Ta-Nehisi Coates—renowned author of Between the World and Me and current writer of Marvel’s Black Panther comic—is out here speaking truth through prose. In an essay for The Atlantic titled ‘The First White President,’ he eloquently lays out how Barack Obama’s excellence managed to pave the way for the mediocrity of Donald Trump.
Many will try to dismiss Coates’ word as another “white privilege” narrative. It’s certainly an element, but there are tons of well-thought out jewels to contemplate and digest.
But really, Coates is saying what a lot of us have already been mulling, for years.
Trump is a bigot and racist.
His political career began in advocacy of birtherism, that modern recasting of the old American precept that black people are not fit to be citizens of the country they built. But long before birtherism, Trump had made his worldview clear. He fought to keep blacks out of his buildings, according to the U.S. government; called for the death penalty for the eventually exonerated Central Park Five; and railed against “lazy” black employees. “Black guys counting my money! I hate it,” Trump was once quoted as saying. “The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.” After his cabal of conspiracy theorists forced Barack Obama to present his birth certificate, Trump demanded the president’s college grades (offering $5 million in exchange for them), insisting that Obama was not intelligent enough to have gone to an Ivy League school, and that his acclaimed memoir, Dreams From My Father, had been ghostwritten by a white man, Bill Ayers.
And thus, Trump is surely a White Supremacist.
In Trump, white supremacists see one of their own. Only grudgingly did Trump denounce the Ku Klux Klan and David Duke, one of its former grand wizards—and after the clashes between white supremacists and counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August, Duke in turn praised Trump’s contentious claim that “both sides” were responsible for the violence.
Also, he isn’t even in Barack Obama’s league.
Barack Obama delivered to black people the hoary message that if they work twice as hard as white people, anything is possible. But Trump’s counter is persuasive: Work half as hard as black people, and even more is possible.
But the crux of the essays lays in Trump trying to undo all the uppity Negro was able to achieve.
For Trump, it almost seems that the fact of Obama, the fact of a black president, insulted him personally. The insult intensified when Obama and Seth Meyers publicly humiliated him at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in 2011. But the bloody heirloom ensures the last laugh. Replacing Obama is not enough—Trump has made the negation of Obama’s legacy the foundation of his own. And this too is whiteness. “Race is an idea, not a fact,” the historian Nell Irvin Painter has written, and essential to the construct of a “white race” is the idea of not being a nigger. Before Barack Obama, niggers could be manufactured out of Sister Souljahs, Willie Hortons, and Dusky Sallys. But Donald Trump arrived in the wake of something more potent—an entire nigger presidency with nigger health care, nigger climate accords, and nigger justice reform, all of which could be targeted for destruction or redemption, thus reifying the idea of being white. Trump truly is something new—the first president whose entire political existence hinges on the fact of a black president. And so it will not suffice to say that Trump is a white man like all the others who rose to become president. He must be called by his rightful honorific—America’s first white president.
No need to edit “nigger” here because that’s a method to illustrate the rawness of the truth, and how hateful the guy in the Oval Office and his minions truly are.
All these points have surely been made before. But Coates is able to distill them into a damning essay that summarily points out the elements that made a Trump Presidency our reality. Coates also lays out blaming ignorant, gun-toting white people from the backwoods as the ones responsible for Trump’s rise isn’t exactly true. Writes Coates, “According to Edison Research, Trump won whites making less than $50,000 by 20 points, whites making $50,000 to $99,999 by 28 points, and whites making $100,000 or more by 14 points. This shows that Trump assembled a broad white coalition that ran the gamut from Joe the Dishwasher to Joe the Plumber to Joe the Banker.”
Coates also lays out blaming ignorant, gun-toting white people from the backwoods as the ones responsible for Trump’s rise isn’t exactly true. Writes Coates, “According to Edison Research, Trump won whites making less than $50,000 by 20 points, whites making $50,000 to $99,999 by 28 points, and whites making $100,000 or more by 14 points. This shows that Trump assembled a broad white coalition that ran the gamut from Joe the Dishwasher to Joe the Plumber to Joe the Banker.”
Coates also takes Bernie Sanders to task, details the fails of the Democratic party, points out Cheeto’s understanding of “the great power in not being a nigger,” and more.
Read the full essay right here. Oh, and if reading isn’t your thing, you can listen to the essay below. Now you really have no excuse to do the knowledge.