Something something neoliberal something

Cornel West decided it would be a good idea to pick a fight with Ta-Nehisi Coates for not being…well, enough like Cornel West.

It started on Sunday, when Mr. West published an article in The Guardian calling Mr. Coates “the neoliberal face of the black freedom struggle,” and accusing him of “fetishizing white supremacy” while ignoring “Wall Street greed, U.S. imperial crimes or black elite indifference to poverty.”

It’s a pretty crappy article, frankly. There’s no argument, just a lot of assertion:

Coates rightly highlights the vicious legacy of white supremacy – past and present. He sees it everywhere and ever reminds us of its plundering effects. Unfortunately, he hardly keeps track of our fightback, and never connects this ugly legacy to the predatory capitalist practices, imperial policies (of war, occupation, detention, assassination) or the black elite’s refusal to confront poverty, patriarchy or transphobia.

In short, Coates fetishizes white supremacy. He makes it almighty, magical and unremovable. What concerns me is his narrative of “defiance”. For Coates, defiance is narrowly aesthetic – a personal commitment to writing with no connection to collective action. It generates crocodile tears of neoliberals who have no intention of sharing power or giving up privilege.

See what I mean? It’s just word-stringing…and not always even good word-stringing:

The disagreements between Coates and I are substantive and serious. It would be wrong to construe my quest for truth and justice as motivated by pettiness. Must every serious critique be reduced to a vicious takedown or an ugly act of hatred? Can we not acknowledge that there are deep disagreements among us with our very lives and destinies at stake? Is it even possible to downplay career moves and personal insecurities in order to highlight our clashing and conflicting ways of viewing the cold and cruel world we inhabit?

I dunno, but he could at least have caught that howler in the first sentence.

Back to the Times:

Late on Monday, Mr. Coates, who had more than 1.25 million Twitter followers as of earlier this month, tweeted, “Peace, y’all. I’m out. I didn’t get in it for this.” And at some point after that, he deleted his account.

So that’s productive.

17 Responses to “Something something neoliberal something”

Leave a Comment

Subscribe without commenting