The great jazz musician Miles Davis was known for his boorishness, especially toward his white fan base. Davis would play his trumpet with his back to the audience and curse at people between sets. “If somebody told me I only had one hour to live, I’d spend it choking a white man,” he once told a newspaper reporter. “I’d do it nice and slow.” His admirers ate it up.
Reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’s new essay on Donald Trump in the Atlantic magazine brought Davis to mind. Mr. Coates, who couldn’t be more highly regarded among the left-liberal intelligentsia, doesn’t have anything especially new or interesting to add to the never-ending debate on the left about how Mr. Trump got elected. As ESPN anchor Jemele Hill and countless other liberals have done for the past 10 months, he blames white racism.
If you don’t have time to read Mr. Coates’s lengthy article, just browse Ms. Hill’s controversial tweets from last week, in which she insisted that the president is “a white supremacist” and that his “rise is a direct result of white supremacy. Period.” Ms. Hill’s argument is no different and no less sophisticated than Mr. Coates’s, and she demonstrates a better economy of words.
Mr. Coates has distinguished himself as a racial polemicist, and his analysis of the 2016 presidential campaign is in the service of advancing his view that Mr. Trump’s rise, first and foremost, is evidence of racial retrenchment in the U.S. Never mind the far likelier reality that the 63 million voters who went for Mr. Trump did so not out of some “commitment to whiteness,” as Mr. Coates alleges, but because they wanted to stop Hillary Clinton from becoming president.
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