Sons of James

I am fascinated by how both Ta-Nehisi Coates and Cord Jefferson leverage their respective platforms, Coates at The Atlantic and Jefferson at Gawker, to vigorously discuss the construction/experience of race in America. Both are heirs of James Baldwin, but their expressions of that lineage diverge.  Here, Coates – ever the bookish striver – takes on the Duck Dynasty debacle:

That the enemy is us, is never easy to take. Yesterday, Confederates routinely accused Northerners of attempting to reduce them to slavery. Today, men who convene with Confederate flags at the White House, accuse the president of racism. Yesterday, the civilized man accused you of barbarism, while practicing sophisticated human sacrifice to the God Of Nations, while reducing his lordly estate to a house of the dead. Today, the homophobe accuses you of sexual immorality and damns you to hell, while preaching a gospel which would make wives of children.

Less lofty – I think he has a lot less to ‘prove’ – , but no less indignant, Jefferson looks back at the year in racism. The paradox that validates the following two paragraphs is, indeed, a marvel:

This is a specific kind of blinder worn by racists: If an abuse happens to white people also, it’s not racism, it’s just life. White people go to jail, too, so the justice system isn’t skewed against minorities. White people were indentured servants in early America, and black Africans participated in the slave trade, ergo slavery wasn’t as racist as some make it out to be. Unlike with white presidents, nobody’s even fired a gun at President Obama, and so Oprah must be speaking disingenuously when she says there is a special hatred for Obama in the nation’s air.

From 1980 to 2008, 84 percent of white homicide victims were killed by other whites, and 53 percent of gang-related killings involved white offenders. Last month a white 27-year-old was arrested for walking up to an elderly black man he didn’t know and punching him out. But “white leaders” are never asked to account for white criminality, because in America race isn’t a contributing factor when white people behave badly. A person’s skin color as it relates to crime only becomes pertinent when that person’s skin is dark, the implication being that a white criminal is an aberration, while a black criminal is indicative of a larger threat. A truth, that blacks and liberals of all colors will not face: A white guy runs up behind someone and sucker punches him, as has happened countless times in history? He’s an asshole. A black guy sucker punches someone? He attacked from behind; it was to be expected; and there are lots more where that came from, because the blacks are playing a dangerous game and it’s coming to a town near you.