Ta-Nehisi Coates on Bernie Sanders: Why Is the Socialist's Imagination "So Limited Against White Supremacy?"


Coates' "analysis" basically boils down to: "He is practically against this one issue I feel strongly about, so he is a failure on racial justice issues." Not that he limits it to Sanders. You have to already agree with Coates' unconnected idea about reparations and their worth/practicality, so it is not terribly informative.

Thinkers and writers have this problem where they have a hard time understanding politicians because politicians have to work in the actual, while thinkers and writers need only to concern themselves about what could be.
The entire value of this article rests upon the false premise that socialism is radical and non-pragmatic. Public schools, public healthcare, government oversight over financial markets, and social safety nets are hardly radical ideas. As for pragmatism, one need only look at Western Europe, or even Canada, to see how completely fucking stupid that claim is.

I suspect the author is confusing socialism with Marxism. Or just really wants Hilary to win.
Maybe not the right forum, but basically here's why I think Hillary > Bernie.

Bernie is ahead on domestic issues that WILL BE RESOLVED, eventually. Maybe they are 5-10 years later under Clinton than Sanders. But the risk of screwing them up is pretty low.

However, on the issues where Hillary leads [international policy], the risk of a screw up is immense. A screw up or benign neglect in Iraq could set the region (and us) back a century.
I think he is referring to *political* pragmatism and noting that Bernie (who I think is great) is inconsistent in his application of this litmus test. Second, I think he is generally trying to generally contest the idea that across the board socialist redistribution is sufficient to redress the real and tangible economic crimes committed by the state against black people specifically. I don't see either of these as a rebuke of socialism in general.
You don't win victories by declaring them to be impossible. Marijuana legalization and marriage equality were "impossible" just a few short years ago.
@ 3, so you're all in favor of more wars, millions dead, trillions down the drain with nothing to show for it but ISIS, and more welfare for mercenaries and war profiteers? That's Hillary's record, and it's appalling. She's only been wrong 100% of the time.
I have no idea why you are so confident that liberal domestic policy issues are eventually going to happen. That's not a given at all, period. Also, the different candidates have very different domestic issues they care about. If the economy is a big domestic issue to you, the direction the two want to take it is very different.
Isn't supporting wealth redistribution to the bottom and increased social programs a defacto form of reparations since blacks are over represented among the lower class? I think it's been an argument among socialists for a long time that racial unrest stems from lack of economic support and inequality. More money and more support programs equals more time to engage politically for minorities, creating a virtuous cycle. I'm sure a true socialist would want to smash the capitalist system entirely but that just isn't in the cards right now. I'd love to know Charles Mudede's perspective.
Seeing how Bernie is a 74 year old who represents a state that's 95% white, and 1.2% African American, he probably hasn't thought Reparations through. And I kind of understand his (and Clinton's) desire to not add that to the Democratic Party platform this year. The GOP is salivating for "divisive" issues they can hammer the nominee with. I can picture the Caucasoid butt hurt they'd whip up now. Can't you?

Besides, if you extend Reparations to Native Americans (at least as fucked by White Supremacy as African-Americans), I'm not sure there's enough money in the nation to make it right.

Reparations are one of the dumber proposed solutions to the legacy of slavery. How about instead of giving a lump sum to African-Americans, we spend that time, effort, and money trying to break the cycle of poverty? How about we provide funding to inner-city schools whose tax bases can't pay for modern computers, new textbooks, and experienced teachers? How about we send poor kids to college?
You give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Paying reparations will mean that poor black folk will have an easier time paying the rent for a few months, and then the only lasting difference is that white people will say that slavery's been all made up for.
I dunno, how much does Coates want for reparations?
@6: Hyperbole. You really think Clinton = millions dead in another war? What does Cruz =, then? billions dead in a Nuclear War?

The Authorization she voted for as a Senator was not the "Invade Iraq like a Dumbfuck" Resolution. It was authorization to enforce the UN Sanctions. It was a craven political vote that Sanders didn't make, yes, but it doesn't make her solely responsible for ISIS.

She certainly wasn't wrong 100% of the time as SoS. I thought she was pretty good at that.
@10: If Reparations consist of (at least) a Guaranteed Minimum Income for all Af-Ams, that goes a long way to breaking the cycle of Poverty. A stipend, essentially.

Free college doesn't mean jack if you can never get that far.
we spend that time, effort, and money trying to break the cycle of poverty?

I think that's actually pretty close to exactly what Coates is arguing for in his article published last year, IIRC.
@ 8: There's this which, as a (white) Sandernista I find nonetheless persuasive:
"[Bernie's] is the “class first” approach, originating in the myth that racism and socialism are necessarily incompatible. But raising the minimum wage doesn’t really address the fact that black men without criminal records have about the same shot at low-wage work as white men with them; nor can making college free address the wage gap between black and white graduates. Housing discrimination, historical and present, may well be the fulcrum of white supremacy. Affirmative action is one of the most disputed issues of the day. Neither are addressed in the “racial justice” section of Sanders platform."
It's a little late for reparations. Bernie's plan is the most race-neutral "reparations" we are being offered.

Yes, second only to native Americans blacks have gotten the shittiest end of the stick in America, but at this point in history we all need to understand that class divisions are more relevant than race divisions, as MLK seemed to understand as he began the poor people's campaign towards the end if his life. Reparations for blacks, and blacks alone, only plays into the hands if the mighty that have pitted the poor against each other going back to slave times.
@12, More failed wars are inevitable under Clinton or any of the Republimonsters. Shareholders will demand them, and Ma and Pa Cul de Sac will have to be whipped into a neo-fascist fervor to distract them from the continuing implosion of the real economy. They'll also need to show how bullshit chickenhawk tough that they are by getting loads of people killed,Caligubush style.
I remember idiots like this back in '99 & '00. They criticized Gore for not being "pure." Look at how well that turned out.
@3 The domestic issues where Hillary is behind (wage, international trade, financial regulation) are at the forefront of the conversation because TPP is still up and about. Plus, Hillary sucks with issues regarding privacy and national security, as well as net neutrality among other immediate issues.
@18: and you base that judgment of Clinton entirely on her Authorization vote? or her tenure as SoS? or simply on your own dislike of her?

do you consider our "advisors" on the ground working against Boko Haram and Al Qaeda in the Magreb to be "in a failed war" and "getting loads of people killed"? because those are the sorts of "wars" I can see under Clinton, and frankly, under Sanders.

he's not an Isolationist.
@16- " but at this point in history we all need to understand that class divisions are more relevant than race divisions"

That's really easy to say when you're white, given that they're a lot less relevant to us pale-skins. Class issues are real and important. Race issues are real and important. During the New Deal era and beyond we've managed to prove over and over that we can have programs for the poor and screw minorities at the same time. Assuming that a class struggle will fix racial issues is silly.
Read John McWhorter's response to Coates' article. (I've read both):


I agree with many here, Slave Reparations are a bad idea. BTW, I've read a lot of Coates including "Between the World and Me". A good writer but in my opinion dangerously separatist.


Obama has done nothing to pardon the millions in jail for his and Clinton Drug Wars.

Bernie will set them free and restore jobs and voting rights to Black Americans.

Hils will triangulate their freedom away to save her Wall Street friends.
And he still owes me pizza.
@10 for the win
@ 21, This article is a good primer on Clinton's foreign policy disasters, and there are countless others.
@27: remarkably weak sauce. i knew about every one of those, and several of them are just "she pushed for more intervention", but didn't win.

what was the choice in Libya? allow Gaddafi to slaughter the Eastern Libyans trying to overthrow him? think that would have been a good choice for the West? there was no good choice.
Amazing how Clinton is responsible for all the horrible wars and policy mistakes carried out under Bush.

As soon as Coates claimed that Obamacare was not a bipartisan achievement, he lost me. (Actually he lost me before that.) If the Republicans hadn't insisted upon watering the ACA down to still allow the insurance companies free rein (and new business), it would never have been passed and Obama knew that, because he's not a purist. As it was, we got a lot of improvements, more poor people insured, and something to build on, which was a crowning achievement considering the rabid conservatives who were biting at Obama's ankles.

@10's right; reparations make no sense for the reasons he stated.
@10: The US government has poured roughly 22 trillion dollars into anti-poverty programs (mostly aimed at the black community, which actually is a form of the reparations you speak of here) since the 1960s, and it has done pretty much dick.

I agree with you that the "lump sum" idea is foolish, although I do not think Coates ever actually supported that either, but he also ignores this huge mountain of spending, as if those reparations did not "count." Welfare rules have basically been re-written to better benefit black single mothers, and affirmative action programs have been around for years on top of the trillions the government has pumped into inner city programs.

Money can really only do so much. Spend all the trillions you want, it is not going to make people make better decisions or make people less racist. I have no idea how to solve the problem, but it appears spending more money is not much of a solution.
@ 30 "...mostly aimed at the black community..."

That is bullshit. Poverty programs have been technically color blind and often actually more beneficial to white people. It is very easy to throw up your hands and say you cann not do anything when you have constructed a fictional narrative to justify inaction.
@31: Well, blacks make up about 12% of the population, so you really can't look at this in raw numbers, you have to look at it in percentages/per capita.

According to HUD, blacks take up roughly 50% of public/government assisted housing. 39% of black mothers have been a recipient of nutrition assistance, and blacks are twice as likely to receive this type of assistance, making up roughly 32% of applicants.

The CAAs set up by the OEO way back when were focused heavily in the urban centers where they focused on the poorest, which were typically blacks. Outside of urban centers, they mostly worked for American Indian groups.

Touching on affirmative action is not even necessary. There are no affirmative action programs for whites.

With the wage gap what it is between blacks and whites, I have no idea why you feel welfare programs should not be directed primarily to the black community, and nonwhites should be the largest recipients of assistance when looked at by population percentage.

The only point really is that if we have learned anything about fighting poverty, mindlessly shoveling money towards the issue does not work. This has been abundantly clear. In your rush to be outraged, you missed the point that it is not a call for inaction, but for an approach that might actually work.
The idea of affirmative action has been around since 1960's. The official push came in 1961 with the federal Equal Opportunity committee looking at fair hiring practices. Then, the 1964 Civil rights Act. The enforcement of the Act legislated in 1965. The whittling away at affirmative action since its legal inception started about the same time. SCOTUS made a strategic hit in 1980. And it's sunset on affirmative action since.

In practice, not a long history of affirmative action. Not even one generational lifetime.

Compare that to what blacks and Native Americans have endured for hundreds of years.

Compare the wage stagnation and the lopsided inequality since the 1960s. The weakest and most marginalized are the hardest hit.

Now let's talk about the billions politicians give to rich corporations in industry subsidies and bailouts. Billions this nation didn't collect in taxes because of fancy tax shelters and loopholes since the 1960s.

Timeline of affirmative action.

First official push in 1961 with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity commission to look at fair practice hiring. 1964 Civil Rights Act. 1965, legislation and executive order to enforce the 1964 Act.

In 1978, SCOTUS striked down parts of affirmative action. It's sunset on affirmative action since.

Didn't even get one generational lifetime.

Now, let's look at wage stagnation and income inequality since the 1960s. The weakest and most marginalized are the hardest hit which coincides nicely with more of their kids living in poverty today.

Let's look at the billions of subsidies politicians gave to American industry and rich corporations. The billions of taxes which these rich corporations don't have to pay because of tax shelters and loopholes.

Lots of affirming action going on here. Just not for the groups people seem to think. Nice narrative though.

@6 More wars, millions dead, etc, are the consequences of putting someone in the Oval Office with benign neglect towards the region. Resolution of those issues will require horse trading on a massive scale; true dyed-in-the-wool politicians getting down to the business of making sasusage. Bernie can bombast from the podium all he wants, but we have a better chance of him releasing a sex tape with a Kardashian than to see him pulling off something even as modest as the Camp David Accords.
@7 because the winds are already blowing that way. Political ideology can only trump popular opinion for so long. Smart people correctly predicted in the mid-00s (under GWB) that gay marriage would be law of the land sooner than later; it's also obvious that marijuana will be legal effectively everywhere within the next 10 years. Minimum wage will go up, even with Cruz or Rubio as president. These issues will be resolved, one way or the other.

I'm personally anti-isolationist, and I forsee Sanders advocating a very FDR like position on the US's involvement in mideast affairs. Which I think would be disastrous.
@32- " I have no idea why you feel welfare programs should not be directed primarily to the black community,"

I have no idea why you think I said anything like that. Constructing fictional narratives is a great joy of yours, isn't it?

You're cherry picking programs. The ones that establish long term wealth (like home ownership, farm aid, etc...) have been advantageous to whites more than blacks. Subsidized home loans, for example, have been manipulated in such a way that black people consistently get inferior terms for their loan and thus default more often. Marcie already pointed out how Affirmative Action was neutered before it got old enough to mate. Food Stamps keep poor people alive, but they aren't a path to economic stability, especially as other benefits are cut around them.
what has really been most devastating to African Americans has been the uprising of corporate conservatives during the Reagan Administration. That led to the long death throes of the middle class through union-busting, and the ending of federal funding of housing. No good union training programs and jobs anymore, and no more housing that didn't discriminate and gave people a place to live while they made their painful climb. Those conservative moves, of course, have hurt whites also, leading to rampant homelessness and the huge economic equality gap. But the conservatives added something that hurt African Americans more: egregious drug laws that targeted the only substances that poor people could afford.

It was a very well-organized effort, and it's led to everything that we see in America now.
Three presidents in a row...
"Kill the Messenger" (2014), got to launder that nazi money.
"The Mena Connection"... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8VbK1zLS…
George W.... cokewhore/AWOL, to become commander-in-chief, etc., etc...

Doing coke, selling coke, keeping it illegal, laundering/investing in private prison for more profit... WAIT... Bernie wants to do away with private federal prisons... that's a start!
Because of blatant racism, when people think of George W. Bush or his children they don't think "Crack Baby Athletic Association" do they?

The phrase "white supremacy" has become the latest phrase ("privilege" and entitlted" being the older ones) that are leveled at any opposition to black demands. If you look at the funding of social services for both Washington State and Seattle you will see that a vast disproportionate is already going to blacks. The city just announced a $400,000 grant for a black "giving circle" to reduce black youth incarceration. They also gave $400,000 to a program of job training for blacks. There have been other very large grants also given very specifically to black organizations for specifically the black community. I have looked over the financial info on where state and city money goes and it is shocking how much of it goes to programs specifically designated to serve blacks. This is most definitely a form of reparations despite the fact that slavery didn't occur in this state. Native Americans and Asians have been treated far worse than blacks in this state and they are not pandered to and catered to as much.