Hey Ta-Nehisi Coates, Pres Obama is No Paul Ryan

Hey Ta-Nehisi Coates, Barack Obama is No Paul Ryan

by @zizii2

It is alarming, the increasing venom with which Atlantic Magazine’s ONLY black writer Ta-Nehisi Coates (TNC) has attacked President Obama (e.g. here, here, here and here) over what he calls the President’s embrace of the discourse of Black pathologies. He accused the President of being no different than Paul Ryan who made the offensive comments about “lazy inner city males.” In a nutshell, TNC’s beef is that whenever President Obama speaks to black audiences he resorts to admonitions about moral behavior instead of attacking the structural obstacles that White Supremacy has placed on black people since this country’s founding.

TNC asked:

“Paul Ryan’s explanation for urban poverty isn’t much different from Barack Obama’s. Why did it make liberals so angry?”

He argues as head of the very government that has throughout its history, overseen the institutionalization of racist policies and physical harm to African Americans to this date, President Obama, as a black man, has even greater responsibility not to patronize and blame the victims of said policies. In a series of exchanges with Jonathan Chait (follow up rebuttal here) about  his accusations against President Obama, TNC details the long history and examples of how White Supremacist ideology is not incidental to, but the very structuring principle of this country – from the well-known creation of American wealth out of black slave labor, to the denial of civil rights to black people, the redlining domicile and housing practices, social security limitations, and exclusion from the GI bill that shut them out of the budding Middle Class boom and wealth accumulation of the mid-20th century, to current freighting of criminalized black bodies through the profit-making prison industrial complex, and worse.

History all true. And it is good for Coates to “blacksplain” it to his readers, many of whom commented that he had “opened their eyes.” But none of this history is news to any conscientious social justice activist, black, white, or brown. It certainly is no news to Professor Barack Obama who taught courses on race relations, civil rights, and the mechanics of POWER contests:



Obama prodded his students to go past identifying problems into looking at HOW to solve them in the context of countervailing forces which never stand pat for social change to be enacted. Kantor wrote:

Kantor 2

TNC’s catalog of historical oppression is also no news to the Community Organizer Barack Obama. We know this because his fellow community organizers in Chicago attested to it in interviews preceding 2008 elections, also from David Remnick’s copious book The Bridge (2009), and because Barack Obama himself wrote about it nearly 20 years ago in Dreams from My Father in which he concluded from his own work with Altgeld Gardens residents in Chicago’s South Side, that protest, petitioning, and agitation have their place as mobilizers of communities, but structural change only happens by actually getting the reins of POWER, HOLDING that power, then ENACTING policies that benefit the community.

Starting from 26:00 minute mark

On a blackboard in one of his classes, Obama delineates concisely the nature of that tug of war between the wielders of power and the masses who fight for that power in order to effect change. As he has always said publicly, those who wield power don’t give it up easily, and never stop fighting to get it back. He is President now but he’s under no illusions about the armada of powerful interests lined up against his agenda for Americans, as well as the constitutional limitations on his own executive power. The reality of his presidency has borne that power contest out glaringly for all of us to see.




So it is galling the dishonesty with which Coates leaps to accuse President Obama of tacitly endorsing the oppression of black people then blaming them, just like Paul Ryan has done, because PBO supposedly avoids TALKING about said structural obstacles (not true), in favor of moral exhortations. This juvenile logical fallacy is not only astounding, but Coates’s deliberate SILENCE on what President Obama has actually accomplished in office, the bulk of which directly benefits African Americans, other minorities, and disenfranchised groups, says a lot about TNC’s sterile thinking and worse! So he ends one of his pieces in this series in fashionable pessimism that:

“I think God is fatalistic. In the end, we all die. As do most societies. As do most states. As do most planets. If America is fatally flawed, if white supremacy does truly dog us until we are no more, all that means is that we were unexceptional, that we were not favored by God, that we were flawed—as are all things conceived by mortal man.

I find great peace in that. And I find great meaning in this struggle that was gifted to me by my people, that was gifted to me by culture.”

Sure…from the curvy facades of his current abode in France, he should tell that to:

1. The millions of Americans, including huge numbers of African Americans, previously shut out of that most basic human need – access to healthcare – who now have it, because President Obama fought and is still fighting tooth and nail for it at immense political cost. In case TNC does not know, the Affordable Care Act aka Obamacare is the ONLY Social Safety Net that was created with UNIVERSAL ACCESS built in from inception. That unprecedented sweep of the law is precisely the reason why the right-wing Roberts Court sabotaged the MANDATORY Medicaid expansion provision in the states and made it OPTIONAL. And we’ve seen how promptly GOP governors blocked that provision by cutting off more than 6 million people from access to affordable healthcare. Which population does Coates think is adversely affected by this wicked GOP act in majority southern states?

As TNC himself noted Social Security and Medicare were passed and signed into law only after exclusions to minority participation were put in, to appease mostly southern racist lawmakers, and only after decades of tweaking did those 2 rails of the social safety net become available to all. Justice Roberts and fellow right wing ideologues are not focused on what President Obama says, but instead watch what he is DOING, and it spooks them into an existential war against him. TNC and emoprog ilk don’t see it because they are too busy indulging in fashionable post-modern angst/ennui.

2. Tell that to the Pigford farmers who for the first time in several decades of petitioning successive administrations, got the money they had been cheated out of because the Obama administration moved to remedy a historical wrong.

3. Tell that to those in the criminal justice system for drug related offences who’d suffered disparate sentencing compared to whites, that the Justice Department now treat with parity

4. Tell that to HBCUs who got money for the first time, or the many communities including predominantly black communities that benefitted from the Stimulus in 2009 that put a floor under our recession

 5. Tell that to Native Americans who got restitution for monies the government owed them for centuries, and so on. The list of accomplishments is endless. All the more remarkable because of the headwinds the Obama Administration has battled from day one.


Of course TNC’s free speech rights allow him to write whatever he wants for his employers and readership. He says:

“I never expected a single thing I wrote to change anything. Writing rarely does. I never expect to make any white person see anything. And if they do, I hope they go read more. But really it’s beside the point.”


But as the ONLY black voice there with a cult following, his is not just one of many viewpoints, he becomes a token black voice whose appeal lies in his practiced “edginess” — the kind of edginess that the so-called liberal media now coddles because it is hip and sells page clicks. Put crudely, attacking the Obama Administrations sells these days. When it comes from an African American, even better.

By the way, exactly what is it President Obama has been saying to Black audiences that so offends Coates?

a) Turn off television, Study hard, make responsible life choices — to young people at graduation

b) Responsible fatherhood, because he himself grew up without a father and wishes that he had one who stuck around — at Father’s Day church services.

These are the Sins of Barack Obama that equate him to Paul Ryan (whose perennial budget would take us back to a Dickensian dystopia)? These messages are what render Barack Obama the purveyor of the White Supremacist agenda in America? Wow!



Coates is a thoughtful writer, but he had no answer for a commenter to his recent article, who asked why he did not take into consideration the tangible accomplishments of Barack Obama as President. Therein lies the rub. His work as writer is to inform his readers. President Obama’s job is to navigate a political minefield, and the nuts and bolts of congressional legislation to enact tangible change in Americans’ lives. There’s a difference. That blindness to what PBO actually does risks TNC joining the ranks of Obama Derangement Syndrome Archbishops Tavis Smiley, Cornel West, Ben Carson, Herman Cain, Allen West, Tara Wall et al. Not good.


For all his copious expositions about black history and culture, there is one important facet of black survival in the face of oppression that Ta-Nehisi Coates seems ignorant about – the Art of Signifyin’. It was the dexterity with which African Americans under the yoke of slavery or Jim Crow, spoke loudly but without the slave master “hearing” what they were saying, nor “seeing” what actions they were actually undertaking behind their public façade….

…..Swing low…Sweet Chariot… You get the drift?

No need spilling it all out here, except to say check out what policies or executive actions come down the pike, NOT what people think they HEARD President Obama say. And even when they listen to him, how many REALLY HEAR him? Those who do, nod KNOWINGLY.


117 Responses to “Hey Ta-Nehisi Coates, Pres Obama is No Paul Ryan”

  1. April 6, 2014 at 4:30 pm

    The PrepareAthon! campaign is directed as part of President Obama’s Presidential Policy Directive 8: National Preparedness. On April 30, and throughout the spring, America’s PrepareAthon! activities will focus on preparing individuals, families, workplaces, K-12 schools, institutions of higher education, houses of worship, and community-based organizations for tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and wildfires.

    Be Smart: Know your hazards in your community. Download guides to learn how to prepare.
    Take Part: Plan activities and host an event locally on April 30.
    Prepare: Practice a drill or have a discussion about preparedness. Participation can include being a part of community emergency planning, hazard-specific drills, group discussions, and exercises.
    Get involved by registering as a participant in America’s PrepareAthon! at http://www.ready.gov/prepare, and stay tuned into the discussion on Twitter by following @PrepareAthon

  2. April 6, 2014 at 4:30 pm

    “Soaring carbon emissions will amplify the risk of conflict, hunger, floods and mass migration this century, the UN’s expert panel said Monday in a landmark report on the impact of climate change. Left unchecked, greenhouse gas emissions may cost trillions of dollars in damage to property and ecosystems, and in bills for shoring up climate defenses, it said, adding the impact would increase with every additional degree that temperatures rise.

    “Increasing magnitudes of warming increase the likelihood of severe, pervasive, and irreversible impacts,” a summary said, in a stark message to policymakers. The report is the second chapter of the fifth assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), set up in 1988 to provide neutral, science-based guidance to governments. The last overview, published in 2007, unleashed a wave of political action that at one point appeared set to forge a worldwide treaty on climate change in Copenhagen in 2009.

    But a global consensus failed to emerge as the developing world and developed world squabbled, with big polluters like China insisting it was up to rich countries to take the lead, arguing they could not be expected to sacrifice growth. And in the United States, President Barack Obama’s attempts at passing climate change legislation have been stymied in Congress, where many Republicans remain unconvinced of the scientific case for warming and argue that mitigation efforts are an unnecessary block on economic growth.

    The new document, unveiled in Yokohama after a five-day meeting, gives the starkest warning yet by the IPCC of extreme consequences from climate change, and delves into greater detail than ever before into the impact at regional level…..”

  3. April 6, 2014 at 4:32 pm

    “When Vladimir Putin was bribing Viktor Yanukovych, then the president of Ukraine, to turn down a trade deal with the European Union last year, one of the sweeteners was cheap gas. The copious Russian gas Ukraine burns through every year—it is a profligate user of energy—would be priced at just $268.5 per thousand cubic metres (tcm), which for 2013’s total of 28 billion cubic metres (bcm) works out at $7.5 billion. Since February’s revolution ousted Mr Yanukovych, gas has become a stick, not a carrot. On April 1st Alexei Miller, the chief executive of Russia’s gas giant, Gazprom, said that the price of Ukraine’s gas was going up by 44%, to $385.5 per tcm……….

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic

    The crisis in Ukraine has alarmed the rest of Europe—not just because of the prospect of war, or chaos on its borders, but because a row with Russia over Ukraine’s unpaid gas bill threatens energy security in the rest of the continent. Europe could survive a short interruption of a few weeks to the pipelines across Ukraine, assuming that other Russian gas kept flowing. The European Union has built in more resilience since the last upset in Ukraine, in 2009. Now it is hurrying to reduce its reliance further. But measures such as better storage, more interconnectors and diversification of supply will take several years. In the long term Europe could import more liquefied natural gas as new supplies come on stream, chiefly from America. It could also take advantage of abundant Norwegian hydro-power. For now, though, Europe cannot do without Russian gas—but then again, the Kremlin cannot do without its European customers…….”

  4. April 6, 2014 at 4:33 pm

    Thank you SO much for this Zizi, just getting around to reading it now.

  5. 14 hopefruit2
    April 6, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    Thank you zizi for this illuminating, well-written article which as well might have been directed at Charles Blow, who seems to be on a mission against PBO today for some reason. Just look at this rubbish he tweets:

  6. April 6, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    Thanks, Zizi2 – I think the title doesn’t even do it justice (mentioning Paul Ryan) – but that’s your choice.

    Need another day (it’s 22:40 here now) for reading it – but it will be read here, for sure !

  7. 18 africa
    April 6, 2014 at 4:48 pm

    Whoosh! Thank you for this eloquently written piece, Zizi. Well done.

    THIS: “For all the weighty material, Mr. Obama had a disarming touch. He did not belittle students; instead he drew them out, restating and polishing halting answers, students recall. “

  8. 19 africa
    April 6, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    And here is Charles Blow. He thinks that if NSA came to light under Bush, the outrage would have been more. Irony. It did. There was no outrage.

    • 20 hopefruit2
      April 6, 2014 at 5:04 pm

      Thanks africa – I just posted about this very issue. Blow has been on PBO’s damn case all day long for reasons I’m not clear about. But he is very selective in his presentation of “facts” and has some glaring omissions. I’m glad that you and Smartypants promptly pushed back on his rubbish about GWB and the NSA. That he seems unaware of the fact that the NSA issue was reported well before GWB left office just reinforces my impression that his whole agenda on Twitter today stinks and he deserves the push-back he is getting.

      • 21 africa
        April 6, 2014 at 5:29 pm

        Selective indeed. Why would he not know that there have been multiple stories attesting to the fact that the issue was alive and well under Bush. And to insinuate that there would have been more outrage under Bush makes me either think he is being deceptive and very uninformed.

      • April 6, 2014 at 5:55 pm

        I do not like his elitism towards so-called poor folk…(who ever that might be) …making comment that they had an inability to understand or organize the power that they have…acting as if he was the spoke person for “poor folks”…


        I often wonder…when i read this stuff from the so-called Black Intelligentsia…be it West…Coates…and now Blow….what is their real beef with PBO…

        • 24 hopefruit2
          April 6, 2014 at 6:02 pm

          Could it be that he’s attending Rev Al’s event this Friday and they’re pissed? I believe many of them are personally offended that PBO seems to give Rev Al more attention than all of them put together. But PBO knows that Rev Al has walked the walk and spoken out openly when most of them were busy trying to blend in with the elites, looking out for themselves….

          • April 6, 2014 at 6:10 pm

            you may have something there….they may be more educated than Rev Al…and therefore consider themselves better than RevAl…..yanno a higher class….ummm umm umm….but for REV AL…he is organizing on the ground…been in the trenches….and as you say….walked the walked…

            • April 6, 2014 at 6:38 pm

              This right here. PBO hasn’t got time for these ivory tower academics who talk but do little of anything else besides get themselves booked on some cable show. Rev Al has been there done that which has earned him PBO’s respect.

      • 27 Nena20409
        April 6, 2014 at 8:32 pm

        Selective amnesia, Yes Indeed.

        It must be the April Fool Winter/Spring Thaw that has gotten to his head? Or that he would like to change the issue from ACA success to pivot to attack modes? Hmm?

        This is really insane coming from Charles Blow. He knows better.

    • 28 Lynn
      April 6, 2014 at 6:35 pm

      Thanks so much for that link, Africa. The timeline is stunning. Bookmarked for further use.

  9. April 6, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    Great piece, zizi.

    This speaks to what I’ve written about before. People who should be PBO’s allies are not. He’s never good enough, doesn’t do things the way they want him to do. And then they complain when he doesn’t enact their pet policies, having done nothing but gripe and kvetch, not having done the legwork to build up the momentum for the policies.

    I like Mr. Coates. He’s a great writer. But he has the same blindspot all pundits have. They think that government is some real-life version of “The West Wing”. All PBO needs to do is speechify and that will open the doors. Or “twist arms”. It’s easy to sit on the sidelines and whine about how awful things are. How about climbing down from your safe seat opining and get into the dirt where the real work is done? I volunteered for OFA in 2012. I know how much it’s like pulling hen’s teeth to get folks to the polls. And it’s going to be equally hard this year. Want more progressive policies? Elect a more progressive Congress. Until then, you’re just putting out words.

    • April 6, 2014 at 4:58 pm

      Amen, LL. That’s what raised my hackles about his attack on PBO

    • 31 hopefruit2
      April 6, 2014 at 4:59 pm

      There is also a bit of dishonesty at the core of their griping, and if I may take it a step further, something that smacks of personal resentment towards and grudging of our President. They’re not just misguided.

      • April 6, 2014 at 5:07 pm

        Brother No. 1 Cornell West not getting an invitation to the first Inaugural.

        “How come *he* got past the bar first? I’m more {fill in the blank} than Obama is.”

      • 33 dotster3
        April 6, 2014 at 5:41 pm

        Yes——there seems to be the same deep envy and resentment of PBO by some notable names in the black community as there is by some in the white community. He is more than they (the fault-finders) could ever hope to be. We know it. They also know it.

      • April 6, 2014 at 9:05 pm

        Boom went the dynamite! ! !

    • April 6, 2014 at 5:21 pm

      Coates is being deliberately disingenuous imo because he knows full well this President understands the history better than he does. Coates is pulling a Cornell West. Sit in the ivory tower and throw stones at this President while purposely ignoring the reality on the ground. An unprecedented investment in community colleges which have a direct impact on many Black communities is one example.

      • April 6, 2014 at 6:22 pm

        Thank you, derbingleguy.

        Sent you a tweet a couple days ago saying that I find myself almost always nodding my head in agreement to your posts.

        We need a like-minded Dem (Martin O’Malley, are you available?) to tout PBO’s achievements which have been swept under the rug by our MSM/Koch journalists.

        I’m not familiar with what PBO has done for community colleges, but it makes sense that PBO and VP Biden would include technical training and/or lauchpads to 4-year universities in their push for better education for Americans.

        Loved that Jill Biden went to a Navajo technical college last year.

        • April 6, 2014 at 6:34 pm

          Thank you for your kindness Arapaho. I apologize because I’m rarely if ever on social media.

        • 38 globalcitizenlinda
          April 6, 2014 at 7:19 pm

          if I recall correctly, one of the largest investments in community colleges was included in the stimulus package and there were some significant follow ups – when Speaker Pelosi was in charge;

          with the help of the president of these institutions that the WH and Dept of Education brought together PBO and his team also solicited and enacted additional reforms of the role of community in the economy

          Dr. Jill Biden was given the portfolio of being the lead person to help out Sec Duncan – they routinely follow up together on this issue but as usual the media ignores what they say and where they go

    • 39 Lovepolitics2008
      April 6, 2014 at 5:27 pm

      AMEN AMEN !!

      zizi, what a great piece you wrote !!

      I want to add something: President Obama went into politics PRECISELY because he had seen, working in poor black communities, that things were stacked against them. Very easy for Coates to pontificate. He’s not the one who has been trashed 24/7 and who is going to need some security protection for the rest of his life !!!

      Another thing: what President Obama is trying to do is GIVE HOPE to blacks, PUSH them to be better, yes, better than others. Because he doesn’t want black people to feel like VICTIMS. Because DESPITE having the system biased against them, they can SUCCEED. I don’t see the President’s approach as one of condemnation, but as one of MOTIVATION.

      He, HIMSELF, has experienced he has to be BETTER than others to succeed and to be recognized. TOTALLY UNFAIR, but it’s the reality.

      Like zizi so accurately demonstrated, President Obama is working for structural changes. But those changes are hard, and in the mean time, he wants as many young black people as possible to DO THEIR PART AND BEAT THE ODDS, and then become leaders in their own communities, become agents of change.

      It’s a long term project.

      Structural inequalities need denouncing. But President Obama is well aware that the “denouncing” is very well taken care of. What he’s concentrating on now is … ACTION.

      • 40 dotster3
        April 6, 2014 at 5:44 pm

        Yes——well stated.

      • April 6, 2014 at 5:46 pm

        This ^^^^^^


      • April 6, 2014 at 10:48 pm

        “Another thing: what President Obama is trying to do is GIVE HOPE to blacks, PUSH them to be better, yes, better than others. Because he doesn’t want black people to feel like VICTIMS. Because DESPITE having the system biased against them, they can SUCCEED. I don’t see the President’s approach as one of condemnation, but as one of MOTIVATION.

        He, HIMSELF, has experienced he has to be BETTER than others to succeed and to be recognized. TOTALLY UNFAIR, but it’s the reality.

        Like zizi so accurately demonstrated, President Obama is working for structural changes. But those changes are hard, and in the mean time, he wants as many young black people as possible to DO THEIR PART AND BEAT THE ODDS, and then become leaders in their own communities, become agents of change.

        It’s a long term project.

        Structural inequalities need denouncing. But President Obama is well aware that the “denouncing” is very well taken care of. What he’s concentrating on now is … ACTION.”

        Quoted for TRUTH!!

    • April 6, 2014 at 6:01 pm

      this is the left’s view of how government does not work….that government is inherently corrupt…and that it will always be a force for suppression for poor folks…etc.

  10. 44 africa
    April 6, 2014 at 4:58 pm

  11. April 6, 2014 at 5:06 pm

    Thanks zizi.

    As always, you’re on point and just telling the truth.

    I am disgusted…

    disgusted that these clowns could even utter the words that there’s no difference between President Obama and the Zombie-Eyed Granny Killer.

    they shouldn’t be taken seriously when they put forth such garbage.

  12. April 6, 2014 at 5:12 pm

    Another great post as usual.

    It’s become quite comical to see all these #blackademics get their shine by saying how they’re not sheep to the Obama KoolAid, all the while, depressing those who would support him & aiding those who would seek to tear his agenda down & erase it from history. It’s funny, they have the courage to black check Obama at every turn, but ugly cry at every sneer from a conservative, it’s rather galling. It’s like when President Obama did his “My Brothers Keeper” initiative. I know these people are smart enough & nuanced enough to know why he waited until his second term to do something like this, but explaining that to the masses dont get clicks on the articles or notice from the media. It’s just another long line of #blackademics who’re getting their shine being the contrarian to the supposed black monolith. Once January 20, 2017 comes, their stars will fall & fade away, so, gotta get that money now.

    And funny, Obama did read one of TNCs first articles, invited the man to the White House and did a “c’mere young brotha” talk, but you gotta put something to print to get on the shows. That sounds simple & disingenuous, but our so so called black intellectual class has been as such with us. They claim to help us by trying to distinguish themselves from us like they’re our betters, and that’s no different from Paul Ryan, but lets not go there.

    • April 6, 2014 at 5:44 pm

      Spot on!… I did not even know that TNC was invited to the White House. So why didn’t he ask about PBO’s position on “Black Pathologies” and then enlighten us on the response he gets?

      As you said it’s more profitable to be an Obama-contrarian. Sickening

      • 48 africa
        April 6, 2014 at 5:51 pm

        Naaah. Greater writr, yes, but that would take away the ability to do the PBO = Ryan kinda stuff

      • 49 dotster3
        April 6, 2014 at 5:56 pm

        I have noticed for years that any black spokesperson who “courageously” called attention to himself/herself by criticizing President Obama got an unprecedented amount of attention and was booked on cable the very next day—-or the day after. (‘See, even black people don’t like him’) It began with a few but has blossomed into many—–the career and financial rewards must be lucrative.

  13. 51 MadameSoph
    April 6, 2014 at 5:12 pm

    I continue to be frustrated and flabbergasted by the behavior of the far left toward a President who has consistently fought for and accomplished justice and change for the poor, working, underrepresented and disenfranchised. They should see him as a dream come true. I certainly never thought I would witness such a true man of the people in my lifetime.

    I, like many on the left, resigned myself to the idea that the best we could get was right-leaning democratic leaders like Bill Clinton; then came Barack Obama and OFA. Not only has he had to fight the opposing parties tooth and nail but also those who should be his allies. Still he has accomplished unprecedented social change in this country, brought back the economy, finally put closure on 911 by taking out Bin Laden and been a national security bad-ass, all while advocating for diplomacy over military solutions and greater transparency by NSA post 911 (this in a speech before anyone had ever even heard of Ed Snowden, I might add!)

    I think many writers on the far left are in the outrage/”fight-the-power” business and did/do not know what to do when the leader of the free world is actually on their side. They have not found a way to adjust to a world where the US President is working for the people not against them. So they are fighting him, and, in doing so, have made themselves puppets and enablers of the oligarchs.

    So now we have the far left and the far right fighting on the same side – the side against the common people. I sometimes read Italian news sources as well as American ones and the far left in Italy is unfortunately suffering the same ODS. They (like many far left in the US) are stuck in a world where Russia is still a communist country and American is the evil warmonger. At the same time, just like here, the far right in Italy hates PBO because of his color, his support for gay people and also because he is fighting the Oligarchs (including Putin). Why the far left does not wonder how it is they and the far right are in similar places politically is baffling to me.

    A gay friend of mine here in the US told me the other day that they “missed Bill Clinton” Bill Clinton!! The one who signed DADT and DOMA into law! President Obama, from the very beginning when his justice dept. refused to defend DOMA, has been the greatest presidential allly for gay folks here and around the world of any in our history!

    When I get bummed out at writers like Ta-Nehisi Coates, I try to remember that our dear PBO was re-elected (unlike Jimmy Carter, by the way, whose loss helped usher in 12 years of Reagan/Bush#1). He was re-elected in spite of the media – far left, far right and “mainstream” working to convince us we hated him. This tells me that there are more sensible people in the world than these professional outrage peddlers would have us believe. THEY are the minority. The Obama Coalition is the majority.

    Now we just have to get them to the polls in 2014!

    • April 6, 2014 at 5:23 pm

      Wow, I could not have said it better myself. You unfurl the dirty underbelly of the perennially dissatisfied Left of this country. They love the purity of losing power. Pbo clear-eyed believes you can’t accomplish squat without actual power.

      • 53 MadameSoph
        April 6, 2014 at 5:33 pm

        Thanks Zizi! I’m forwarding your post to family and friends. You are so right about PBO knowing how to use power to accomplish good (works a lot better than the “vote third party” or “the system is evil” folks 🙂 )

      • 54 Lovepolitics2008
        April 6, 2014 at 5:44 pm

        It’s a psychological trait. The “left” is every bit as authoritarian as the right. Every bit as ideological. Every bit as allergic to compromise.

        They’re really good at “protesting”. Good at screaming in the streets. But poor at community organizing. They haven’t EXPERIENCED how hard it is to enact changes.

        They pontificate, and throw bombs from the sidelines. Always , always find something to complain about.

        In countries where the right isn’t too powerful, and the center and center-left have easy access to power, the “left” has the luxury to carp endlessly and stay on the sidelines. And they have a role to play: talk about values, talks about ideals to reach for. But today in America, the right and the plutocrats have so many structural advantages, the left should wake up and realize that their whining is counterproductive.

  14. 55 Nerdy Wonka
    April 6, 2014 at 5:20 pm

    Fantastic piece, Zizi.

    I like Ta-Nehisi Coates’s writing. He exposes a lot about racism (institutional and otherwise), white supremacy, white privilege, culture, society, etc. that many of his white readers have never experienced or unconsciously participate in and partake of and his writings help them open their eyes but he does have a blind spot on some issues; President Obama being one of them.

    He focuses on the rhetoric of President Obama and Paul Ryan and then deems them one and the same without taking the time to realize that one’s policies help the 99% be you Black, White, LGBT, Native American, Asian, Latino, Male, Child, Female, etc. and the other’s (Ryan) seeks to destroy communities and people without a zillion zeros behind their names. He takes President Obama’s words out of context and then equates them to the racist vitriol of Paul Ryan. It is ridiculous.

    Every single moment of his Presidency (and before his political life/throughout his political life), President Barack Obama has been doing everything he can to guarantee opportunity for all. Through his words (which help people to think and open minds and reach out a hand to help their fellow man), his actions, his policies, the very way he lives his life. It is reflected in his healthcare, foreign policy, education, finance, immigration, jobs, energy, and people policies.

    If Ta-Nehisi Coates can’t see that and critically appreciate that, then it is not President Barack Obama with the problem but Mr. Coates.

    • April 6, 2014 at 5:28 pm

      Thank you. You state very concisely what I said in so many words. He sees himself as some discoverer of truth just like Livingstone & others claimed to have “discovered” the source of the Nile even though people already lived there.

      • 57 globalcitizenlinda
        April 6, 2014 at 8:27 pm

        my parent’s home is just a few miles from the Source of the Nile – been going there since I was little and pass by each day we left home to go town;

        the place Livingstone stood was for a long time marked as the where HE was the FIRST PERSON to discover the Source of the Nile;

        it wasn’t until the late1980s that the current (dictator & president-for-life) raised a raucous (then he was still anti-imperialist) and had it changed to The First European to discover the source of the Nile

  15. April 6, 2014 at 5:40 pm


  16. April 6, 2014 at 5:48 pm

    “that protest, petitioning, and agitation have their place as mobilizers of communities, but structural change only happens by actually getting the reins of POWER, HOLDING that power, then ENACTING policies that benefit the community”.


    this is what the GOP has done..as a result of 2010…

    if we want to affect policy. and structural Change……We must WIN in 2014…


    #Trust Barack!

  17. 62 jackiegrumbacher
    April 6, 2014 at 5:48 pm

    Zizi, this is a brilliant and hard-hitting exposure of the hypocrisy of a writer who speaks without listening and acts without seeing. It is President Obama who toils in the sweaty battlefield where the attacks are constant and insidious by who feel aggrieved that a black man has been given so much power. All the insults, the sabotage, the continual, traitorous undermining of his authority and credibility by a hostile media and a more hostile political party are endured by him with little help for those intellectuals who should understand and support both his struggle and his vision. No one else in my considerably long lifetime has even attempted the kind of righting of social wrongs that Barack Obama has. I am a white woman, a member of the so-called ‘privileged’ group and I see that and support and applaud it with all my heart. The fact Coates is so blind to this tells us more about his own failings than the president’s. Thank you for once again, saying important things that must be said. If you were giving a course at a local college, I would stand in line to attend.

    • April 6, 2014 at 6:05 pm

      As always, Jackie, you make very thoughtful contributions to our conversations here. Not sure there’s much I could teach that you already don’t know because PBO galvanizes us to consider the threads that warp and weft our collective lives as human beings with similar dreams.

      That appeal to universal aspirations is precisely what the black intelligentsia hate about PBO. They want him to gift wrap goodies with “For Blacks” tagged to them before they’ll believe his presidency ‘benefits” African Americans. What they have not done is to actually research the EFFECT of PBO’s actions on AAs

  18. 66 africa
    April 6, 2014 at 5:54 pm


  19. April 6, 2014 at 6:01 pm


    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    Reaching through cyberspace to give you an ENORMOUS internet ((( hug ))).

    Before Twitter (aka BT, not to be confused with blog tyrant, LOL) I spent a lot of my time on The Atlantic’s blog sites, including TNC’s.

    I loved his lyrical writing style, loving “learning” about the black experience, from barber shops to music, to hanging out with friends.

    But when I read his pieces about President Obama, they felt like a slap in face. I have absolutely no idea why a reasonable elite like TNC should react so vehemently against PBO. I know there’s a huge amount of frustration because of our country’s continued shameful treatment of non-whites (which has been going on since the time the surviving Pilgrims managed a toe-hold here).

    But TNC’s disagreement seems personal to me. He is so revered by what was termed in aughts as the “Juicebox Mafia” (Ezra Klein and wife, Matt Yglesias, Dave Weigel) and seems to be enjoying the perks of his profession.

    I realize now that what I enjoyed in TNC’s writing style is the familiarity of his turn of phrase. Very Greenwich Village, white elite stuff, which I grew up reading and felt comfortable with. That’s why TNC is held in such high esteem by the east coast white elite (IMO).

    Someone needs to get the Black pundits named today (here and in previous threads) to answer why they seem unable to acknowledge what PBO has done to date, and to recognize that PBO’s strategy involves an end date of Jan 19, 2017. PBO is delivering on, and taking incremental action for that end date, when the baton will hopefully be passed on to another progressive who will listen to advice from Barack Obama once he leaves office (that eliminates Hillary right there).

    There’s no shame in incremental change if it serves your end goal to bring equality and fairness to all Americans.

    Thanks again Zizi2. Love your fluid writing style, love the topics you seize on.

    P.S. Now that I’m a daily reader of TOD, I much prefer the wide diversity of people and points of view here to the MSM’s blogs (which I now rarely read).

    • April 6, 2014 at 6:27 pm

      Thanks Arapaho, I love his writing too. The academic side of me would teach that in my classes. Fits right into the Cultural Studies rubric. But the important difference is that President Obama’s job is not to each a cultural class but as you said deliver CONCRETE change before January 19, 2017. His is not to solve ALL racial conundrums but to get people the relief they can get under his leadership. And the masses of Americans who voted for him understand the incremental realities. But alas not so the elites

      • 69 Vicki
        April 6, 2014 at 7:52 pm

        Your piece blew me away, zizi. So do the comments by the highly informed compassionate crew of TOD.
        Arapho’s comment about the slap in the face struck me the most. Betrayal, that’s what i feel when I read TNC. How could he say these things? He has to know better.
        Hideous to think TNC joins Cornell Tavis etc for nothing more that $$$$.

  20. 70 Bonnie Revoner
    April 6, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    What saddens me the most is that the discussion is now owned by the “intellectuals”, and the people who suffer from both, systemic racism and the resultant dysfunctional family structure, continue to exist as such. If your stock and trade is agitation through discourse and you are really good at it, when you derail the discussion and allow the discussion to be about you and your huge intellect, then, I have to ask, what has really been accomplished? We historically always seem to be having this discussion, from the days of Booker T Washington, and through pre and post Jim Crow laws. Who is right? Those who talk about tactics and support for personal growth or those who say that personal growth is a non factor because of the systemic discrimination inherent in our society? If I were a kid growing up on the edges of society, I think I might give that personal growth thing a chance. Because waiting for the societal/legal barriers to break won’t do a think for me. Waiting is for buses and concert tickets. Not my life.

    • April 6, 2014 at 6:18 pm

      Oooh my. You hit the nail on the head

    • April 6, 2014 at 6:26 pm

      “If your stock and trade is agitation through discourse and you are really good at it, when you derail the discussion and allow the discussion to be about you and your huge intellect, then, I have to ask, what has really been accomplished? We historically always seem to be having this discussion, from the days of Booker T Washington, and through pre and post Jim Crow laws.”


      Great Point….

      I would say….as Smartypants has pointed out on numerous occasions….it is Not an Either/Or….it is a Both/And….


      • 73 Bonnie Revoner
        April 6, 2014 at 6:50 pm

        I agree that it is Both/And. The problem is that often one derails the other and we are then left standing in a pool of uncertainty, which often leads to doing nothing but protecting the status quo. At least until the next discussion.

    • 75 Lovepolitics2008
      April 6, 2014 at 6:33 pm

      So very well said !!

    • 76 vcprezofan2
      April 6, 2014 at 6:39 pm

      🙂 🙂

      Welcome, Bonnie! I *like* your addition to this discourse.

  21. 77 vcprezofan2
    April 6, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    “…even when they listen to him, how many REALLY HEAR him? Those who do, nod KNOWINGLY.


    Excellently stated, as per usual, Zizi! 🙂 Thank you so much for taking the time to lay these ideas out so clearly ( /frowning/ not so much of ‘thanks’ that you had me taking over an hour and a half to watch that FRONTLINE video, which I had seen previously. It was sort of interesting to watch the POW segment on Johnnie, given all I now know about him.)

    I didn’t know there was a name, sort of, for the way our President gets stuff done under the eyes of critics and naysayers who don’t really look or listen. What’s neat about that, from my perspective, is that he never lies. In his case he often tells them what he’s going to do, and while they are telling the world what he isn’t doing, he’s moving ahead incrementally. I ❤ ❤ ❤ that man for his focus, persistence AND obvious (to those paying attention) intent to get stuff done …..among other things. You do fine work, my lady Zizi – I like your style!

    • April 6, 2014 at 6:16 pm

      Ooooo me blushie, blushie. Thanks VC. Indeed, what the elite black punditocracy has revealed of itself is that they really are ILLITERATE in black cultural language. They are baffled by the deep support many Americans and especially African Americans have for Pres Obama. It has nothing to do with the color of his skin but the depth of his empathy for their plight and above all clear-eyed willingness to do something to CHANGE that plight. After all many AAs initially supported Hilary over Barack Obama precisely because they believed she could DO SOMETHING about their plight compared to that unknown whippersnapper. He had to earn their vote. Now he has delivered, so they have his back. Simple. But the Ta-Nehisi’s don’t understand and think its blind racial solidarity. Totally lost he is.

      • 79 Bill R.
        April 6, 2014 at 6:18 pm

        I think Envy says it all.

      • 80 vcprezofan2
        April 6, 2014 at 6:28 pm

        😉 😉

        Another thing I think the ‘black punditocracy’ keeps missing is that many AAs (and other Americans – and world citizens having no racial connection) have a gut connection with Pres O and an intense sense of pride in him. We **see** and **hear** him, hence our support. Conversely, some of us experience a certain sense of disappointment (a certain loss of the previous minimal pride) in **them** that they haven’t been privileged enough to have their eyes opened to the very real reality of PBO.

  22. 81 shawn
    April 6, 2014 at 6:12 pm

    Well Done. Even Uncle 82 yrs old is saying. You spoke the truth

  23. 83 Bill R.
    April 6, 2014 at 6:17 pm

    I am disgusted with Coates who joins in the emoprog hater attack on our President with gusto. He posted here a time or two and mostly responded with contempt towards people here as I recall. I don’t get why he has any attention at all, except that he gains favor with the professional left for doing it.

    • April 6, 2014 at 6:20 pm

      But of course, that is what sells these days

      • April 6, 2014 at 6:53 pm

        Oh, girl! Thank you for this. You must, absolutely send this to TNC. I am so disappointed in him. If he believes what he says, that is really sad. Kind of makes you wonder who he really is. Please send it to him, and let it fly.

    • 86 vcprezofan2
      April 6, 2014 at 6:52 pm

      ‘he gains favor with the professional left for doing it.’

      And possibly favor in his own eyes? Someone mentioned envy earlier and I’m adding ‘a certain selfishness’. These Blacks like Coates, Smiley, (maybe Blow) et al, and Latinos like, Rubio and that female pol from the south, Nikky or whatever, made it to a certain level above *their masses*, so they have a certain amount of pride and self-confidence, and rightly so. However I’d wager the pride got too pumped up; I’m super special. Look what I’ve accomplished! I honestly think many don’t want to see too many others succeed because then it minimizes their accomplishment – they’re not so outstanding after all.

      (Oops! Better go feed the herd. BBL)

  24. 87 carolyn
    April 6, 2014 at 6:45 pm

    As far as I’m concerned, President Barack Obama is a once in-a-millennium gift to the world. In my loooong life, there has not been a public figure like him.

    I would just like to sign on to everything jackieg said. She expressed my feelings, beautifully, and I am of her so called “privileged” group.” I loved what she said “speaks without listening and acts without seeing.” I have been saying for six years that people do not really listen to him. They decide before he speaks what he is going to say, they decide before he acts what he is going to do……and are never satisfied.

    I live in a red state, and I know many women of my description who feel the same way about him that we do. We see his decency, his clear mindedness, his long term goals, his willingness to go to the mat for all of us, the obstruction he has had to combat since day one…..I despise the pundits who are always writing negative things.

    Was very interested in “signifyin'”…..this is, of course, brand new to me, but I think it’s beautiful, and see how he’s been just moving ahead without fanfare, getting things done.

    I am so thankful for this place, I have learned so much, and continue to do so. Thanks to ALL of you who contribute to this education.

    • April 6, 2014 at 7:05 pm

      Thanx. Such a deeply moving comment. PBO understands the commonality of human yearning for dignity. That the simplicity of his mission to bring hope and dignity to all in concrete terms — health, shelter, jobs,as well as security from domestic and foreign predators — so confounds his detractors, says more about them than him.

  25. 89 dotster3
    April 6, 2014 at 6:52 pm

    Nancy on point and in tune with zizi, insightful here too….

  26. April 6, 2014 at 6:57 pm

    Firstly, zizi, you are a remarkable scholar and writer as made even more obvious by the monograph, above.

    I’m white so my perspective is ineluctably shaped by that reality. In a previous post here at TOD I revealed an episode in my early life that gave me only the tiniest glimpse into what it means, 24/7/365 to be non-white. It was ugly because it was totally unjust, but it was also transient.

    In that context, my only response to the likes of TNC is – for whatever reason(s) [jealousy, wanting a place at the white, smart-asses table (aka intelligentsia), click $$, etc] you’ve decided to spend a portion of your life writing about a ‘person’ that exists only in your compromised mind. The actual, real life, extensively documented Barack Obama bears no resemblance to that phantom you so feverishly misrepresent.

    President Obama has his legacy. You have yours.

    Good luck with that, but just know that even this white dude gets ‘signifyin,’ simply because President Obama could not be more obvious in matching his words with his actions – always has, and likely always will – and you’ve yet to encounter that person.

    #TrustBarack …. and pity the #clicksters …..

  27. April 6, 2014 at 7:02 pm

    Loved your post zizii2! You said everything I couldn’t. Especially this part:

    “But as the ONLY black voice there with a cult following, his is not just one of many viewpoints, he becomes a token black voice whose appeal lies in his practiced “edginess” — the kind of edginess that the so-called liberal media now coddles because it is hip and sells page clicks. Put crudely, attacking the Obama Administrations sells these days. When it comes from an African American, even better.”

    All of this. I’ve only come to this realization within the past few months and it just bugs me.

    I don’t recall the title of the post, but I’ve actually seen TNC basically dismiss the ACA as one of the ways that Pres.Obama has helped black people because the Medicaid expansion hasn’t occurred in every state. Well, who’s fault is that? It was in the original bill!! The SCOTUS decided to make it voluntary. President Obama gets points off because of GOP sabotage? How does that work? I don’t think I’ve gone back to his blog since I read that.

    Thanks, again, for this post.

    • April 6, 2014 at 9:03 pm

      I don’t recall the title of the post, but I’ve actually seen TNC basically dismiss the ACA as one of the ways that Pres.Obama has helped black people because the Medicaid expansion hasn’t occurred in every state. Well, who’s fault is that? It was in the original bill!!

      Thanks once again for pointing this out. Obamacare is the FIRST piece of social legislation that, from the beginning, was inclusive of ALL AMERICANS.

      And now, it’s President Obama’s fault that the sociopathic GOP Governors won’t expand Medicaid?

      I’m with GoBrooklyn…HOW is this President Obama’s fault?

  28. April 6, 2014 at 7:07 pm

    I would like to add that Coates is brilliant and a great writer. He doesn’t always get it right and it’s sad to see what he’s turning into.

  29. 99 99ts
    April 6, 2014 at 7:08 pm

    I see the reality as TNC unable to accept that PBO is the intelligent one in any discussion between them. The President HAD to be miles ahead of the rest – to get to where he is today. He has walked it and talked it – and arrived at the place where he is today – so far beyond that of the media pundits that they all – in unison still could not stop those 4 more years.

    To insult the President with any comparison to Paul Ryan is to have no idea of reality – to put the envy in place for all to see.

  30. 100 nathkatun7
    April 6, 2014 at 7:11 pm

    “By the way, exactly what is it President Obama has been saying to Black audiences that so offends Coates?

    a) Turn off television, Study hard, make responsible life choices — to young people at graduation

    b) Responsible fatherhood, because he himself grew up without a father and wishes that he had one who stuck around — at Father’s Day church services.”

    President Obama is not saying or doing anything new or different from what other great Black leaders have said and done. In that case, TNC must think that Frederick Douglass, Ida B. Wells, W.E. B. DuBois, Marcus Garvey, Carter G. Woodson, Mary Church Terrell, Mary McLeod Bethune, Dr. Benjamin Mays, Dr. Martin Luther King, Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X., were offensive. All of them taught the importance of family, community, studying hard and making responsible choices. For example: the motto of the National Association of Colored women, led by Mary Church Terrell, was “Lifting as we Climb”; Marcus Garvey’s slogan, to galvanize the race, was “Up You Mighty Race. You Can Accomplish What you Will.”

    To be honest, I am fed-up with these self-anointed Black public intellectuals who are beating up on President Obama, based on their limited understanding of African American history and culture. Self-help and racial uplift are at the core of African American struggle for freedom and human dignity. Ta-Nahesi Coates and others may be highly educated, but they still remind me of what the father of Black history, Carter G. Woodson, called the “Mis-educated Negroes.”

    Thank you, Zizi, for this great essay. It should be required reading for all these public intellectuals.

    • April 6, 2014 at 8:14 pm

      Self-help and racial uplift are at the core of African American struggle for freedom and human dignity.

      The Both/and….not either/or

    • 103 anniebella
      April 6, 2014 at 8:54 pm

      Maybe they would rather POTUS tell them I understand how hard it is for you out there so don’t even try, men don’t be responsible fathers, you are excused because of how hard of is for you, let your kids sit before the tv all day, skip school, don’t do their home work, stay out partying all night. Whenever POTUS or FLOTUS speak to the African community I have no problem at all with what they say.

  31. 104 hopefruit2
    April 6, 2014 at 7:17 pm

  32. 106 nathkatun7
    April 6, 2014 at 7:20 pm

    Hey Chips, I am wondering why my comments are not posting.

  33. 109 globalcitizenlinda
    April 6, 2014 at 7:29 pm

    concise working rule or explainer:

    Question: Are you a person in need of money and 24/7 access to all previously-unattainable media platform and recognition?

    answer: simple, go out and publicly attack PBO (or if else fails try attacking his family and even his pets), truth be damned

  34. 110 Bill R.
    April 6, 2014 at 7:35 pm

    I would add that the intellectual left, black and white, is primarily motivated by an ideology that is dualistic and conceives of the world as a struggle between opposites. Our President and his beloved spouse are motivated above all by a heart of compassion that includes everyone and everything, and is pragmatic in its implementation. The punditocracy despises that, doesn’t understand it, or trust it. And responds by demonizing our president as betraying the precious purity of their ideology.

  35. 111 HZ
    April 6, 2014 at 7:50 pm

    Thank you, zizi2. Your writing always hits the nail directly on the head. Grateful for all of the great minds here in our TOD family. I am also like Carolyn where I am constantly yelling, ” They do not listen to President Obama.” Biggest mistake for most of the people who think, act, and speak stupid on the measure of this President of these United States, Barack Obama.

    Well done indeed. Your students are so blessed . Keep up the great work that gives so much inspiration, zizi2.HZ

  36. 112 MightyPamela
    April 6, 2014 at 7:50 pm

    What price your Soul, Ta Nahisi?

  37. April 6, 2014 at 7:54 pm

    Just a heads up that the situation in Eastern Ukraine is deteriorating and is obviously being orchestrated and enabled by Russia. Will be very surprised if the events of the past 24 h don’t lead to armed confrontations throughout the region. More and more, Putin appears ready to go to war with Ukraine.

  38. 116 Nena20409
    April 6, 2014 at 8:54 pm

    Excellent Piece Ziz2.

    Isn’t is wonderful that Pres Obama lives by his own comfortable codes/rules. He encourages dialogue, debates, petitions, activism, critical analysis, etc.

    Folks like Ta-Nehisi gets his goat up by always attacking pres Obama. I have to wonder if this guy ever thinks about Carter, Clinton and Obama since 1968 were the only Dems who have tried to STOP the GOP destructive agenda?

    Abe Lincoln tried. His death and Johnson’s acts further kept the suffering of African Americans until just 50 yrs ago.

    Those who have power, always never want to give power back.

    Ta-Nehisi is about theory Not practical for he fails to see the same structural impediments form the GOPers since 1968. A King pres Obama is not.

Comments are currently closed.







Enter your email address to receive notifications of new posts by email.







RSS WH Tumblr

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.



Blog Stats

  • 38,837,748 hits

WH Flickr

More Photos

%d bloggers like this: