No, Ta-Nehisi Coates: Not “Whiteness” but Black Racists Like You Are Responsible for Donald Trump
How the Regressive Left Fanned the Flames of Racism on All Sides
by Alexander Zubatov
Ta-Nehisi Coates, the seething black mascot of the regressive segments of liberal white America, still doesn’t get it. In yet another one of his over-long, hate-filled rants for The Atlantic, this one titled The First White President, he argues that Donald Trump is nothing more than the unveiling and coming-out party of the long-standing culture of “whiteness” and “white supremacy.” That culture, he argues, has been with us since America’s dawning; it is the central pillar upon which this nation was built. And when it is challenged, as it was by the election of our first (half-)black President, Barack Obama, it inevitably re-asserts itself with renewed vigor. Thus, we are told, whiteness’s logical answer to our first (half-)black President is our first openly white, as in white supremacist President, Donald Trump.
To offer a rejoinder to those critics, both on the right and on the traditional (i.e., non-regressive) left — Bernie Sanders, Charles Murray, Mark Lilla, Nicholas Kristof, George Packer and others — who have argued that identity politics and the neglect and demonization of struggling white communities, rather than white racism, were what led to Trump’s election, Coates both calls out these thinkers, writers and politicians for expressing sympathy for the white working class that they would never show for its black equivalent and also marshals statistics in support of the proposition that Trump’s support did not actually come from the “working class.” He tells us that:
- “[V]oters … who supported Trump generally had a higher mean household income ($81,898) than those who did not ($77,046).”
- “According to Edison Research, Trump won whites making less than $50,000 by 20 points, whites making $50,000 to $99,999 by 28 points, and whites making $100,000 or more by 14 points. This shows that Trump assembled a broad white coalition that ran the gamut from Joe the Dishwasher to Joe the Plumber to Joe the Banker.”
- “Trump’s dominance among whites across class lines is of a piece with his larger dominance across nearly every white demographic. Trump won white women (+9) and white men (+31). He won white people with college degrees (+3) and white people without them (+37). He won whites ages 18–29 (+4), 30–44 (+17), 45–64 (+28), and 65 and older (+19). Trump won whites in midwestern Illinois (+11), whites in mid-Atlantic New Jersey (+12), and whites in the Sun Belt’s New Mexico (+5).”
Coates’ point is that Trump’s support came not specifically from the white working class, but rather, from white people of all genders, incomes, ages, education levels and geographic regions. Trump’s support was not class-based but race-based. White America voted for Trump, and it did so because of his race-based appeal to white America. Coates’ conclusion from these facts is that the long-standing species of white racism that has always been with us but that had been laying (barely) concealed under the surface simply rose up and showed its true colors (pun intended) in reaction to Obama’s (half-)black Presidency. And from here he goes off into his usual myopic, hate-peddling, pre-canned America’s-history-of-white-supremacy rant that takes up most of the rest of his some-10,000-word article through which I just saved you the trouble of suffering.
Where Coates goes wrong is in ignoring the import of a point some of the writers and critics he lambastes have made, a point I have demonstrated empirically. Like Hillary Clinton, who has blamed everyone but herself for her latest election loss and who emerges as an unlikely hero in Coates’ twisted narrative, he keeps trying to point the finger elsewhere to deflect from the fact that it belongs jutted squarely at his own anti-white racist, pugnacious nose.
Allow me to explain. Where I agree with Coates is that race certainly did figure into the 2016 election. But it was not Barack Obama’s race that did the damage. It was not racist whites coming out of the closet to raise up the Old Confederate flag in response to the threat posed by enduing eight years of a (half-)black President. Rather, it was all the race-peddling blowhards like Coates going around tearing down cultures and monuments, literally and figuratively, that brought a new race-consciousness and identity politics into being among whites who had previously been well on the way towards transcending America’s sordid racial history. I have described the supporting data in some detail here and have explained there why aggressive identity politics directed against the phantom of white racism has made the problem far worse, but for those who can’t bear to click on the link and delve into the data (especially those already exhausted by having made the mistake of reading Coates’ entire diatribe), I will try to hit a few highlights. This November 9, 2016 tweet from New York Times writer and election analyst Nate Cohn made the point quite succinctly:
The broader idea here (again, go to my article on this if you’re interested in more of the underlying data) is that, according to 2008 exit polls, in that year when he was on the Presidential ballot for the first time, Obama — who was just as (half-)black in 2008 as he remained in 2016 — “won the largest share of white support of any Democrat in a two-man race since 1976.” More strikingly, “[a] stunning 54 percent of young white voters supported Obama, compared with 44 percent who went for [John] McCain…. In the past three decades, no Democratic presidential nominee has won more than 45 percent of young whites.” “White college graduates, 35 percent of voters, broke for McCain 51 to 47 percent, marking roughly a 3-point gain for Obama compared to [the lily-white Al] Gore’s 44 percent showing.”
What this means is that anyone like Coates who wants to claim that long-standing white racism bubbling up to the surface as a result of Obama’s Presidency led to Trump’s election in 2016 is going to need to explain how all these whites who were becoming less and less racist with the passing years (again, go to my original article on this for the proof) and who had apparently become open-minded enough to come out in droves for Obama suddenly, over the course of eight short years, turned tail and embraced racism and Donald Trump. Coates doesn’t and can’t explain that fact. I can, and I’ve done it (again, in that same other article of mine), and I’ll do it again here (in summary form).
What happened since 2008 to make white people increasingly more conscious of their “whiteness” to such an extent that a new white identity politics is on the march, rearing its ugly head in Charlottesville and beyond, is an unprecedented and dramatic uptick in black identity politics during those same years. Prominent race-baiting writers who often had academic backgrounds in trendy, intellectually vacuous and ideologically driven racial-studies and critical race theory departments, people like Michelle Alexander, Britney Cooper, Chauncey DeVega, Jamelle Bouie and many others in the same vein, most prominent of all, of course, being Ta-Nehisi Coates himself, started working hard to reverse the successes of the Civil Rights Era heroes in getting people of all races to focus on character rather than skin color and, instead, began to demonize race-blindness as, itself, a form of racism that denies “people of color” their unique experience (of color?). Their race-in-your-face approaches sought to open up America’s healing racial wounds and pour as much salt on them as they could find in their venom-filled spice racks. They found apparent white racism anywhere and everywhere and called it out relentlessly. They directed all their bitterness and resentment — stirred up by these radicalized academic disciplines more than by any actual experience of real racism — at America. They denigrated white people and “whiteness” with an anger and acerbity that would have been considered pure black nationalist rage in earlier decades. Cowed white liberal lapdogs began to march in lockstep. Cynical media moguls deployed their armies of journalists to profit off of sensationalized coverage of real and illusory racism near and far, within and without. The junk science of implicit bias made the rounds and gave politicized social pseudo-scientists ammunition to accuse every single white person on God’s green earth of “unconscious” racism. The phenomenon of white masochism emerged, with more and more well-meaning whites being gaslighted into a perverse enjoyment of beating themselves up and being dressed down and beaten for their grievous historical crime of whiteness. P.C. culture at elite and not-so-elite universities and throughout society went into overdrive. Calls for race-segregated safe spaces rose up from “people of color” and their adherents. While the very possibility of anti-white racism was now widely being denied, the slightest hint of (or just baseless accusations of) anti-black racism, whether public or private, got people called out, shamed, ostracized or fired.
By the time Ferguson happened in 2014, the ground was ripe for the proliferating meme of America’s alleged omnipresent “racism” to explode. Before all the facts about the criminal big black thug Michael Brown’s encounter with white cop Darren Wilson had come in, activists and journalists flooded the scene and rushed to judgment. Before cooler heads could have a say, much less prevail, the anti-white racists and hack journalists had managed to fan Ferguson’s flames into an inferno. #BlackLivesMatter made its big debut on our political stage, and with it, the original item of “fake news” — a repeatedly statistically discredited “epidemic” of police shootings of blacks — took shape. Fed by a real epidemic of inflammatory media coverage, for some two years, the fake “epidemic” commanded the slavish attention of spineless journalists and uninformed, well-intentioned rubes. A spate of black supremacist killings of white cops predictably followed, egged on by black apologists, including Coates himself.
While all of this growing black-racist-fueled/liberal-media-stoked racial acrimony was rising up under Obama’s watch (surprising, isn’t it, that Trump is the one the media largely blames for the rise in our nation’s racial tensions?), he sat by meekly and even offered praise for #BlackLivesMatter and periodically injected other comments expressing his sympathy with its cause, as Paul Frantizek has discussed here. In his wildly inappropriate response to the black supremacist Dallas cop killer Micah X, which received nothing like the ludicrous pile-on of press coverage Trump’s Charlottesville response got, Obama told us it was “very hard to untangle” the Dallas shooter’s motive despite the fact that the guy had social media posts galore squarely expressing his anti-white hatred and black nationalism and had forthrightly communicated his desire to kill white people. “I’ll leave that to psychologists and people who study these kinds of incidents…I think the danger is that we somehow suggest the act of a troubled individuals speaks to some larger political statement across the country,” Obama said at the time. (One can only imagine what the reaction might have been had Trump said anything like that of the KKK and white nationalists marching in Charlottesville.)
With all of this built-up baggage in tow, it should not come as a shock to anyone that, amidst this anti-white racist feeding frenzy, a lot of white people, including those who’d voted for Obama in 2008, would start to feel like they’re under attack and experience a renewed, reinvigorated consciousness of their own racial identity. It should not come as a shock to anyone that membership in fringe white extremist groups, which had been at all-time low in recent years, would suddenly start to swell. It should not come as a shock to anyone that these white people would vote for the guy who said it’s time to end the cancer of political correctness and the attack on law enforcement over the gal who’d taken every opportunity to pander to #BlackLivesMatter, who’d spoken repeatedly on the stump of implicit bias and white racism, and who’d used such race-baiting tactics to appeal to black Democratic primary voters and defeat Bernie Sanders’ attempt to mobilize a cross-racial, working-class coalition against the kinds of economic inequality and corporate cronyism that had continued to increase under the neoliberal/neoconservative regimes of Hillary’s husband, George W. Bush and the (half-)black Obama, whose corporatist economic policies hadn’t really helped black communities out one bit. It should not come as a shock to anyone that these white people would finally say enough is enough. Least of all should any of this come as a shock to Ta-Nehisi Coates, who, with his angry, divisive calls for race-based reparations and his vitriolic attacks upon the entire system of American law enforcement, had done more than virtually anyone else to create the racially hostile climate in which we are now living.
But, you see, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ M.O. is and has always been to blame someone else. Blame someone else for the plight of black people. Blame someone else for his own bitterness. Blame someone else for the divisiveness he and others like him have sown. Blame someone else for the recent rise in racial acrimony. Blame someone else for Donald Trump.
His one-note tune has grown tired. Not only conservatives but also real traditional liberals, the voices of the real left, the very kinds of people Coates tries to run down in his latest salvo, are starting to wake up and turn against the polarizing voices of the identity-politicking regressive left. When even the reliably race-baiting Washington Post is forced to run a headline that reads, “Black-clad antifa members attack peaceful right-wing demonstrators in Berkeley,” we know that something is finally starting to give, that the violent, intemperate, short-sighted attacks on America’s culture and upon the monuments to its history are finally starting to wear thin. It may get worse before it gets better. We may yet slide down the slippery slope that ends in the all-out race war towards which we’ve been careening. But sooner or later, one way or another, sanity will prevail. And General Ta-Nehisi Coates and his blustering army of race bullies marching in lockstep under the ambit of #BlackLivesMatter, Antifa and their ilk will be sent scampering back to the rearguard extremist fringe where they had always been, where they still firmly belong.
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Alexander Zubatov is a practicing attorney specializing in general commercial litigation. He is also a practicing writer specializing in general non-commercial poetry, fiction, drama, essays and polemics. In the words of one of his intellectual heroes, José Ortega y Gasset, biography is “a system in which the contradictions of a human life are unified.”
Some of his articles have appeared in The Federalist, Times Higher Education, The Imaginative Conservative, The Independent Journal Review, Acculturated, PopMatters, The Hedgehog Review, Mercatornet, The Montreal Review, The Fortnightly Review, New English Review, Culture Wars and nthposition.
He makes occasional, unscheduled appearances on Twitter (https://twitter.com/Zoobahtov).