Reading Between the World and Me was a revelation for me and many others. It brought Ta-Nehisi Coates into the mainstream conversation, and it added a component to the conversation about race and systemic racism in the United States. I was eager to read his new book, We Were Eight Years In Power, because it was a compilation of Atlantic articles during Barack Obama’s tenure as president of the United States. I had also read “The First White President” and was troubled and challenged by it. I was not disappointed in the least by the essays, nor the written commentary that came before each one.
Recognizing that the essays were written at different points in his career, and that of President Obama’s (SERIOUSLY, WE MISS YOU AND DIDN’T DESERVE YOU), Coates helpfully wrote a commentary about each essay, including the writing process and the point of President Obama’s career that dovetailed with the fashioning of that essay. These were some of the most informative parts of the book, so I encourage you to read them before you read the essays. They were instructive and informative about black masculinity and systemic racism. Roxane Gay rightfully calls out Coates for not really addressing black womanhood, which is something I would like to see, especially considering the incredible members of Pantsuit Nation who stepped up in a HUGE way in Alabama (SERIOUSLY, THANK YOU AND WE DON’T DESERVE YOU, CAN YOU ALL RUN FOR PRESIDENT). That said, the last three essays are absolutely the best, including “My President Was Black,” and “The First White President,” which covers the white-lash over the election of Donald Trump. Coates deftly addresses the “we should be compassionate to white working class voters” in this essay, and, as seen in the Alabama Special Election for the Senate seat, it’s largely a myth to avoid talking about systemic racism. [Sidenote: he also addresses the same kind of whitelash with the Bernie Sanders stans, even Bernie himself, who, let’s face it, was crappy on both race and gender. Seriously, folks, BLACK WOMEN. Follow the black women, and that’s where the voting power lies.]
This book is a must-read. It will be fascinating in some parts and hard to digest in others, but it’s worth the effort.
Cross-posted to my blog.