Cornel West has taken aim against famed author Ta-Nehisi Coates, in what many see as his latest opponent in the Black intellectual arena.
In a piece for the Guardian, West blasted Coates for “apolitical pessimism” and for having a view of Black America that is “too narrow.”
“Coates rightly highlights the vicious legacy of white supremacy – past and present. He sees it everywhere and ever reminds us of its plundering effects. Unfortunately, he hardly keeps track of our fightback, and never connects this ugly legacy to the predatory capitalist practices, imperial policies (of war, occupation, detention, assassination) or the black elite’s refusal to confront poverty, patriarchy or transphobia,” West wrote.
A different view of resistance
He blasted Coates for presenting a view of the world that suggests Black people can’t beat white supremacy.
“In short, Coates fetishizes white supremacy. He makes it almighty, magical and unremovable. What concerns me is his narrative of “defiance”. For Coates, defiance is narrowly aesthetic – a personal commitment to writing with no connection to collective action. It generates crocodile tears of neoliberals who have no intention of sharing power or giving up privilege,” West said.
Then, West suggested his own solution: “When he honestly asks: ‘How do you defy a power that insists on claiming you?’, the answer should be clear: they claim you because you are silent on what is a threat to their order (especially Wall Street and war). You defy them when you threaten that order.”
The legacy of Barack Obama
West also disagreed with Coates’ view of Obama’s legacy. In calling Coates out, he pointed to drone strikes and military action taken by Obama that he claims Coates ignored.
“Coates praises Obama as a ‘deeply moral human being’ while remaining silent on the 563 drone strikes, the assassination of US citizens with no trial, the 26,171 bombs dropped on five Muslim-majority countries in 2016 and the 550 Palestinian children killed with US supported planes in 51 days, etc. He calls Obama ‘one of the greatest presidents in American history,’ who for ‘eight years … walked on ice and never fell,’ he wrote.
He also criticizes Coates’ assertion that Obama’s presidency “opened a market” for a “new wave of black pundits, intellectuals, writers and journalists,” including Coates.
“And his own literary ‘dreams’ of success were facilitated by a black neoliberal president who ruled for eight years – an example of ‘Black respectability, good Negro government,'” West added.
“It is clear that his narrow racial tribalism and myopic political neoliberalism has no place for keeping track of Wall Street greed, US imperial crimes or black elite indifference to poverty.”
Of course, Black Twitter wasn’t here for West’s callout. Instead, they called him out for jealousy and for not being able to let someone else have the spotlight.
Check out some of the best Twitter drags below.
Cornel West’s Ta-Nehisi Coates ivory tower broadside conveniently ignores the American carnage he helped Trump create by backing Russian dupe Jill Stein. This Fascist moment was brought to you by narcissistic hoteps that believe progressive purity will pay your medical bills. #p2
— skeptical brotha (@skepticalbrotha) December 17, 2017
Cornel West had the whole horrible world to write about but instead revisited another one of his grudges with another prominent black person who has surpassed him in prominence.
— Joel D. Anderson (@byjoelanderson) December 17, 2017
Cornel West is jealous of Ta-Nehisi Coates. We have seen this record play before. He did the same thing with Michael Eric Dyson. He is the proverbial crab in a barrel. While we are all about to suffer from #GOPTaxScam , Cornel is concerned with Coates being “competition”.
— Ebony & Noor (@DarlingEbony) December 17, 2017
Cornel West lost me long ago with his Barack Obama rants. Tavis Smiley too for being mad about no invite. I’m not even mildly interested in this new rant on Ta-Nehisi Coates. Miss me with it. I do agree with this tweet from Fannie’s Dream though. https://t.co/5MhE5ta5Ce
— Shamontiel (@Maroonsista) December 17, 2017
Booker T. Washington vs. W.E.B. DuBois.
W.E.B. Dubois vs. Marcus Garvey.
MLK vs. Malcolm X.
Michael Eric Dyson vs. Cornel West.
Cornel West vs. Everybody.
I wonder how much progress for the people has been hindered because of ego and intellectual pissing matches?
— Torraine Walker (@TorraineWalker) December 17, 2017