Americans deify democracy in a way that allows for a dim awareness that they have, from time to time, stood in defiance of their God.

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Americans deify democracy in a way that allows

Americans believe in the reality of “race” as a defined, indubitable feature of the natural world. Racism––the need to ascribe bone-deep features to people and then humiliate, reduce, and destroy them-––inevitably follows from this inalterable condition.

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Americans believe in the reality

In this way, racism is rendered as the innocent daughter of Mother Nature, and one is left to deplore the Middle Passage or Trail of Tears the way one deplores an earthquake, a tornado, or any other phenomenon that can be cast as beyond the handiwork of men. But race is the child of racism, not the father.

Ta-Nehisi Coates

racism is rendered

But race is the child of racism, not the father. And the process of naming “the people” has never been a matter of genealogy and physiognomy so much as one of hierarchy.

Ta-Nehisi Coates

race is the child

But all our phrasing – race relations, racial chasm, racial justice, racial profiling, white privilege, even white supremacy – – serves to obscure that racism is a visceral experience, that it dislodges brains, blocks airways, rips muscle, extracts organs, cracks bones, breaks teeth. You must never look away from this. You must always remember that the sociology, the history, the economics, the graphs, the charts, the regressions all land, with great violence, upon the body.

Ta-Nehisi Coates

But all our phrasing - race relations, racial chasm

We live in a “goal-oriented” era. Our media vocabulary is full of hot takes, big ideas and grand theories of everything

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Some time ago I rejected magic in all its forms. This rejection was a gift from your grandparents, who never tried to console me with ideas of an afterlife and were skeptical of preordained American glory. In accepting both the chaos of history and the fact of my total end, I was freed to truly consider how I wished to live––specifically, how do I live free in this black body?

Ta-Nehisi Coates

And I saw that what divided me from the world was not anything intrinsic to us but the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named us matters more than anything we could ever actually do.

Ta-Nehisi Coates

And I saw that what divided me from the world

Hate gives identity. The nigger, the fag, the bitch illuminate the border, illuminate what we ostensibly are not, illuminate the Dream of being white, of being a Man. We name the hated strangers and are thus confirmed in the tribe.

Ta-Nehisi Coates

For so long I have wanted to escape into the Dream, to fold my country over my head like a blanket. But this has never been an option because the Dream rests on our backs, the bedding made from our bodies. And knowing this, knowing that the Dream persists by warring with the known world, I was sad for the host, I was sad for all those families, I was sad for my country but above all, in that moment, I was sad for you.

Ta-Nehisi Coates

One cannot, at once, claim to be superhuman and then plead mortal error. I propose to take our countrymen’s claims of American exceptionalism seriously, which is to say I propose subjecting our country to an exceptional moral standard.

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Very few Americans will directly proclaim that they are in favor of black people being left to the streets. But a very large number of Americans will do all they can to preserve the Dream.

Ta-Nehisi Coates

No one directly proclaimed that schools were designed to sanctify failure and destruction. But a great number of educators spoke of ‘personal responsibility’ in a country authored and sustained by a criminal responsibility. The point of this language of ‘intention’ and ‘personal responsibility’ is broad exoneration.

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Mistakes were made. Bodies were broken. People were enslaved. We meant well. We tried our best. “Good intention” is a hall pass through history, a sleeping pill that ensures the Dream.

Ta-Nehisi Coates

The Dream thrives on generalization, on limiting the number of possible questions, on privileging immediate answers. The Dream is the enemy of all art, courageous thinking, and honest writing.

Ta-Nehisi Coates

I have spent much of my studies searching for the right question by which I might fully understand the breach between the world and me. I have not spent my time studying the problem of “race”––“race” itself is just a re-statement and retrenchment of the problem.

Ta-Nehisi Coates

I was made for the library, not the classroom. The classroom was the jail of other people’s interests. The library was open, unending, free.

Ta-Nehisi Coates

I was made for the library

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