Ta-Nehisi Coates' new essay collection on the Obama and Trump presidencies, "We Were Eight Years in Power," is a New York Times bestseller and has garnered positive reviews. But one prominent public intellectual is not a fan.
In an essay for The Guardian, Harvard philosopher Cornel West accused Coates of representing "the neoliberal wing that sounds militant about white supremacy but renders black fightback invisible" and said he was too reluctant to criticize former President Barack Obama. Coates responded with instances in which he had, in fact, criticized Obama's stances on drone warfare and the ways he addresses black audiences. Coates then deleted his Twitter account, writing, "I didn’t get in it for this."
Rev. Irene Monroe, a syndicated religion columnist and the Boston voice for Detour’s African American Heritage Trail, joined Boston Public Radio's weekly installment of "All Revved Up." Monroe disagreed with West's criticism.
"What had happened is Cornel gave a critique of Ta-Nehisi saying he's enamored with this notion of white supremacy, that it lacks a clear analysis," Monroe explained.
"Because Ta-Nehisi Coates talks so much about white supremacy, [West] says his analysis eclipsed a notion of black agency. And that's absurd," she continued.
Monroe accused West's critique of being grounded in ego.
"The underlying issue, in my opinion, is Cornel is not used to sharing the perch of being a public intellectual," Monroe said.
She also believes some of West's criticism comes from intellectual elitism. West has degrees from Harvard and Princeton; Coates attended Howard University but did not graduate. "[West] feels [Coates] has risen to this perch without doing due diligence," Monroe added.
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