Race is an idea; race is a lens
By Bob Magnant
We Were Eight Years in Power is very powerful writing; by showing me the history of our Nation through his eyes, Ta-Nehisi Coates has helped me to understand racism clearly for the first time. From America’s earliest beginnings, white prosperity and white social equality were the foundation of our democracy and our Civil War was inaugurated by men who believed property in humans was at the cornerstone of civilization. The quote by Jefferson Davis that ‘white men have an equality resulting from a presence of a lower caste’ helped to drive the point home for me.
It is fact that modern Homo sapiens evolved at least 300,000 years ago and with our knowledge today, we can safely conclude that the inequalities between so-called racial groups are products of social, historical, economic, educational and political circumstances. Even post-racialism and good feelings were taken up, not so much out of elevation in consciousness but out of desperation. Coates worked extremely hard to understand and believe in the vision of Barack Obama, who was the realization of generations, a black ambition as old as the country. He drew from the words of Booker T. Washington, James Baldwin, Bill Cosby, Martin Luther King and others to explain why such depth of understanding was necessary.
Barack Obama, as the first black president of the United States - a majority-white country, assumed the full weight of America's crimes against its own people. He has been followed by the first white president and there can now be no conflict between the naming of whiteness and the naming of the degradation brought about by any unrestrained capitalism, by the privileging of greed and the legal encouragement to hoarding and more elegant plunder.
Bob Magnant is the author of 'The Last Transition...', a fact-based novel about Iran. He writes about politics, globalization, the Internet and US policy.