A thought

Ta-nehisi Coates may be the only liberal writing on race that I take seriously. His liberalism is strained lately. You can here he almost panicked trying to people to understand that this isn’t about the morality of the police in Baltimore or the police in specific.  That is problem, but is symptom–not the disease.  Coates’s is really good here despite the fact everything involved in so tragic.  Coates’ notices the focus on the individual is a false focus.  Coates’s also has hit the limits about the moralization of all of this.

Coates has good will to spare, and yet he seems much more radical than many people “to the left of him” as he sees the way this all plays out and has nothing to do with morality or bad apples.

7 thoughts on “A thought

    • I was thinking that I don’t know how not to be a liberal, similar to how I don’t know how not to be ‘white’. But that isn’t going to stop me from questioning the assumptions and conclusions that are typical of so many liberals, espcially ‘white’ liberals. I realize there are inconsistencies within liberalism and, as a liberal, dealing with this is highly personal, although obviously more than personal.

      • You can’t not be white, I can’t not be white even if I don’t even have a totally white family heritage. I just have to understand what it means to not be me. Because of the liminal nature of my background (multi-racial extended family, mixed ethnic background, growing up partly in majority black neighborhoods for parts of my childhood, living abroad), I think I have a little easier time understanding things, but I don’t don’t know it as qualia. (Now, unlike most standpoint theorists, I don’t think qualia is the most important thing, but it something that I know.)

        The personal, I don’t think, is necessarily political. But I think we come to politics from our own background, and so questioning is the best we can do. Self-criticism seems necessary.

  1. Out of curiosity, why were you thinking about Coates’ liberalism?

    When I read or listen to Coates, I don’t even think about it in the context of liberalism. But maybe that is because I’m a liberal.

    What is the strain you sense in his liberalism? Is it because his voice stands out from those others you are likely to hear in the MSM?

    • He is trying to deal with systemic racism in terms of the Enlightenment but without recourse to the abstract categories like privilege and intersectionality. He accepts the validity of these concepts a bit (although that seems strained lately), but he finds material and historical development more important. He identities himself as a liberal, but his writings on the topic show a lot of personal struggle with the category lately as he seems very frustrated with both the political and activist discourse as well as white ignorance on the topic. What Coates is not willing to do though is conflate the morality of individuals or even systems with what those systems do. For example, he takes a more radical position than even most Marxists I know about the nature of police force as a function of the society we live in, NOT the cause of it.

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