Ta-Nehisi Coates has a new essay in The Atlantic, and it deserves your time:
To Trump, whiteness is neither notional nor symbolic but is the very core of his power. In this, Trump is not singular. But whereas his forebears carried whiteness like an ancestral talisman, Trump cracked the glowing amulet open, releasing its eldritch energies. The repercussions are striking: Trump is the first president to have served in no public capacity before ascending to his perch ... 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.
The whole piece is an examination of where whiteness, power, and politics intersect. Coates is ruthless on the topic of how pundits discuss the "white working class," which he argues is a willful evasion of the fact that all demographics of white people preferred Trump. Coates is particularly pointed in critiquing white liberal apologists for racism:
Again and again in the past year, [New York Times columnist] Nicholas Kristof could be found pleading with his fellow liberals not to dismiss his old comrades in the white working class as bigots—even when their bigotry was evidenced in his own reporting.
What Kristof sees as a compassionate effort to understand his former peers, Coates correctly identifies as casual acquiescence to white supremacy and racism. Many white Americans are uncomfortable with the idea that it might somehow be both. The "good people" in our lives are often "quite racist" in practice.
In other news, Brandon Ellington Patterson of Mother Jones interviewed Alicia Garza, one of the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement:
MJ: So how can activists convince politicians to be more progressive on issues of race?
AG: We have to build stronger relationships. There’s a distrust of policymakers on the left because so much time is spent on politics rather than actually improving people’s quality of life. At the same time, policymakers don’t do enough to build relationships with organizers and often call on them in a transactional way that damages relationships that can produce better policy. Part of where the right has been successful is in building a movement that feels like home for those who are a part of it. Our strategies should learn from the right. It’s not effective to only interact with policymakers when they do the wrong thing. Relationships can be built on both ends, with different outcomes. Shifting political power in this country ultimately has to be rooted in getting out and talking to people outside our echo chambers. It means building the largest coalition possible. We need organizers in our political system, our criminal justice system, all throughout our economy.
The idea of building a movement that "feels like home" is compelling, particularly given the level of trust that is necessary to conduct racial justice work across lines of difference.
Finally this week, in an act of unusual bipartisanship, five former United States secretaries of education sent a letter to Congress defending the DREAMers:
The signatories include Arne Duncan and John King, who served under President Obama; Rod Paige and Margaret Spellings, who served in the George W. Bush administration; and Richard Riley, who worked for Bill Clinton.
Have a great weekend!