school administrators". I doubt that you have knowledge of the racial proportions in her school. Do you believe that the parents have any responsibility to foster mature attitudes about education?
fast&furious (the new world)
Vouchers would permit a very tiny handful of those children to 'seek more elite schools' while the 99% still attending the public schools would get the same lousy education they've always gotten. Vouchers are a cynical sop offered by those on the far right who don't want to adequately fund public schools for all students. Vouchers are just part of the conservative/tea party attack to break teachers unions, and defund and destroy public education dressed up as trying to 'help' a few disadvantaged children attend elite academies. What about all the other students?

We're onto you.

When is a white teacher like you going to take responsibility for pretending a cynical Tea Party agenda to defund public education is actually any kind of a 'solution' to the poverty and bad public schools in your state?
Patrick (New York)
Now I get why there are 45 Republican Candidates. You get the idea that the Black community is led by intellectual figures who have no intention of promoting American values but instead bash America, police, etc. Racism is structural, but so are a lot of other things. Then you will be shocked, SHOCKED when White America votes for Obama but runs back to the GOP when Liberals promote this Jeremiah Wright thinking because its Linkbait.
To be honest, the ideas presented here are not really news to anybody, black or white. I don't think you have to be black to understand that we live in a segregated and racist society that treats Blacks unfairly. Life is somewhat a lottery, but Coates and really nobody else offers a way forward, expect maybe Obama who seeks reconciliation and hope. We are all a bit self-centered... the American Colonialists were so focused on their oppression from the British that they forgot about the Natives and Blacks.
Patrick (New York)
I think we should go back and watch Die Hard With a Vengeance:
John McClane: I'll tell you what your problem is, you don't like me 'cause you're a racist!
Zeus Carver: What?
John McClane: You're a racist! You don't like me 'cause I'm white!
Zeus Carver: I don't like you because you're gonna get me *killed*!
Margaret (New York)
I thought Coate's "The Case for Reparations" was excellent--and actually think it should be required reading in all US schools--but this book’s focus on violence against "black bodies" & all of us racist whites makes it nothing but a superficial & fact-starved polemic. He’s been compared to James Baldwin but here he’s engaged in the some of the worst of Baldwin’s excesses (for example, Baldwin's 1960 essay “Fifth Avenue, Uptown”, where he excuses the trashing of the Riverton Houses in Harlem because black residents were enraged that they’d been excluded from Stuyvesant Town). Not every single bad thing that happens to a black person--or anything “bad” that a black person does-- is the fault & direct result of white racism.

This is truly a shame because people of conscience want to do right by black people and address the problems but the issue is being turned into a highly polarizing “pro-cop/anti-cop” debate. Coates has only added to that with his comments about his lack of regard for the 911 cops.

Coates will now be better known for this book rather than for his “Reparations” article, which is truly a shame. He might have really accomplished something if this book offered a blueprint for specific action rather than an overwrought & under-documented screed against whites & cops .
John W. (NC)
No, the Coate's "The Case for Reparations" is not excellent. I wasn't in the US when all those things happened. Why should I pay any reparations for something I had no part in? Is that a collective case of punishment, pay because you are white?
Hayden C. (Brooklyn)
With all due respect I would rather learn what it is like to be Hispanic, Asian, Native America, a European immigrant, or any of the dozens of other groups who get zero attention. I have black compassion fatigue. Coates said he felt little sympathy for the victims of 9-11 because of the way blacks have been treated. Well I have ceased to feel much empathy for blacks due to the way they treat others. It is dishonest to say that Coates is against racism, his obsession with the wrongs done to his race vs. indifference of the wrongs done by his race are racist in itself. I cease to see blacks as the hapless victim a long time ago. And the endless "po' me" pity party for blacks that dominates our media,including this paper, is cringe-worthy. Stop treating one race like they are 1000 times more important than everyone else and give other people some attention and advocacy for a change.
Straight thinker (Sacramento, CA)
Black compassion fatigue. That nails it.
Dent (New York, NY)
As Straight thinker wrote of you, black compassion fatigue nails it. Of course, that also describes the sentiment directed at African Americans by many other Americans over the last 400 years of US history.
NYC80 (New York, NY)
Coates is incredibly sophomoric, like a child focused on blaming his parents for his problems rather than taking responsibility for his own future. African Americans suffered tremendous injustice in this country, but Coates' worldview suggests the most enduring legacy of slavery is that too many black men took the emasculating insult "boy" to heart.
Steve Austin (Hopkinsville KY)
James Baldwin suffered. Coates has to take the time to prove that he has climbed that mountain.
Empirical Conservatism (United States)
We've had an "honest conversation" about this for 150 years.
Barbara O'Brien (New York)
No, we haven't. We've been sticking our fingers in our ears and yelling LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU for 150 years.
Straight thinker (Sacramento, CA)
Maybe you have. Myself? I've heard the arguments over and over again.
Let's be real here: anyone who doesn't know the issues by now never will.
audiosearch (new york city)
I haven't read Mr. Coates book, but saw his interview on Charlie Rose, and found him a remarkably un-self-promoting, honest man, with little ideology to propel his thinking -- just, as he says, an empirical testimonial.

Mr. Coates feels blacks bodies are pursued, and violence is perpetrated against them, so they cannot move about freely in our society.

Is this not the predicament of women entirely? Fear of rape, fear of casual harassment, that we're meant to consider flattering. This dawned on me with crushing truth when, just out of a mid-western high school, I began to want to stretch my wings and travel. The limitation placed on my movements and my choices was immediate and non-negotiable. I was in danger if I didn't comply. It was as it a membrane of fantasy was lifted from my sight, and a far uglier reality replaced it. It changed me forever.
Steve Austin (Hopkinsville KY)
Perhaps, If Mr. Coates develops the idea that black lives really do matter, he will discover that the unborn black lives matter more than the parts dealers at Planned Parenthood.

How totally ironic it is that when PP needs you to ignore the humanity growing inside a woman, it is just ''tissue,'' but when time comes to get into wholesaling and retailing, those tissues become hearts, livers, and lungs. Money talks, and big money defines.
Alierias (Airville PA)
So Steve Austin,
nice thread hijack, but I'll play:
Do you intend to NOT benefit, both personally nor any member of your family, from the research done on the tissues that Planned Parenthood is donating -- yes donating -- all so-called selling is merely recovering the costs of shipping, and preserving the tissues so they maintain their value as research material? If they were truly selling this material it'd would, by virtue of it's scarcity, be worth many more thousands of dollars.
You'll remember Nancy Reagan's 180 degree about face on stem cell research when Ronnie needed it; surely you'll be more principled, and reject the life-saving advances in medical care to take a stand against this practice...
Steve Austin (Hopkinsville KY)
Hypocrisy never works.
Selling abortion to a society as a deliverer of freedom while 50 million human beings are converted to so much trash is the sheerest of hypocrisy.

Never mentioning that the abortion industry developed out of racist hatred of black Americans is more hypocrisy, even while Hillary praises the women most involved with that development.

Allerias's suggestion, taken to its logical end, would have us picking the more unneeded humans to be broken up for parts like so many old cars.
Kim (Philly)
Mr Ta-Nehisi Coates is a black man in America telling *his story* and his truth, naysayers want to deny his daily reality...should he lie? Black bodies are not valued, even when we do well, and try to *assimilate*, we are always mindful everyday that Black lives do not matter. Whether it's the President of the United States of America being called the *N*word daily, for almost seven years. Sandra Bland is the latest unarmed black person to be murdered by the police....Mr. Coates is right.
http://www.buzzfeed.com/nicholasquah/heres-a-timeline-of-unarmed-black-m..., http://blacklivesmatter.com/,
Straight thinker (Sacramento, CA)
Pitch is outside. Umpire calls it a strike. You dwell on the bad call and complain continuously. You are so upset and single minded about how unfair that you want revenge. You can't concentrate on the next pitch or the next, so you strike out.

Television replays prove you were correct - the pitch was outside. But you still struck out.
V99 (PDX)
I'm amused to see the fiction of a "national conversation" trotted out here. If Coates' writing is to be taken seriously, it at least stands for the proposition that there is no single American nation, so it follows there is no unified discourse. The mere use of the term is coercive. Is it any wonder it drips frequently from the lips of politicians and Those Who Know Better?

As for myself, I find some value in his work. Much, much more than race explains us, however, and much, much more needs our energy and care if the US is to address its problems at home and in the world.
Henry Hughes (Marblemount, Washington)
Why did I read even a smattering of these comments from white people who simply do not get it? So enervating.

With each and every honest piece of writing on race by black people, we see white demands for putting race behind us; for blacks to shut up and be grateful for the progress they paid for so dearly. And we see white insistence that blacks don't have it nearly as bad as [insert current/historical oppression here].

Desperate to be absolved for both this country's horrifically racist foundations and the abiding racism they simply cannot shake, whites appear to be compelled to lash out and dismiss the black voices that describe their ongoing experiences of race in these United States. Blacks who dare to voice any analysis or feelings borne of anything besides gratefulness for having achieved a status a bit closer to full personhood must be portrayed as wallowing in victimhood.

And don't dare mention reparations. Instead, prostrate yourself and cry out in gratitude that your ancestors were fortunate enough to be sold into slavery in order to land you here in the land of plenty--like the good outsider you still are.

We've come a long way, yet we still have so far to go.
Lawrence (Ma)
White people alive today do not need to be "absolved" for this country's racist foundations. It has nothing to do with us, and to suggest otherwise because of the color of our skin is racist. There simply is nobody left alive to blame for slavery, and fewer and fewer each day to blame for Jim Crow. African Americans can complain all they want, knowledge of the treatment their ancestors received is understandably painful even today. I feel pain thinking about the Irish famine and the responsibility of the British. But there aren't any British people alive that I can and do hold responsible, not an Englishman alive for me to resent or blame. And so it goes for White Americans alive today....we have no responsibility for past injustices...NONE.
jeoffrey (Arlington, MA)
Many., many whites have benefited from their ancestors' racism, and denying the advantages of those benefits leads too many of them into dismissing those who have been denied those benefits. The playing field is not yet anywhere near level.
Lawrence (Ma)
Could you name one of those benefits you received by virtue of your ancestors racism? Could you name benefits any white person living today has received from the racism of their ancestors? And most importantly, can you explain why any African American living today is currently disadvantaged by the racism of our white ancestors?
Mr. Robin P Little (Conway, SC)

Careful here, commenters. If you say anything negative about black American culture, about Mr. Coates, or about his new book, you will be automatically branded a racist by that hard-core of ultra-liberals who turn themselves into haters of haters because they think this will prevent racism, instead of what it really is, which is an outlet for their own hatred.

All identity politics is based on a false premise, which is that you can't understand me because you are not a) black, b) female, c) gay, or, the newest one ) trans as in transsexual, which is a term many transgendered people don't like applied to them. Where does this all end? It ends in 7 billion unhappy people in the world who all lament that they are misunderstood by people who are not them and never can be them.
Hayden C. (Brooklyn)
"All identity politics is based on a false premise, which is that you can't understand me because you are not....."
As bad is the false premise that the whole world should revolve around trying to understand you and your plight. As though everyone else doesn't have a cross to bear. This is a huge problem with Coates. A pathological amount of empathy for the suffering of him and his race, none for anyone else.
Kevin Kearney (Austin, Texas)
Where are we (the Whites) supposed to go with our newly discovered guide to how black people feel? What are we expected to do, specifically, today, now? What other groups do we leave out of the social equation to "make up" for our past treatment of black people. And how long is the expected reparation effort going to take?
Racism and subjugation of people by other more powerful ones have been going on for ever. Is the Black experience somehow more deserving then the plight of Native Americans? or undocumented immigrants. Or First People of Canada. Or Australian Aborigines ? Are we to accept that you are somehow magically ordained to judge
My personal feeling is that if you felt nothing for the thousands of innocent police, fire, ems and civilian casualties on 9/11 and you believe your son should feel the same numbness, you are not going to gain a lot of support outside your own echo chamber
Henry Hughes (Marblemount, Washington)
There are answers to your questions--even if they aren't being asked in good faith. Hope you investigate and find them.
Donna (Hanford, CA)
The timing of this book could not have come at a "better time". It's almost like the future in reverse just reliving it with each generation. Just when data as reported by the WSJ and the Pew Center reveals the staggering, obscene amount of money ( Over a Billion) in about 5 years protecting The Blue Uniform. This obscenity should at least cause pause to analyze the following: Would any other Employer pay on average 4 million dollars each time one of their employees committed "wrong doing" while performing the duties of their daily jobs? Of course not. But we (Americans) have convinced ourselves that once someone dons a blue uniform somehow [that] uniform transforms them into a deified noble individual with unquestionable character and judgement; this is a level of mind boggling idiocy and delusion. If a police employee's character is one of short temper, irrational, anger, quite to over-react, hostile before putting on that uniform, once the uniform is put on that same body and personality- are going to follow that individual to the squad car and on the shift. We must realize that a police officer is first of all an occupational designation and those who fill it are not always "cut-out" for the job- no matter what they have envisioned.Would we be willing to accept Heart Surgeons whose temperment and patience were such that taking fatal shortcuts was standard- why do we then accept paying billions to protect fatal errors of the Folks in Blue?
Straight thinker (Sacramento, CA)
Patients don't jump off the operating table, grab the surgeon's scalpel, and attack the surgeon.
Donna (Hanford, CA)
Unarmed citizens are not attacking police officers either; children are not attacking police officers either but they get shot dead too; 350 lb diabetic men who can not breath did not attack a police officer either. Oscar Grant did not attack a police officer either. The man handcuffed in the back of a patrol car did not attack a police officer either; all dead at the hands of a human wearing a blue uniform. Oh- there are so many others- all to the tune of over ONE BILLION dollars in the past five years; Your Straw Man has no legs Straight Thinker.
Straight thinker (Sacramento, CA)
Nothing about my statement indicated a straw man. You likened surgeon stress to police officers stress. Totally irrelevant. It is your argument that has the faulty straw.
Biz Griz (NY)
Please tell me a price. How much money should I give to the black community? How much of my hard earned dollars should be taken away from my family and my retirement in order to pay for the sins of the people that lived here before my family even came to America? Please tell me, I need to plan my budget around it.
Bob Kohn (Manhattan)
You are guilty of your father's sins, don't you know that?
Biz Griz (NY)
That's my point, my family wasn't even here. What sins.
cdearman (Santa Fe, NM)
Mr. Coats's title, "Between the World and Me," is the title of a poem by Richard Wright. The poem describes the experience of seeing the aftermath of a lynching and the transmogrification of the observer into the victim.

For Mr. Coats, if we accept the implications of the title of his book, no African-American can expect to be an observer of injustices inflicted on another African-American because he/she, in a given situation, metamorphoses into the victim of injustice: may be unto death!
Dusty Chaps (Tombstone, Arizona)
And the American Indian, Mr.Coates, what about the slaughter, rape, and enslavement the past 500 years by BLACK AND WHITE predators that've deprived the continent's native tribes of their human rights, property, and land. This GENOCIDE continues to the present day. You're a whiner,
Mr.Coates. Another black opportunist. And, historically, guilty of perpetuating cultural and factual lies and deceptions prominent among black reverse racists in America.
Tim (Wmsbg)
Barack Obama didn't become twice-elected president by being hypersensitive to every perceived slight in his path as racism. With brilliance and determination he worked his way around them, Mr. Coates.
Jjmcf (Philadelphia)
Also, I'll bet Mr. Coates doesn't get anything like the volume of vicious hate posting on various internet forums, or the number of death threats that Obama suffers.
New Improved Dave (Grand Rapids MI)
I enjoy reading his work. Our nation is far from perfect, but grievance is his business, and it is not good for his career to emphasize the progress we've made.
Whippy Burgeonesque (Cremona)
Tim, you're absolutely right. Obama, over a period of years, crafted the type of black identity (biracial identity) he needed to have in order to appeal to everyone, of every race and shade of skin. It worked wonderfully. It put him in office twice.

But does every black person have to be just like Obama? Let's acknowledge that no, it's not necessary. We can have calm black (biracial) people like the president, and firebrands fighting racism openly.
tcement (nyc)
No question--NONE--that African slavery underlies everything in THE AMERICAN EXPERIENCE--all European-American settlers and immigrants from Colonial times to the present along with later Asian-American and Latin American immigrants and all other immigrants have benefited, albeit most of us indirectly, from economic growth stemming from the labor of enslaved African-Americans. That said, importation of African slaves and the continuing oppression of many of their descendants is not the original American sin. That would be the largely accidental holocaust, the inadvertent ethnic-cleansing via unplanned "germ warfare" against the previous inhabitants of the western hemisphere. (Oh, I know, there was a significant amount of deliberate and planned murder of indigenous peoples, but those numbers pale in comparison to the depopulation havoc wrought from infection spread by early fishermen and others who arrived before settlers and conquistadors--see Charles C. Mann "1491" which, curiously enough, was excerpted in The Atlantic.)

Rather than indulge in a species-typical fight over which people suffered more at which other people's hands and totting up who is owed how much, it is time, I think, to recognize that WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER AND NO ONE GETS OUT OF HERE ALIVE! Imagine the difference this recognition could make. (Well, it is pretty to think so. Meantime, women and children follow me--elderly male Caucasian--to the lifeboats.)
Yeah, whatever.... (New York, NY)
Honestly Ta-Neshi--give it a rest.
Help those kids who are killing each other and their neighbors who deal daily with the endless violence. Pa-leez.
bhaines123 (Northern Virginia)
I’ve been very impressed by Mr. Coates’ magazine articles. I’m looking forward to reading “Between the World and Me”. This book is very timely because of the recent wide-spread documentation of current day racism. The civil rights community should give a posthumous award to Steve Jobs for giving us the smart phone.
It’s a lot harder for the people who want to discount the existence of racism and police brutality to get the general public to believe them when it’s sometimes documented from a dozen different angles by eye witnesses. Videos from security cameras and dashboard cameras have mysteriously disappeared in the past. Now, when those videos are backed up by others that can be all over the internet, erasing the official videos can bring charges of evidence tampering.
I’m also planning to re-read James Baldwin’s “The Fire Next Time”. I deeply respect Toni Morrison. Her opinion that Mr. Coates could be the next James Baldwin goes a long way with me. I also believe that Mr. Baldwin’s work is timeless so I want to go back and read this book again to see how my perceptions have changed based on my experiences since the first time I read it.
Straight thinker (Sacramento, CA)
Sending cops to sensitivity training, or pounding the inequities of slavery and racism into white America won't change anything.

Here's a fact: if you are a black mother and want your son to live and thrive, here's what you do.
- don't let your son wear a hoody
- don't let your son hang out with the wrong people
- make your son be home at night before dark.
- make your son do his homework and be in school every day.
- make sure your son is respectful to police officers and does what they tell him to do.

Some of you may not think this is fair, but for you black mothers I ask, would you rather your sons fail with an excuse , or would you rather have them eat crow, be successful and live? Pretty basic question. Make no mistake, It is up to you.
jeoffrey (Arlington, MA)
Isn't it unfair? Or does that not really matter?
Straight thinker (Sacramento, CA)
Philoshically it matters. If you want your son to survive, it doesn't.

If you really look honestly at the articles and comments about this, very few do anything but assign blame and/or demand revenge. What is a solution? Like I said, is sensitivity training going to help? For either side? Ha! Not a chance. It's the Hatfields an McCoys.

On the other hand, if Black mothers get selfish and forget the injustices of the past so their sons can survive, they will, as a collective group operating as selfish (rightly so) individuals, start the wheels of change. If I were a black mother, I'd look for my sons' survival and success over all else. The above is how you do it.
Kim (NYC)
You're either naive, delusional or willfully ignorant.
Pamela (Queens, NY)
I have not read Mr. Coates's book, but from what I have gathered from some of the comments in this space, "Between the World and Me" is full of fire but little or no hope. And this to his 14-year-old son. Young people, ALL young people, but especially young black people, need hope. Without that, life is unlivable.
Don Alfonso (Boston,MA)
One Coates' points is that very few whites know black Americans and so disbelieve that there are two racial worlds. Many commentators cite crime statistics and other data, in part because they have little or no personal knowledge of blacks, who would be sufficiently comfortable with them to reveal the frank appraisal that Coates displays. It isn't enough to banter with black co-workers over the water cooler about the latest victories of the home team. Blacks can distinguish can distinguish between idle chatter and serious interest. A number of studies by Pew have documented that whites and blacks, even those of both races who are well educated, hardly communicate over the racial divide. Note for example that at least so far, not a single commentator has noted that the NYPD unconstitutionally stopped and frisked 680000 NY residents, 80% of whom were residents of minority areas. Is it any wonder that black mothers tell their male children to never be so late for an appointment that it would be necessary to run through the streets to the subway? Know any white mothers who tell their sons that? Why don't most whites know that? How many whites even have black friends with whom to discuss Coates's book? When white educated classes get to the point where they want to speak frankly about their fears and misgivings with their black counterparts, we will remain racially polarized society where a genteel racism, "Oh, they really have no ambition," dominates the white view
Jon (nyc)
the reason the blacks were stopped and frisked more in NYC is simple, they commit much more crimes than any other group, that's the plain truth that cannot be overlooked
Coates seems to be powerful writer and his anger is genuine, but I think this helps only his own career and nobody else.
I haven't read Mr. Coates book, and I have no idea what his actual, as opposed to apparent, genetic makeup is, but a significant percentage African-Americans, including President and Mrs. Obama, are of mixed race, so it is not only the ancestors of some whites who cruelly enslaved Africans. The time has come to end not just The Civil War as The War Between the States, but also as The War of Brother Against Brother.

That having been said, more must be done to help disadvantaged people, a disproportionate share of whom are African-Americans. In viewing the much-reported courthouse reunion between the white judge and her former regional gifted-school classmate, now a seasoned criminal whom she characterized as being the nicest kid in middle school, I could not help but think that the vast disparity in their personal fortunes might be attributed to the fact that she probably returned each day to a household in a stable and safe community, while he apparently returned to a neighborhood that was less safe and frequented by pushers of the drugs to which he later became addicted and that fueled his life of crime. Such disparities of circumstance are unacceptable and must be addressed.
Brian (Utah)
"not to mention the No. 3 spot on Amazon’s best-seller list." I hope Amazon's best-seller list is more accurate than the NYT's best-seller list.
Robert (Out West)
Yeah, that Ted Cruz--now there's a man who're really had to lift hisself up from slavery, and who faces discrimination every day.

just a thought, but being kept off the NYT list because your people have been running around bulk buying isn't the same as geting shot by a cop.
Lawrence (Ma)
Until the "honest conversation about race" involves me being allowed to express my real apprehension in allowing my children to walk through an African American neighborhood without the fear of assault, until I can do so without being called a racist, then the conversation won't be honest and I will not be interested in participating. I am not interested in a conversation that only seeks to blame me for injustices perpetrated by people I don't know, that I am not related to, and against people I don't know, most of whom are no longer alive. The threat to "my body" is very real today in African American communities, and that needs to be discussed as much as the author's complaints.
Bianca (Brooklyn, NY)
Why do you need permission to express your feelings? And from whom are you seeking permission? You just did express your fear of Black people in the comment section and you didn't get a spanking.) If you're afraid of being called a racist, that's no one else's problem but your own.
Perhaps spend more time articulating the reason for your apprehensions. Examine what is informing that apprhension or fear (I call it ignorance). Look at statistical data. Talk to non-Black people who live, work, or routinely engage with Black communities. Ask your children if they themselves are afraid and, if they are, consider yourself the reason for that. Do more than sitting behind your computer screen with some irrational fear you've created out of .... what?

That you believe your presence in an African American community puts you at risk indicates you probably haven't spent reany significant time in one. In a way, it's probably for the best good that you don't participate in this conversation you refer to, as you probably have little to offer.

Also: Did you read the book?
Merle Kessler (Oakland, California)
You want to be apprehensive about having your children walk through an African American neighborhood, but don't want people to think you're a racist. No wait. Until you can EXPRESS that apprehension without being called a racist, conversations about racism are dishonest. But you just expressed it. Are we being honest now, or just placing more dishonesty on the pile? In other words, when's the last time you actually took your children walking through an African American neighborhood? I'm betting never. When's the last time you even considered allowing your children to walk though an African American neighborhood? Has that thought ever even crossed your mind? I'm betting never. But you're not racist. And you're bringing honesty to the conversation.
John (Holloway)
What you don't seem to understand is that that unreal fear you have is the stem of racism. For the love of god, or whatever gods you believe in, examine yourself.
Irish Rebel (NYC)
I am a white person who recognizes that inequities still remain in how black people are treated in America, particularly in how past segregation in housing resulted in the grim neighborhoods into which too many black people are still born into today. However, I find Ta-Nehisi Coates’s ideas about race relations in America to be way too bleak and so hopeless as to border on nihilism. While there is still progress to be made, to claim that there has never really ever been any progress in dealing with race in America is to be in denial. Also, he seems to be lumping all white people into one basket, that we're all inherently racist. Well, I work too hard at trying to treat all people fairly, no matter what their race, to accept that label. We're not all enemies of black people and we all do not view black people as "others". Maybe he thinks this is a facile claim, but just the simple fact that Barack Obama was able to be elected president is a huge indicator of progress, because I can remember a time in which that would have been absolutely impossible. Mr. Coates needs to take a step back and reconsider how we're not all "others", too.
But in a way there has been no progress. Yes blacks can get jobs and live places that they could not in the past. But the in many ways we are worse off than our parents. The economic segration and new Jim Crow justice system is appalling. Many of our children face hopeless futures. Your knowledge and understanding is appreciated. But try to see things from a different perspective.
John (Holloway)
When a man tells you how he feels believe him. While you may treat everyone the same, the mass that you belong to has a different opinion.

Continue to do the good you do, and accept that what you're doing isn't enough. The history of things is far far too vast, however with time things will turn
So much ignorance and casual racism in these comments.

Typical racist dismissal of a person with passion as an 'angry Black man.' As if the totality of American history and current reality should leave people of color filled with joy over wealth disparities, redlining, underfunded schools and daily police executions.

Platitudes about treating people as individuals, as if Blacks don't dream for that every single time a police officer stops them or kills an unarmed person in their city.

Thank you Ta-Nehisi Coates for speaking the truth without compromise. If you want to be coddled, go watch 'Blindside' or 'The Help'
Michael (Los Angeles)
Indeed. I'm not sure if this reflects a certain demographic who reads the NYT, or just your standard unrepresentative slice of people who comment on the internet.
M.R. Khan (Chicago)
For those who think the idea of reparations is outlandish, tell us why is it ok for the US government to so zealously pursue reparations for Holocaust victims including property which may have been confiscated from Jewish refugees. The US government also shook down Swiss banks in this regard and much of the original reparations went to Zionist causes rather than to direct victims-itself a dubious moral proposition given Zionist ethnic cleansing of the native Palestinians. Also, where are the national museums for African American Slavery and Native American genocide? When will America and her citizenry confront their own sins rather than focusing on everyone elses?
Robert (Out West)
After some get over their constant raillery about "the Jews," and quit trying to lay off every single problem by complaining that some other group of people got more than they did?

The fear and hatred that led to the Holocaust is shaped a little differently, and has a different history, than the fear and hatred that led through slavery into present-day racism aimed at black people.

But it's all fear and hatred.
Biz Griz (NY)
somebody's always gotta bring the Jews into it. Why.
Barb (Penna.)
I can't speak for Chicago, M.R. Khan, but if you come to Philadelphia, you can visit the African American Museum, which addresses that culture from its beginnings in slavery to its accomplishments and challenges in present society. See: www.aampmuseum.org.

Or you can go to Phoenix and visit the Heard Museum, which does the same for Amerinds: http://heard.org.

And finally, when talking about the Holocaust, it is important to not just link it with "Jewish" and "Zionist" identities. Of the 11 million people (unbelievable magnitude) killed by the German Nazis, FIVE million were not Jewish! THREE million were Polish Christians, and thousands and thousands were Catholics from other countries and Romanys, identified as "Gypsies". Hate and intolerance against one group in the name of upholding the cause of another group does not advance human knowledge or ethics.

C.H. (NYC)

Mr. Coates and his admirers seem to discount the 'visceral' take many of us have re: black violence inflicted on white bodies, something that the FBI seems to be four times more likely than the reverse, as the above link to FBI 2013 statistics show. Because attitudes and actions are hateful doesn't mean that there are not complex reasons underlying them which must be addressed. Mr. Coates seems to offer no hope for transcendence or reconciliation, he's just throwing gasoline on the fires of resentment and mistrust. His thesis seems to be that his race is entirely devoid of free will, and is completely at the mercy of the evil 'master' race. If this is true, and his race is entirely without responsibility or self determination, then he is correct in his pessimism.
There are far more whites than blacks - blacks are only 14% of the population. Also unfortunately the violence of blacks is higher in general due to poverty that comes from discrimination, racism, and legally forced segregation. Both reasons can explain why there is more black on white crime than there is white on black crime. It's not a measure of racism. Most whites do not live, work or play around blacks. On the other hand most blacks spend some part of their daily interactions around whites. Hate crime statistics are a better, though not complete measure of racism. Also crime statistics do not include everything - for example blacks killed by police.
Let's Be Honest (Fort Worth)
I tried to post a somewhat similar comment on this article and the censors at the NYTimes refused to post it, although its comments were based on facts every person seeking the truth on issues of race should know.

So readers, understand C.H. was lucky to get this challenge to the NYTimes's political correctness through.
John (Holloway)
You forget slavery. Black violence inflicted on white bodies pales in comparison mate.
Michael (Los Angeles)
Coates' honesty about having no compassion on 9/11 for the cops who died shows remarkable courage. We'll know we've made progress as a society when he can admit years later that he was right.
nuagewriter (Memphis)
As an African-American writer I respect and admire Mr. Coates' work, but continue to lament the discrimination in the world of publishing that allows only one African-American writer to gain fame at a time. It's really a bothersome phenomenon in a nation that prides itself on the 1st Amendment and promotes itself as being open to the free expression of varied thoughts, ideas, and opinions. Relegating most literature outside that of the dominant culture to a second class status denies Americans the full texture, flavor, and coloring of our diverse history. Whether Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Lorraine Hansberry, Maya Angelou, Coates, etal, tell me , except possibly during the turbulent 60s, have more than one black writer at a time been celebrated? While I in no way begrudge Mr. Coates his well earned success, he is merely the flavor-of-the-year. There are many many great black writers out there. To this day American publishing remains one of the most segregated areas in the country. Sadly, black intellectual equality is the last and most enduring taboo in America.
enzo11 (CA)
Then start your own publishing company.
Mel (Ny. NY)
It's nearly impossible for anybody to stand out and "gain fame" as a writer. Publishers care about selling books, not skin color. Write a great book, plus get really lucky, and you may be the next Coates. Or just be glad you're making a living as a writer, which most people, white, brown, or yellow, can't do, and just be happy.
John W. (NC)
When I read a book I never know or care about the race of the author.
Jeffrey L (NY,NY)
A casual shoving of a 4 year old is not racism unless the recepient of that "shoving" perceives it that way. Mr. Coates takes every slight every incident of rude behavior as evidence of overt racism. Of course racism exists and it's ugly in any form but the practioners of this attitude and behavior are diminishing and will continue to do so. Mr.Coates has hitched his star to anger much like the racists he abhors instead of being proud and satisfied that this county has twice elected a Black American to its highest office.
John D (San Diego)
Excuse me, Mr. Coates, just wanted to you let you know the limo will be here in 20 minutes to take you to your next scheduled media appearance, and both Showtime and HBO are interested in the series. Okay, you can now resume your rant. You were talking about the crushing, unimaginable burden of being a black person.
Dave (Texas)
Coates is another in a long line of race profiteers, or, as Booker T. Washington described them more than 100 years ago, "problem profiteers":

"There is another class of coloured people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs — partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs." Booker T. Washington, My Larger Education, 1911
Robert (Out West)
i believe that the answer to that one was written about 90 years ago; it was, "I don't agree/Said W.E.B."
There is now an entire race "industry". Something to consider: Where would it be if things actually improved?
Bell Clement (Washington, D.C.)
Coates's myopia and self-absorption are stunning. The response to his work suggests that we have lowered our standards for the black intelligentsia - giving productions such as this a pass that, were they offered by any other demographic, would be roundly excoriated. Coates needs to think about our country more deeply and more broadly. Were I an editor at Atlantic, I'd ask him to go out on assignment, say, to Appalachia, to the old river towns of the Ohio Valley. If he is honest, he would learn something there. In the meantime, these celebrations of black victimhood and white guiltiness are just two sides of the same coin. They make the raft of our, real, present troubles a matter of individual blameworthiness, instead of looking beyond to the structural causes of inequality. They divide poor and working people from one another and allow us, dangerously, to avoid addressing the real challenges of our oppressive, destructive economic and cultural arrangements.
Amanda (New York)
Ta-Nehisi Coates' new apparent status as America's most prominent public intellectual, based on his discussion of past racism in housing policy and other places, reveals the failure of contemporary American intellectual discourse, which is essentially backward-looking, hankering for the unsustainable economics of the 1950's to 1970's Great Compression before America's heavy industry collapsed under the weight of uneconomic unionism, and hankering for the civil-rights activism of the 1960's before it stimulated a massive backlash to the surge in violent crime and out-of-wedlock births that came with it.

Racism is real, and it exists, nearly everywhere, inside and outside America, among whites, blacks, and every other race of humans.

But it does not follow from this that America will benefit from unceasing racial navel-gazing and white self-flagellation. These will accomplish nothing. Civil-rights-era militance of black people and apology by whites represents an old failed model that will not address contemporary social ills, nor increase productivity, nor aid America on the world stage where its great strength makes it indispensable to stability, peace, and progress. In a time of slow growth and a global upsurge of aggression by authoritarian regimes, this sort of self-imposed weakness is dangerous. America, and the world, cannot afford to indulge any longer, this sort of self-pitying African-American discourse.
Zornorph (Bahamas)
Guys like this just bore me, now. No, I'm not going to go around wearing a hair shirt because you want me to or you think I owe you something. Get over yourself.
Robert (Out West)
After all, wealthy white guys in the Bahamas never act like they're entitled.
Dusty Chaps (Tombstone, Arizona)
Coates' demand for "black" reparations is the lie and deception of another opportunist. If anyone is due reparations, it's Native Americans, raped, enslaved, and slaughtered of their human rights and land by a NATIVE AMERICAN GENOCIDE that continues to this day, perpetuated by black and white predators, alike.
Howard Tanenbaum M.D. (Albany, NY)
I am reading this book with profound sadness and even more shock that a father could be laying this negative, bleak assessment of America on his young son. Yes there is racism in America stemming from the sad history of human enslavement starting in the 15th century. But there was a Civil War and Emancipation and many years later a Civil Rights Act and many other acts of legislation by a predominantly white country to lay the groundwork for equality before the law and opportunity for becoming part of mainstream America.
The mantra in my Jewish home when I was growing up was " you must be better at what you do and behave better because what you do reflects on all Jews". That's the key to success.
We all can agree that the relatively rare police shooting of unarmed Black people is a terrible thing and is unconscionable. But the perpetrators do have to stand before grand juries . If acquitted, that's the system we live under. To suggest that the view of the' street' should prevails is a road to anarchy.
Mr.Coates, tell your son of the greatness of this country. Tell him how in spite of the racist legacy, he can make of himself what ever he desires and is capable of, even President. Tell him to help his brethren get educated, stay in school,, not dumb down because being smart is 'white'. Tell him to look at the lives of Holocaust survivors who came to America and thrived. No matter how hard it is to be Black in America, it ain't Auschwitz.
God Bless America.
It's not Auschwitz but it once was and not so long ago. Being Jewish and white is so different. Your parents could say that to you knowing that you would be given opportunities, you would not be killed by police. But even if a black person sets a good example systematic racism works hard to pound on that person and prove that they are bad. If that person succeeds they are considered an exception. Then everytime a black person misbehaves the media carries the story as if it's the story of black people. Example - riots. A small group of people in Baltimore set a CVS on fire and the story is why do black people riot. Whites riot at a pumpkin festival and the story is not even carried in the media. So the advice given to you by your parents does not apply. Instead we have to teach our kids how not to be a victim of police brutality.
KMS (Detroit)
Dr. Tanenbaum what you fail to realize is that you and David Brooks benefit from white skin privilege. And there has been nothing "relatively rare" about the shooting of unarmed black people. It has been happening every other week.
John (Holloway)
Howard, there are many books that say stay in school,, not dumb down because being smart is 'white'. Too many of them. However the truth isn't splendid, it is sad.
Lanny Morgnanesi (Doylestown, PA)
Another strong (rare) voice in an America that is far too silent.
maggilu2 (W. Philly)
The racial fragility of people whenever the subject of race is brought up is troublesome at the very least. People should not view this as a personal, individual issue but rather a systemic issue that has advantages for some people, and by logic, equal and opposite disadvantages for others.

When people take it personally, it subjugates the suffering and disenfranchisement of millions of people which subsequently come to be seen as less important than one person's hurt feelings.
Kenneth (IZ, Canada)
Move on.
Richard D. (Stamford)
Here's a quote from Coates' article "When people who are not black are interested in what I do, frankly, I’m always surprised, “I don’t know if it’s my low expectations for white people or what.” Can anyone imagine if a white writer had said this about blacks ? The sooner we stop constantly judging people by race and putting people in groups the faster we will heal. How about we start by treating everyone as an individual ? I judge others by how they treat me and how they treat other people. If we all showed just a little more patience and kindness in our daily interactions, we'd have a much better society.
Noel (New York)
And therein lies the inherent challenge... Of course what you've said is true but it is devoid of any understanding or acknowledgement of why Coates' expectations are low. It is not a statement made in a vacuum. Suppose over the course of 30 years, you experienced troubling interactions with dogs. You were bitten, growled at, stalked, and so on. And not just you, but family and friends could readily share similar experiences with dogs. At some point, wouldn't you agree, you might become wary of dogs and develop low expectations. And even if you had good interactions with individual dogs, the recurring negative experiences might still inform your expectations. It is a form of self preservation and protection. I think Coates' statement speaks more to his psyche and personality that it does to anything else. Many African Americans, hold out hope for a change in race relations in this country only to be horribly disappointed again and again, but they retain hope. While others have stopped hoping long ago. They have no expectations at all. In their minds, the close relationships they may have with whites are the exception not the rule. It seems you have judged Coates' statement through your own life experiences and personal lens. If we can meet people where they are and ask questions to better understand points of view, it will go a long way toward moving forward conversations around race.
Bob Kohn (Manhattan)
In other words, by being surprised about white people think about him, Coates is admiting he "prejudges" white people before they say anything about him. That is, he's "prejudiced." And since his prejudice is solely based on race, it's "racism." Coates is making a very strong admission that he is a racist. Simple as that.
blessinggirl (North Carol and Terr)
It is my hope that Mr. Coates will recognize that we are, individually and collectively, works in progress. I hope he will recognize that, in our individual lives and in the collective lives of this nation and the world, the story is not yet over. I hope he will recognize he has much to learn. As my mentor law school professor advised me: "Nothing fails like success."
Langenschiedt (MN)
I am considering Mr. Coates' book a major contribution to stirring our national dialogue on race. The idea if an express (interpretation can also extend to an implied) privilege of nobility (though it can extend to other so-called traits, such as gender or economic status or age) at the expense of another's equal rights is prohibited in Article 1, Section 9 of the US Constitution. Practices such as redlining are therefore unconstitutional because any ordinary white person is accorded a right equivalent to noblesse oblige over an equally well- (or better-) qualified black homebuyer. Akhil Reed Amar's discussion of this topic in "America's Unwritten Constitution" is well-worth a careful, thoughtful review as it examines and evaluated this issue! Black lives do matter and nobility if any kind is un-American. Granting white people 'extra points' in homebuying, schooling and employment us a false method of valuation. Let us determine the personal qualities that really do produce strong American communities and leadership on a level playing field. Then, the fruits true leadership and American courage and freedom and faith can be shared by all as the Founders intended!
ernie (New York, NY)
What are you babbling about? Article 1, Section 9 states, in part, that "No title of nobility shall be granted by the UNITED STATES.." Banks are not the United States. Private institutions are not THE UNITED STATES. The history behind that part of the document has NOTHING to do with what you're suggesting. Come on! Even a "living document" type should know that..and to follow your logic to its conclusion, affirmative action, much like giving whites 'extra points in home buying, schooling and employment,' as you put it, would be unconstitutional. People should NOT be discriminated against based on an innate trait such as skin color. The problem is that often legitimate concerns about the individual are dismissed as racism. Take for example the Federal Reserve report that was cited in the 90s as evidence of discrimination toward blacks in mortgage lending..a majority of black mortgage applicants were approved, but it was a smaller majority than that of whites. After all we've heard about pervasive black poverty, is this surprising? Is this "discrimination" or did a smaller percentage of black Americans qualify under equal terms? As far as formal titles of nobility, the founding Republican Whigs did abbhor them, but they abbhored then because they were often bestowed upon undeserving people who were well connected to the powerful, not quite the same as simply "being white."
Steve Allen (S of NYC)
If one were to replace "Black" and "African-American" with "White" and "Caucasians" in this column and accompanying comments it would read like a racist's dream.
fortress America (nyc)
For reparations, first go to Africa for the black on black slavers, where there is still slavery, and then to Araby which invented East African export of slaves , Black enslavement at the Swahili Coast

Slavery ended with the advent of White Anglo Saxon Protestant (WASP) morality in England , (paging Wilberforce et al) and in the US, all per 'WHITE' values and in blood in the US where 100,000s of WHITES (and some Blacks) died to free US Slaves

I doubt Mr Coates has said 'Thank you whitey'

Mr Coates' long screed on reparations at Atlantic cited among other things that Whites should not move into Black nabes (ethnic cleansing) but Blacks should move into White nabes for racial something

In the Atlantic Piece, Mr Coates does comment on the social pathologies of Black nabes and how Blacks are trapped there by lack of jobs - well, dude, employers do not go where crime is, so clean up your own nabe and maybe jobs will come back, if you encourage lawfulness, which means and end to gangbanger culture, aka thuggery ( oops dog whistle for racism)

as for dead black men (1) these deaths are mostly resisting arrest, attacking, or running and (2) the most dangerous place for a black man is near another black man

As for Mr Coats' choice of an African American space for his book, and avoidance of being White America's something or other - no danger sir, you speak from the Baldwin 1960s and earlier and speak to the mirror and your echo chamber

Mr Obama? the less said the better
Steve C (Bowie, MD)
The Atlantic has Mr. Coates and the Times has Mr. Blow. Both men should continue to address the issues of the White Black or Black White confrontation and sought after solutions. Their input is as important to our daily lives as keeping up to date with world news in every quadrant.

That is what I look for as an elderly, White retiree.
NYC80 (New York, NY)
Are you kidding? If I were Coates, my advice to my son would be, "Son, you're black. There will be some disadvantages, but nothing like in the past, and it can now be a benefit. Make friends with the white kids at school, especially the smart ones and the ones who have rich, connected parents. Be polite and a good influence on the kids, and their parents will like you. They'll take a special, personal interest in you, in part because you are black and there is nothing rich liberal white people love more than helping promising young black men succeed. They'll use their connections to help you get into good schools, and it won't hurt that I'm your dad and I'm now pretty famous. If you play your cards right, when you graduate from college, you'll have people opening doors for you everywhere and will be put on the fast track for whatever you want to do in your life. There has never been a better time in all of human history to be black than America in 2015, and you should make hay while the sun shines."
Robert Eller (.)
It would behoove everyone to remember that the still young (39 years old) Mr. Coates wrote this book as a letter to his 14 year old son and only chlid.

What conscientious father does not give his son whatever tools that father thinks his son needs to protect himself, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.

Mr. Coates wants his son to survive. He's seen too many people like his son not survive.

Read everything Mr. Coates writes in that context. Think about how you, as a parent, a guardian, a teacher, would speak to a 14 year old boy, someone as precious to you as anyone on the planet.

Would you think that "over-doing it" is over-doing it?

There are lessons in life we get no second chance to learn, as sons, as fathers.
Lucretia Borgeoise (Chicago, IL)
We are living in the golden age of professional victimhood. This will not end well.
Darth Vader (CyberSpace)
Of course. Let's turn off all the camera phones so we can, once again, ignore the racist violence that pervades the USA.
Dave (Texas)
"... it was 'that we, with love, shall force our brothers to see themselves as they are..."

It doesn't get any more racist than that statement. There is no "as they are" that describes white people. Coates is a bigot.
jose dinero (90210)
Yet another bitter Black making money off the race issue. How'd you like to have him for a neighbor? The only thing worse are the suckers paying him money.
Robert Orr (Toronto)
It seems to me that Coates is a rather pretentious writer who makes a living from going on about race continually. Speaking as a Canadian, I believe that America's continual cacophony about race is not helping your society. People like Coates profit from sowing division within your society. By the way, his writing also contains racist comments which would not be tolerated from most writes.
Robert (Out West)
and you guys never seem to have a prob with the Savages, Hannitys, D'Souzas, O'Reilleys and Coulters who get very, very well paid for doing exactly what you're complaining about.

Why is that?
Marcos Campos (New York)
Robert Orr of Toronto: You must mean "whites" (the last word of your comment).
An inadvertent typo I would think.
Mr. Coates can no more understand and convey what being or (rather, for most of us) looking white is like than I can understand and convey what looking black is like. He seems to vilify white people simply for being white, which is not only racist, but is far from the most benign form of that way of thinking. Imagine the New York Times printing this article with a photo of a white man and with all references to black and white reversed, and I think you will get my point.
Paul (Kansas)
Exactly. As a white man who is not a racist, I'm am so tired of being told my very being makes me a racist. I'm sick of it and sick of the perverse direction this once former great country as gone in terms of race relations.
Things have fallen apart completely in the past seven years and they only appear to be getting worse. I seriously looking at getting out this trainwreck of a nation and moving on.
SHB (Valley Forge, PA)
I've been reading Coates in the Atlantic and online for four years. He is a very good writer, intelligent, interesting, and often perceptive. The problem with Coates writing is that he cannot sustain a reasoned or logical argument for more than a page or so. His arguments break done when subjected to analysis. I tend to agree with most of Coates's statements about race and about America, but I just don't find his arguments and how he develops his positions convincing. There were serious holes in the logic or reasoning in Coates' essay on reparations, including contradictions that detracted from the point he was trying to make about race in America. I have no problem with Coates' anger; I do NOT find him convincing when his tries to present a coherent, extended argument.
Let's Be Honest (Fort Worth)
Here are two of the most explanatory things about America’s race problem -- which, from this article, it’s not clear Mr. Coates addresses.

First, according to government statistics the black murder rate is 7 times higher, and the black violent crime rate, in general, is 5 or 6 times higher, than for whites. This means that at least part of what blacks view as racism is a statistically justified white fear of threatening black behavior.

Second, as of the writing of Herrnstein and Murray’s “The Bell Curve” the average black IQ was 15 points below the average American IQ. Part or all of this IQ inequality is caused by cultural deprivations that could be fixed, if they were honestly addressed – but they are not honestly addressed. “The Bell Curve” showed that if one takes a random sampling of Blacks and Whites with the same IQ of 100, 70% of the income gap between blacks and whites disappears, strongly suggesting that over two thirds of the black-white income gap commonly blamed on racism, is in fact caused by differences in ability.

For hundreds of years black were treated horribly by American whites, and this horrible treatment is probably responsible for much of the high black crime rate and low average black IQ. But as long as such high crime rates and low average IQ’s continue a society that treats equal people equally will, on average, discriminate against blacks.
JohnBoy (Tampa, FL)
As a "conservative" who also reads The Atlantic regularly, I came to TNC about 4 years ago when he was still finding his moorings. I did enjoy interactions with "The Horde," even though I was usually the contrarian voice in a sea of conventional liberalism. In those days, while he moderated his comments aggressively, he also interacted with his readers and never claimed to know more than he did. Those were the days when he was learning about a topic, he would say, "Talk to me like I'm stupid."

It is also worth noting that to be a TNC acolyte means ignoring some of his loopier notions. He believes that Melissa Harris Perry is America's leading intellectual. He doesn't think that there's any correlation between single parenthood and increased exposure to pathologies such as poor academic achievement and crime.

But, I fear that fame is the worst thing that has happened to him. He went from a curious seeker with a wide range of interests to a full time race man. Unlike, say, Andrew Sullivan or Christopher Hitchens, his world-view has hardened and narrow, making his topics and his take on said topics, as predictable as summer weather in Florida. The scrappy climber from W. Baltimore is now a fellow who lectures white people from his perch at The White House or from Paris.
Aron (Vienna)
With all respect due, I think the author will find French racism as problematic as American racism. If you're reading this bro, I recommend that you head down to the former French colonies, too, and see how your Sub-Saharan African brethren are fairing. It's masked as globalization but it is really neocolonialism.
Bo (Washington, DC)
Ta Nahisi Coates is undoubtedly in the tradition of James Baldwin, who said that, “the lot of the American writer is to bear witness, as long as breath is in him, to mighty, unnameable, transfiguring force which lives in the soul of man, and to aspire to do his work so well that when the breath has left him, the people—all people!—who search in the rubble for a sign or a witness will be able to find him there.”
Bill Sprague (Tokyo)
I read Mr. Coates' reparations essay in the Atlantic and wasn't convinced by it. he was so angry - as he has a right to be. Although I am convinced of the racist business. Amerika has two great lies that are part of the fabric of what this country is: the fact that the founders did genocide on the people who were already here (what's "manifest destiny"? The "Indians" were marched to their deaths and put on "reservations" in the desert - is that "manifest destiny"?), and the fact that the founders had slaves. There was no excuse for it and I personally don't care what the historical frame of reference was. Slavery is morally wrong and unjustifiable. Period. It's no wonder so much of the rest of the world hates us. Amerikan capitalists are born hypocrites.
Douglas Spier (Kaneohe, Hawaii)
I do not care one whit how eloquent or popular the proponent of erroneous and divisive thought may be. Yes racism is a factor in all human interaction; get over it and overcome it. Im a successful white WASP. Guess what? Ive been a target of discrimination by Jews and Asians and there are urban places I wont go. But every aspect of modern American life is legally geared to egalitarian safety and prosperity. The whiners should just shut up.
Eddie Brown (New York, N.Y.)
Fabricated, exaggerated, racism is his schtick. Yet another dose of black angst. (Yawn.)
TheGardener (USA)
I will look forward to his report on the black experience living outside of The United States of America.
Eddie Brown (New York, N.Y.)
Freddie Grey, Michael Brown, Eric Garner were thugs or fools who sought and found a confrontation with police. White men generally don't have these problems because instead of running or fighting when confronted by the law, we choose to do as the officer says. Try it. It works. Regardless of your race.
stancat (Detroit, MI)
Freddie Grey did not seek a confrontation with police.
John (NYC)
I think Ta-Nehisi Coates has written some amazing things, and I am a fan.

However his latest book seems to break America down into two groups: Whites and Blacks. As someone who isn't in either group, I felt like his categories (and some of his conclusions) are 150 years out of date.
PJ (Massachusetts)
As humans we will always see differences. Our brains are built to differentiate. But, we have the rational capacity to say that no matter what we see that is interpreted by our biases, we can and must not give into irrational bigotry and hatred, the foundations of racism. See the difference, but realize there is no difference. Skin, like so much else in our lives, is a matter of accident of birth. No matter what we look like, we all deserve social and economic justice. I am white and am no more proud of that accident than I am of being a man, an American, and an oldest child, three more accidents of birth.
Ted Dwyser (New York, NY)
In reciting the often lamentable history of race in this country, Mr. Coates is usually accurate, if selective, in the facts he shares. But his judgment and conclusions are distorted by a blinding self-righteous anger, and he simply ignores or dismisses as inconsequential the many advances that African Americans have made in the post-war era. He seems to have decided that the time for dialogue between and among racial groups is past and no progress could possibly be good enough. His polemics will do nothing to promote the sort of society most reasonable people of all races seek.
Frank Dobbs (NYC)
Reading TNC's letter to his son I was reminded of my own father, who grew up in severe ethnic poverty, with alcoholism, violence and abuse all around, had experience with radical politics, read every great book he could get his hands on and had some success actually as a writer.

But there seems to be a kind of PTSD that burrows deep in the heart from a childhood spent in terror and fear. No amount of education, thought or even religious conversion can quell that terror, for those in its thrall. One can always blame some group, some other, for that fear and terror. But it came from one's family and closest friends, from the neighborhood one grew up in. Not everyone can come to that understanding and live with it. My father could understand that intellectually, but he could never overcome it emotionally. In many ways it destroyed him. It was very painful and confusing to watch the shadows of a brutal childhood overcome an idealistic man of strong will and high intelligence.

Neither, it seems, can the talented TNC overcome that trauma. Instead he want to pass it on to his son --to his son --and to all the rest of us because, at the bottom of his heart that is his heart truth.

It is painful for me to see TNC go down that same dark path, demonizing whole classes of people who are, no doubt guilty of much sin, but not for the sins that terrified him as a child. He is guilty of putting this terror ahead of the needs of his very own son.
professor (nc)
Yesterday, I was incensed by David Brook's column and happy to see my fellow commenters skewer him. I wish White Americans would shut up and listen to the conversation regarding the lingering and pervasive effects of racism. Unless you have intimately lived among people of color, you know little to nothing about racism. Rather than offer your invalid and unsubstantiated anecdotal opinions, be quiet.
Ted Dwyser (New York, NY)
"Shut up and listen?" That is not a conversation, that is a lecture. If you think that black America has nothing to hear in this conversation, you are part of the problem.
Independent (Fl)
I don't know the racism against blacks but I do know the racism against whites and you just displayed it perfectly. We have heard your story and we tire of it. Most of us don't agree with the likes of this author and no we are not going to shut up because we are white.
Kenneth (IZ, Canada)
Booker T Washington, year 1911
"My Larger Education, Being Chapters from My Experience" , Ch. V " The Intellectuals and the Boston Mob"
Booker T. Washington was an African-American Educator,
author, orator, and adviser to presidents of the United States. Between
1890 and 1915, Washington was the dominant leader in the African-America community.
A Quote from Booker T Washington:
"I will permit no man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him."
D.Vidore (New Zealand)
Te-Nehisi message isn't a new one, but the mirror he holds up to white America is as courageous & necessary as that of the prophets of the Old Testament. In every way but the intended meaning, white America has been it's brother's keeper.
Glenn Baldwin (Bella Vista, AR)
Just saying. I am white. Grew up in '60s NYC, plenty of black kids in my class, went to their houses, just like they came to mine. Same in HS, sure Willie Underwood stole my wallet at knifepoint; he took plenty of black kids wallets too. Later when I moved to the Bay Area in the 1970s I worked in the shipyards and refineries. My first boss was African-American, as was my mentor; we'd hang out at his house and get drunk on this truly awful fortified wine he favored. Used to visit my friend Godfrey who lived in the Fillmore (then a black neighborhood); during the Zebra Killings he always insisted on walking me back to the Haight. Years later my wife and I moved from SF to East Oakland and then to the West Side of Chicago, where street shrines to dead homies were, and probably still are, a common sight. Got a job with the railroad where virtually all of my bosses and co-workers were African American; our South Side yard right next to the old Robert Taylor projects. After work my bosses would often take me to bars where I was definitely the only white person in the house. Finally went back to school, got a degree and became a paralegal, and again, many of my co-workers and the attorneys I worked for were black. As for cops, over the years I've been pulled over plenty of times for a tail light or for nothing, yelled at, searched, especially in Chicago. So excuse me if I don't recognize my "privilege", or celebrate TNC's race-baiting litany of aggrievement. All just people to me.
don shipp (homestead florida)
"America understands itself as God's handiwork, but the black body is the clearest evidence that America is the work of men". With that intellectual thrust Ta-Nehisi Coates demolishes the smug Conservative concept of American Exceptionalim. There is no "shinning city on a hill" in Mr. Coates narrative of American History.He sees reality without blinders and obfuscations of Conservatives and gives us a unique lens with which to view American society.
I watched the Charlie Rose show on PBS when he interviewed Mr. Coates.
I was more fascinated with the process and the evolving understanding that was elicited by Mr. Rose because being Black, I did not have to work hard to understand Coates.
Witnessing the effect on Charlie Rose was transformative to understanding why some, perhaps many White people have a problem with comprehending the racial divide.
I saw the brilliant Mr. Rose pulling and tugging the information from Coates. As Rose wrestled for the clarity he sought, my eyes were mesmerized on him and the amount of work Rose gave to understanding Coates' Blackness and, I stress, I do not infer that Rose does not "get" Black people.
Watching Rose, this brilliant and inquisitive man, working hard to understand Coates, I was overjoyed to know that Rose now understood exactly the man sitting beside him. I wanted to cheer.
What I "got" from the Charlie Rose episode is that when Black people talk about their reality, their perception of race, it must be as foreign to some White folks as trying to explain how the internet or television works to some of us old folk.
Arun Gupta (NJ)
We each one of us are individuals, not representatives of some race or other. Yet our social structures (and in the past our legal and even our constitutional rules) requires us to relate to each other in terms of race. This is the essence of racism.
Mark (Pompano Beach, Fl)
The only thing that forces classification by race is the leftist desire to destroy the USA's commitment to individual liberty.
David D (Victorville)
To hear a guy who openly states his fondness for saying the "N" word and thinks it "sounds funny" talk about racism is a bit of a oxymoron. I would so like for MSNBC to stop giving Ta-Nehisi Coates and Michael Eric Dyson, two admitted and frequent abusers of the "N" word, reason to voice there tainted opinions on all things black in America.
Katie (Texas)
Perhaps they use the word to take away its power and ability to cause pain.
David D (Victorville)
It would be nice if he could expand his vocabulary to not need to use such a divisive word.
David D (Victorville)
Perhaps it would serve his quest to simply not use the word and underscore the point that it's a word that demeans and belittles, and yes, insults and hurts. To think the world can be rid of all words deemed "bad" by exhaustively using them thereby converting them to "innocent" is not a serious topic for discussion.
J. Free (NYC)
It's fascinating and heartbreaking to see how many commenters so easily deny their evident racism while at the same time practicing it on this public forum.
Jim Mitchell (Seattle)
And pathetic. And the NYT readership leans left, but obviously still establishment.

Don't rock the boat! We got us a good thing here, eh!
Eddie Brown (New York, N.Y.)
No, I think people are being quite clear in stating their boredom with such race baiting and fabricated racism. Black angst has become a biz. We're not buying.
Pharsalian (undefined)
It's fascinating and heartbreaking to see how many apparently white commenters eagerly embrace Coates' bleak, nihilistic - and racist - view of America in order, I assume, to assuage their white guilt and reinforce their liberal bona fides.
na (here)
“It was very, very important, as far as I was concerned, that the book be launched in an African-American space,” Mr. Coates, 39, said in an interview the morning after the event. “I wanted to be very clear about who the book was written for, how it was written, what it came out of.”

I am confused. Is it written for African-Americans, or is it written for the wider American audience? If the book is launched in an "African-American space", isn't it like self-segregating? As someone who is neither white nor black, and who wants to understand and learn and grow, I am not sure what message Coates has for someone like me. On one hand, his purely binary white-black view leaves out a significant portion of the current American population. At the same time, there is a certain accusatory tone, that I find alienating. Almost like being told, "if you are not black, at best you don't count; at worst you are part of the white power structure." I submit there is another way - a way that includes all people of good will regardless of their color. Coates' book is not it.
Joe Schmoe (Brooklyn)
The message is this: "It's a black thing. Y'all wouldn't understand." So why bother?
Henry Ung (Houston)
I understand where you're coming from, but I'd like to reply to a couple of your points, if anything to better articulate and understand for myself these issues.

- on Coates's message and to whom it is directed to : like you, I am neither black nor white and can empathize with your query. The issue though lies in that one doesn't need for a "message" to be directed at one to learn and grow from it. Coates has stated that he writes out of a very personal intellectual curiosity, a curiosity linked toward the history behind a part, a big part, of his identity. He's not writing to convince you of anything, nor is he writing so that you can figure out your place in America as someone who is not white or not black. He's first and foremost writing to understand his blackness and the history behind why that blackness carries so much meaning in our society. Readers read because (even if they aren't white or black), they've been touched by the products of both political bodies. Race, regardless of good will, holds power, is still a contentious subject, and therefore an important topic to get a grounding on... and let's face it, in America black and white has been the dialectic for cultural and economic engines.
Jo (Chicago)
I took "who the book was written for" to mean on whose behalf. I do not think the intention was that only black people could read it. Try harder to look at context.
William Case (Texas)
According to a recent New York Times article, “In police homicides in which the victim’s race is identified, African-Americans account for about three in 10 deaths, and whites roughly half. “ So blacks are the victims in about 30 percent of police homicides while non-Hispanics whites are the victims in about 50 percent. The article points out that this means “blacks are three times as likely to be killed by cops as are whites" but adds that blacks are “five times as likely to feloniously kill a cop.”The truth is that racial disparity in police homicides is much smaller than the racial disparity in violent crime.

Interracial murders are relatively rare, but blacks are considerably faster than whites on the interracial trigger finger. The FBI Uniform Crime Report 2013 (Expanded Homicide Data Table 6) shows that 409 blacks murdered whites while 189 whites (including Hispanics) murdered blacks in 2013, the most recent year for which data is complete. Table 6 also shows 13.6 percent of white homicide victims were killed by black offenders and 7.6 percent of black homicide victims were killed by white offenders, including Hispanics.

PJ MURIN (Pasadena)
damn. you're really keepin score, huh?
r (ga)
Interesting article, i see that the article is data per capita, would be revealing to know what the data is per city.
Robert Eller (.)
True you statistics might be, but still irrelevant to Mr. Coates' book.

Mr. Coates talks about all the violence that Black Americans have to live with. He's not pointing fingers - which you'd realize if you read the book.

Black Americans, regardless of their wishes, are compelled by racism and segregation, institutional and otherwise, to live in more violent environments than most White Americans. That is also a true statistic, and the one which Mr. Coates addresses.
Kimberly A. Cooper (Nova Scotia, Canada)
I read Between the World and Me in its entirety today. Thoroughly captivating, Coates allows readers (namely his son) to witness how his identity as a black man while inherently vulnerable, is also empowered by the life-events highlighted throughout the book.

Coates shares his growth and search for "the right question" from the hardened streets of Baltimore to the intellectual Mecca at Howard University, to the insecurities of parenthood, to self awareness as a black man outside the United States in Paris. He's also honest about his potential limitations as a God-less man while other blacks in his midst pray for their oppressors.

Between the World and Me shouldn't be read because he's the next James Baldwin of the black community, it should be read because Ta-Nehisi Coates is a profoundly relevant voice within 21st century American culture - poised, combative, fearful, loving, inquisitive, empathetic...imperfectly human.

As a biracial woman who consciously navigates her whiteness and blackness on a daily basis both here in Canada and when traveling back to Los Angeles, I could identify with Coates, yet also pinched by his stance on whiteness and what he calls the "Dream". Yes! Thank you. My wheels are still turning...

Of course now I'd love to hear how his son (and my daughter's) generation responds to the book. He writes from his experiences; our younger generations should be preparing to do the same.
Luce (Indonesia)
One thing is still missing from US discussions of racism. Americans, both black and white, talk as if racism is strictly an American phenomenon. It is universal, it is part of every human's psyche. I think it is not possible to deal with our racism, as individuals, without confronting this fact.
That's not true. I've read accounts that people from Europe and the Middle East come to the US and learn they're black, for instance.
Jazz (My Head)
The Black/White rhetoric in the US is stale and redundant on both sides. I went to UCLA in the late 60s. I was militant then, and angry books about America's racial issues were in heavy rotation in class. I read Soul on Ice, Seize the Time, Black Skin, White Masks, Wretched of the Earth, Black Power, Talley's Corner, Dark Ghetto, The Fire Next Time, The Souls of Black Folk, and the Autobiography of Malcolm X. I've read The Content of Their Character, and Race Matters. I don't need to read another angry/woe is me racial screed.

Everyone can endlessly diagnose the problem, but nobody can solve it. Back then the Black unwed birth rate was 33%. Now it's 74%. No race can progress with a rate like that. And the embrace of the vile thug worshipping gangsta rap, and the insane level of gang related Black on Black killing has set us back 20 years.

However, I would never give my son such a hopeless and dour vision of life in America as a Black man. It's depressing, a self-fulfilling prophecy, and too melodramatic and self-pitying. Why send your child out into the world with such a bleak and hopeless outlook? I'm Black, had my share of tough times, and I don't agree with Mr. Coates outlook at all.

I've learned in my many years of living to never deal with people as members of a group--only as individuals. And there are good and bad individuals in every race, gender, and sexual orientation.

Ultimately that's what life comes down to--dealing with individuals.
ORY (brooklyn)
Man. Thanks for that!
As someone neither white nor black, a comedy of misconstrued racial "identities" in the eyes of those who hold on to that menu to hold closely, I had my share of beatings, curses, spittle and boots. So what. Go to Pakistan. Go to the Sudan. Find out the relative and all pervasive nature of our collective mayhem and depravity. Coates isn't saying anything untrue, and doubtless many or even most 'white' people have never considered his points about being 'black' in the USA, so all well and good. But anyone invested in standard racial, religious, ethnic, gender or political identities imposes a myopia on themselves.
Peter (Chicago)
No, life also comes down to dealing with institutions of all kinds, formal and informal. The institution of racism in America is vivid and real. Dealing with it is exhausting and damaging. Life does not just come down to dealing with individuals.
PJ MURIN (Pasadena)
wait ... i thought you hadn't read it and won't because you've already read all those "angry screeds" ... so how can you pass judgment on the book if you haven't read it? I'm confused.
Robert Eller (.)
I'm also looking forward to David Brooks applying his same standards and perspectives on "excessive realism" Brooks brought to Mr. Coates' "Between the World and Me" to Michael Oren's autobiographical "Ally."

Or did I already miss it?
Marian (Boulder, CO)
Brooks should just resign after this article. He upholds status and status quo to a fault. How many more years to we have to suffer his apologia for elitism? His functional illiteracy? His "Last White Man Standing" selfies? (Which is all his articles have been for a long, long time.)
karl hattensr (madison,ms)
There is not going to be a perfect social plan such as democracy or communism.
dapepper mingori (austin, tx)
I would appreciate Mr. Coates's writing much more if it weren't plain that "White America" has for him, become as necessary of a trope as he argues that 'blackness' was for the development of American culture.

A vague, poetic, shape-shifting, ignorant, passive, clueless, evil, powerful "White America" becomes a parody, as much an Evil Empire as in Star Wars or in George W. Bush's brain. An easy, handy, indefinite, indescribable, always available, target for 'blackness' to set itself in opposition to.

It is a lazy, yet attractive argument for the under-developed thinker and writer. Unfortunately, it gains currency in a culture of lazy thinkers looking for an easy banner under which to rally.

I have enjoyed and valued much of Mr. Coates's writing in the Atlantic. The excerpts of this book that I have read and heard on the radio present self serving naive bluster along with insightful candor in equal doses.
KMS (Detroit)
Wow, your racism is really showing. Lazy is the word Southern landowners used for freed black, who had the audacity to want to be paid for their work after the Civil War. Twice I have had to address someone on this thread from the South with these backward views. I see not much has changed. There was a book out not too long ago called, "Let Them Secede." I almost wish the South had.
Sue (Vancouver, BC)
"Lazy" is a racial epithet now, is it? Really?
Benjamin Greco (Belleville)
Mr. Coates’ analysis that housing discrimination caused the creation of black ghettos that are almost impossible to get out of is correct, but his solutions, a heartfelt apology, recognition by whites that racism exists and reparations, seem hardly thought out and silly. That because Mr. Coates doesn’t believe in solutions. His recent conversation with Charlie Rose revealed his real concerns, and they are only for himself. He is not just an atheist; he is a nihilist who has rejected all the ideas of the Christian tradition, forgiveness and love for your fellow man among them. He insisted he didn’t believe MLK’s idea that the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice, but he completely misunderstood what King was saying. He wasn’t saying that he could look into the future he was commenting on the fact that the past showed a relentless movement toward progress and moral justice. Coates claims that the American system has always been and is a white supremacist system but he doesn’t seem to realize that if that were true he would be a slave. In short, Coates’ thinking is shallow and his analysis superficial. Like a lot of people, who didn’t live through the sixties, he desperately want to bring them back so he can be a character in those dramatic times, he plays at being Malcolm X and wishes he had James Baldwin’s talent. There is nothing wrong with having role models but Coates doesn’t learn from them, he only channels the anger of their times and his own.
PJ MURIN (Pasadena)
How I wish you were right. Unfortunately, you're not, but somehow, by apparently not seeing what's in front of your face, you've found a way to survive without going crazy
Robert Eller (.)
You've misread Mr. Coates. He has not rejected anything you say he has rejected.

What Mr. Coates does say is that he is skeptical of solutions. In that, he is being an honest observer. It's not his job to parse every "yes, but . . ."

He's trying to keep his son alive. And he doesn't believe that being naive is healthy for his son. I can't fault him.
Mark (Pompano Beach, Fl)
Reparations are definitely owes to any today who was a slave.
Dr Russell Potter (Providence)
Coates puts it plainly. Every single white American who does *NOT* read this book does him or herself a disservice -- for, even though it wasn't written for them, it's a chance to do something pretty radical -- put yourself in someone else's skin.
VoR (SF, CA)
God, you're such a cliche of the northeastern liberal progressive, it's exhausting.

You CANNOT put yourself in someone else's skin. That is where true racial harmony begins—understanding that, no matter how many books you read or songs you listen to or movies you watch, you will never understand what it is like to be black unless you are black. Just as you will never understand what it is like to be a homosexual or a woman or [insert the minority du jour] unless you are a member of that group.

Here's the truly radical part, though...that's OK.

If Dr. Russell Potter knew any real black people as opposed to characters in print and on the screen, he could ask, and find out for himself.

pgp (Albuquerque)
I've read Coates' articles in the Atlantic for years. I'll read his book because he does a better job than any journalist I've encountered yet explaining how racism and xenophobia damage us.
PJ MURIN (Pasadena)
I agree - the Case for Reparations was a cogent historical accounting and very well well reasoned ... in short, an excellent brief. I find the crtiical comments here to be filled mostly with smug, unconscious denial and absurd self-righteousness. It's disheartening and tiresome.
Jim Mitchell (Seattle)
I haven't read his books, but have heard Ta-nehisi Coates interviewed several times, and always find him bluntly honest and gifted with language.

I agree with him that some form of reparations are due descendants of slaves, those affected by Jim Crow, and the War on Drugs. Even if that doesn't happen, it's important to speak the truth in the face of the mass denial that most of American society engages in with regard to the exploitation of blacks.
dogpatch (Frozen Tundra, MN)
Just the idea of actual reparations is a non-starter. Its never going to happen and to push for it will cause a backlash that will make the troubles of today look minor.

How do you define who qualifies for it? Do you count the inter-racial marriages as lowering the linkage? Do you count those whose ancestors came to this country after the Civil War? What if they're Somalis refugees? Do they count and how do you explain it to them that they don't? How can you ask people to prove their ancestry if they don't have anything concrete?

I'm not be sarcastic. I'm showing some of the nightmarish issues that will come up. The only people who will get anything will be the lawyers because the court cases will stack up in a massive way.

Then you can ask the Hispanics and other groups as to why African-Americans are so special as to get this? I mean if anyone has truly suffered worse then blacks it was Native Americans.

You wish to rip this country apart then go for reparations.

Oh and if you mention the Japanese-Americans that received reparations from being in interment camps. Yes they did get some compensation but only those that were actually there. Not children born afterwards or descendants.
professor (nc)
How do you define who qualifies for it - The descendants of those who were enslaved and those who continue to suffer the effects of racism and institutional segregation. In other words, those who are still being harmed by white supremacy. Read Coates' reparations article as the dots are connected between former and current plundering of African Americans.
Jim Mitchell (Seattle)
Dogpatch, did you read the last sentence: "Even if that doesn't happen...", and the following subordinate clause?

Obviously it would be tricky, but not impossible to legislate. With genetics advancing so quickly, I'm sure we could reasonably trace the percentage of blood belonging to those descendents of slaves fairly reliably sometime in the near future.

But, when I was a student at Berkeley in the 80's, it occurred to me that we should just carve out Mississippi and Alabama and give them to those descendants of slaves who chose to form their own nation, sort of like a North American modern day Liberia.

I'm not being sarcastic either.
NR (Washington, DC)
Is there a New Yorker who hasn't been brushed up against "casually" in an elevator, on the sidewalk or subway. If so they must be traveling with a security team or a bubble.

Let me get this right. Drops out of college - starts writing - people like it - gets a following - afforded incredible opportunity. Sounds like America is a fortunate place to be.

I am tiring of the consistent fawning over all things race related by the Times.
PJ MURIN (Pasadena)
Must be tough for you
jsw (ChiBalt)
Fully agreed. So odd that millions of at least "off-white" people risk life and limb to come to this heinous, racist country.
Ryan Bingham (Out there)
Funny how one man can tell us that there is no American Dream for black people, all the while living it.
Jeannie (<br/>)
Except he could be profiled, or shot for noncompliance because of his appearance. And he knows it.
Diana Moses (Arlington, Mass.)
At least he has gained a platform from which the audience commenting here hears him speak and and hears him report out on his, and others', experience and reality; others may be saying the same things but may not be being heard.
Ryan Bingham (Out there)
What are the odds of that's? Ten million to one? Stats say it would be a 93% chance he'd be shot by another black.
derek (usa)
Black violence toward themselves and the rest of society is the problem. I know its difficult for most of you to admit the facts in your dream world.
AC (Jersey City)
Have you ever thought that "Black" violence is a reaction to the "White" violence that they experience throughout their lives?
Or do you think Black people are inherently violent and need no outside influences?
Try living in an oppressive state of existence all your life and then come back and tell us how we should behave. Of course we are suppose to be happy to be offered sub standard education, housing, job opportunities and legal protection but be happy about it. After all you white folks have treated us so well through the years.
Felicity Twenty (NYC)
That's a false comparison. Crime stats aren't his topic. His work focuses more on the history, the legacy, of slavery, followed by Jim Crow, and later, redlining by the federal government, and how redlining led to the creation of the very ghettos that trap, not all, but a sizeable number of black Americans in cycles of poverty and ignorance caused by systemic, and unfortunately, internalized racism. Can you fit the complexity of historical facts into your world?
A. Stanton (Dallas, TX)
Just like every other group in this country, blacks should be taking responsibility for their own lives and futures, never trusting in government or any other group to do this job for them. They are already doing a lot of this now. They need to do more.
PJ MURIN (Pasadena)
Perhaps you can help show them the way, Mr. Stanton.
Robert Eller (.)
Yesterday, David Brooks, a writer for the New York Times, denied Mr. Coates the legitimacy of Mr. Coates' perception of his own life as a Black Man in America in "Between the World and Me." Mr. Brooks asserts that racism in America cannot be "that bad," because Mr. Brooks "has hope."

So, I am eagerly waiting for David Brooks' inevitable companion piece on these pages, in which Mr. Brooks takes his fellow Zionists in the U.S. and in Israel to task for their persistent and trenchant pessimism about anti-Semitism. I'm sure that Mr. Brooks has an equally heartfelt belief that anti-Semitism cannot be "that bad," that anti-Semitism has mitigated, that Mr. Brooks "has hope," which he will admonish his fellow Zionists to share with him.

No? Anti-Black racism is abating, but anti-Semitism is forever, Mr. Brooks? And the difference is . . . ?
dgoldman (Florida)
Anti-semitism in the US, with the exception of college campuses as of late, has decreased steadily over time. No country has ever treated Jews better than the United States. I am eternally grateful and proud of that fact. Europe and the Middle East east has always been a terribly perilous place for jews.

Clearly, it's much more difficult if you are black in America. Whether it is police brutality or white indifference to racist reality, racism is indeed visceral and real and part of one'S daily existence. But it is better than it was years ago and will keep improving with increased media attention to police killing of unarmed black men and women and authors like Mr. Coates.
LG Phillips (California)
Brook's obliviousness on this is stunning. In disagreeing with Coates' assessment of the "American Dream", Brooks speaks of the promise America offered his immigrant ancestors fleeing the pogroms in Europe. My English immigrant ancestors fled religious persecution too, even though most conformist Anglicans probably thought life there was Just About Swell. The same probably holds true of Brook's immigrant ancestors and their homeland.

Mr. Brook's Jewish ancestors suffering in those pogroms likely had a Very Different Experience than the non-Jewish majority they lived among. If, by some magic, they WEREN'T Jews, they probably wouldn't have suffered and fled the persecution there to come to America, and more to the point, if they weren't Jews but mainstream conformists, they probably wouldn't have agreed with the Jews poor assessment of their country either.

This distinction, that blacks and whites don't experience a common "Americanness", they don't share in the same measure of pains and blessings as Americans, was acknowledged from the very opening pages of Coates' book, though this apparently sailed right over Brooks' head when he posed the ridiculous "As a white person am I not allowed to disagree it's all that bad?"

As if the real problem with Coates' book is that its author hasn't substituted Brooks' experience of the American Dream, which Coates's probably had drilled into him 7 billion times from 7 million white people already, for his own.
Zornorph (Bahamas)
Well, you've got a thing about Michael Oren, don't you?
Robert O. (NJ)
coates totally ignores that there are obviously very many instances of police brutality against non-blacks; the higher percentage against blacks in proportion to their numbers not only is due to their higher proportion of violent crimes against other blacks but also is due the overlooked obviousness that the lives of white cops matter too, even black cops who perish in the line of duty. coates betrayed himself by confessing his instinctive callousness toward the numerous killed early responders to the twin towers disaster. coates is by no means the successor to Baldwin, regardless of Morrison's "anointment" of him.
B Cubed (Los Altos, CA)
Show us all the videos of white kids getting shot for nothing.
shirls (Manhattan)
lower case 'C' for Coates, not once but thrice!? while Baldwin, Morrison merit/begin with upper case 'B' & 'M'. is the perfect example of a "subtle" form of bias/racism so pervasively insidious in the US.
Mark Rogow (TeXas)
Google it, you will be amazed.
alprufrock (Portland, Oregon)
I am approximately one third of the way through Mr. Coates treatise on the fate of a black person growing up in 'white' America. But even that cursory reading compels me to comment. I would classify myself as he does: those who believe themselves to be 'white'. And I also realize that I have not read Baldwin's "The Fire Next Time".
I believe with the recent removal of the Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina state capitol, a flag that represents not only an insurrection against the American flag but, since 1954, a commitment to resist integration in the South, and with the second term of our 'black' President coming to a close, all of us who believe ourselves to be white, benefactors of a 'white' syndicate that does not reward 'the Other', should spend some time reflecting on how the reality of being black in America has so eluded us.
jzzy55 (New England)
Even (or because of) growing up in a racially mixed, politically progressive suburb of NYC, I still knew nothing of the black experience (yet far more than my white college classmates who grew up in white communities). We just didn't talk of such things. Even now on our alumni FB page, it is hard to have truthful discussions. There were some interesting discussions (and flame wars from every corner) during the weeks following the Ferguson shooting. But nothing like what I'd wish for. I will read this book with great interest, especially since my son attends college not very far from Northeast Baltimore.
Anne Sibley O'Brien (Peaks Island, Maine)
I'm halfway through the book, finding it bracing, piercing and, as Toni Morrison declared, essential. It has a cumulative power, like an outgoing tide sweeping the reader into deeper waters. I find myself immersed in a new level of awareness - by osmosis rather than conscious thought - of the actual, physical and psychic impact of a past and present that declares black people less than. Thank you, Mr. Coates.
Wikibobo (Washington, DC)
The Horde was part and parcel of Coates's education and of mine. It is a part of my life. I am a stronger thinker because of it.
professor (nc)
Me too! I wish there were more places like the Horde.
Ray (LI, NY)
Although I have not read Mr. Coates’ recent work, I am familiar with some of his writings that address the issue of race in 21st century America. He is one of the angry African-Americans who have eloquently stated the misgivings that slavery inflicted on the African-American population. But that said, as an African-American who has lived late into the 7th decade of life and one whose upbringing was in the rural segregated South, I do not share the anger that I see coming forth in Mr. Coates’ writings. Perhaps this is a generational gap from someone who has lived the segregated (apartheid-like) life in the trenches. Life is so much better now than when I was youngster. Perhaps the advice that my mother gave her 8 children is appropriate in this case. She taught us to do the very best you can with what you have.
Complaining is all the rage right now. Consider the appeal of people like Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, both of whom are huge kvetchers. It's dangerous for anyone to even hint at being satisfied.

Most popular today are people who complain well.
enzo11 (CA)
Grew up in a predominantly white area - few blacks other than those stationed at the naval and air bases, so I had little personal interaction with blacks while growing up. My parents never said anything one way or the other about blacks, other than that they were no different than any other human being, and should be treated as such.

Had a black roommate in college in the early '70's. His mother grew up in NYC, and became a singe mother at a fairly early age. She didn't blame white society for her predicament - instead she bought a third-hand typewriter at a pawn shop, taught herself and some of her friends how to type and take dictatation, and started her own secretary temp service. Became successful enough to move out of NY to Rhode Island, bought a house in a good neighborhood ( only Black for many blocks) and became involved in the local politics, youth groups, etc.

She became like a second Mother to me.

She never, ever, claimed that there was a White society that was out to keep her down.

Ta-Nehisi could have learned a LOT from her.
georick2 (Washington, D.C.)
The time is always right for an honest discussion of race, a fact of life that has been with us and will remain with us forever. And its not that the issue of race is limited to America. Every part of the world bears its own unique take on that which divides us. But today in America, after a typical city in the middle America convulsed and erupted with decades of racial animus, notwithstanding the nation's first Black president, the time has somehow become right for an open discussion of race. So much for the idea of a post-racial America. I can only hope that this is not too little too late. Speak truth to power, and realize that power concedes nothing without demand. Demand brother, as we as black people have demanded since we first set foot in America. That was the brilliance of Baldwin: The stark and honest demand that commanded people's attention.
Peter (Chicago)
And what social warp do you live in? Age? Ethnic background? Racism is alive and virulent in America here and now. It is not a '60's thing, it is reality, USA, here, now.
Ouiser (IL)
Your comment reminds me of the "joke" about the black, very elegant guy, bowler and umbrella, riding the London subway and reading The Financial Times, totally unaware of his sorroundings...
Suddenly someone sitting accross him hisses the N word at him but he only lowers his paper, looks around and asks "where?"
scientella (Palo Alto)
Brilliant old Charlie Rose got to it in minutes. This man is a perceptive and great writer. And the case for reparations is a valid one. And I share Coates realistic atheist view that history does not necessarily arc to justice. I think that is absurd.

So what to do.

Reparations based on race is not really possible. Thats unfair from the outset. We need however to continue with proxy reparations such as affirmative action. To that I would add large amounts of money for schools in black neighborhoods. And social security and shelter. I am outraged in the San Francisco tenderloin at the number of old black infirm guys, not drugged up or drunk as far as I can see, sleeping on the streets. The women get into shelters. The men less often. Give them shelter.
Gotahugehook (Kansas)
Yup lets pour more money into black neighborhoods like Baltimore. Oh wait they already tried that with zero results. This problem cannot be solved with reparations or throwing money at it. Until the inner city culture shifts away from single households, gamgs as the default father figures for black young men and the idea that "acting white" imcludes studying and doing well in school then nothing is going to improve. That's my fundamental complaint with Mr. Coates. He's brilliant in many aspects and willfully blind where it really counts. His prescription is a poison pill for the black community. Continued victimhood only ensures more victims.
JonJ (Philadelphia)
I hope you actually read the book. It might explain to you where you're wrong in your assessment of people of color.
Philip Sedlak (Antony, Hauts-de-Seine, France)
Mr. Coates, I am hoping that you will be able to provide some insights into the difference between blackness in France and blackness in the US. I hope you have read the stuff that Manthia Diawara has written, In Search of Africa and
We Won't Budge: An African Exile in the World - the guy is at New School or some place like that, comes from Mali, I expect. There's a racism there but it is different from here in the US.
Melvyn Nunes (On Merritt Parkway)
"'I’m a writer and, for me, writing is a very internal process that’s all about trying to learn something and then show it to people,' he said in the interview."
This is a comment that is all about intellectual honesty. The man or woman who would express such honesty is someone to whom an honest reader ought pay attention. For it demonstrates that the writer understands writing, and truth, and their inseparable link.
Can you hear, America?
Or are you a groupie, mouthing sentiments crafted to impress others and disguise your own self-discomfort?
Do you read to explore truth, no holds barred, no pretense, no self-deception? For blackness and whiteness are not oil and vinegar. Whiteness and blackness are reality. What have you learned? Or have you even tried yet?
Can you dig it?
Or do you wear it where everyone can see it, but never consider what that twosome really represents?
Russell (<br/>)
If Toni Morrison claims Coates is James Baldwin's heir, we are in for some fantastic writing, necessary writing, writing that will become a determiner of our times. I wish this young man tons of success---and more than that, I hope readers get him.
Robert (Staunton, Va)
Time for me to read his books, though I may be too old to make much difference.
tom (bpston)
I'm 73. We're never too old to make a difference.
Andy (Toronto ON)
Coates has developed quite a reputation on The Atlantic, so I think that pretty much everything that we need to know about the book is contained in the name of the author. He could probably just name them "The Book by Ta-Nehisi Coates 1", "The Book by Ta-Nehisi Cates 2", etc.
See also