Cornel West’s Sharp Critique of Ta-Nehisi Coates Has the Internet Choosing Sides

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Cornel West
Cornell West (left) blasted Ta-Nehisi Coates’ view of Black freedom as “too narrow.” (Images courtesy of Twitter)

Political activist Cornel West threw what many are calling “intellectual shade” at author Ta-Nehisi Coates this week, blasting Coates for his “apolitical pessimism” and narrow view of the Black American freedom struggle.

In an opinion piece for The Guardian, West voiced his dissatisfaction with the ideas laid out in Coates’ latest book, “We Were Eight Years In Power,” a collection of essays he penned for The Atlantic magazine detailing Barack Obama’s rise to the presidency. The novel, which hit shelves back in October also, highlights the issue of white supremacy and how it permeates American society.

West was unimpressed with Coates’ work, however, and had no problem saying so.

“Coates and I come from a great tradition of the Black freedom struggle,” West wrote of the journalist and comic book writer. ” … He represents the neo-liberal wing that sounds militant about white supremacy but renders Black fightback invisible. This wing reaps the benefits of the neo-liberal establishment that rewards silences on issues, like Wall Street greed or Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and people.”

The sharply worded critique didn’t end there, though. West accused Coates of “fetishizing” white supremacy and vying for white acceptance while gallivanting for Barack Obama. He also criticized Coates’ idea of “defiance,” pegging it as all talk and no action.

“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,” he continued. ” … It’s clear that his narrow racial tribalism and myopic political neoliberalism has no place for keeping track [of] Wall Street greed, U.S. imperial crimes or black elite indifference to poverty.”

West’s drag of Coates drew mixed reactions from Black Twitter, however, with many coming to the author’s defense.

Even acclaimed author and academic Jelani Cobb backed Coates, calling West’s critique of the author “petty rivalry” cloaked as “disinterested analysis.”

Still, other’s agreed with what West had to say.

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