Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Ta-Nehisi Coates' latest

The Atlantic has: "I'm not black, I'm Kanye".

It is a good piece of writing.  But consider:
It is hard because what happened to America in 2016 has long been happening in America, before there was an America, when the first Carib was bayoneted and the first African delivered up in chains. It is hard to express the depth of the emergency without bowing to the myth of past American unity, when in fact American unity has always been the unity of conquistadors and colonizers—unity premised on Indian killings, land grabs, noble internments, and the gallant General Lee. Here is a country that specializes in defining its own deviancy down so that the criminal, the immoral, and the absurd become the baseline, so that even now, amidst the long tragedy and this lately disaster, the guardians of truth rally to the liar’s flag.
Is there some truth in it? Undeniably.  But is this the America you experience and recognize on a daily basis? 

Or this:
There is no separating the laughter from the groans, the drum from the slave ships, the tearing away of clothes, the being borne away, from the cunning need to hide all that made you human. And this is why the gift of black music, of black art, is unlike any other in America, because it is not simply a matter of singular talent, or even of tradition, or lineage, but of something more grand and monstrous. When Jackson sang and danced, when West samples or rhymes, they are tapping into a power formed under all the killing, all the beatings, all the rape and plunder that made America. The gift can never wholly belong to a singular artist, free of expectation and scrutiny, because the gift is no more solely theirs than the suffering that produced it. Michael Jackson did not invent the moonwalk. When West raps, “And I basically know now, we get racially profiled / Cuffed up and hosed down, pimped up and ho’d down,” the we is instructive.
Really?  Sometimes music is just music, maybe? 

I don't deny Ta-Nehisi Coates his perspective.  But it is just one description that one of the blind men around the elephant; it doesn't describe the whole elephant. 

Now imagine that there is a whole mini-economy of academic India-studiers (Wendy Doniger, Sheldon Pollock, etc., etc.) , NYTimes-like "liberal" media and its "native informants" and an evangelical movement, all out to "civilize" the heathen Hindus of India, and de-primitivize them and so on, all of them Ta-Nehisi Coates in their perspective.  And they claim to have the certified stamp of understanding India. 

Perhaps when one realizes that the NY Times collective does not comprehend its native country, that throws doubt that it can provide a basis for understanding of the rest of the world, and one seeks knowledge elsewhere.