Ta-Nehisi Coates: Trump Won Because Whites Can't Stand Obama's 'Good Negro Government'
The black liberal who argued for reparations and called President Donald Trump America's "first white president" is at it again — but this time he is comparing Trump's election to the birth of post-Civil War white supremacy. This argument can fan the flames of unrest and lead to more racial violence in America. To realize just how explosive this claim really is, and to effectively debunk it, Americans have to understand his view of white supremacy at the heart of America and his deep pessimism about life itself.
"What this country really fears is black respectability, Good Negro Government," writes Ta-Nehisi Coates in his forthcoming book, We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy (which releases on October 3). Coates compares President Barack Obama's eight years in power to the brief period following the Civil War in which black leaders served in government, before whites kicked them out.
While Coates gets Trump tragically wrong, he gets most of his history right. After the Civil War, the Union imposed a period of Reconstruction on the defeated Southern states, and part of that program was ensuring that black people could vote and run for office. But Reconstruction ended, and when it did, angry whites did indeed prevent blacks from voting and running for office. Following the Civil War, black people really were "eight years in power."
But Coates draws an explosive narrative between this period of power and disenfranchisement to the connection between Obama and Trump, and this connection is entirely unwarranted.
Coates lays out his central thesis rather elegantly. He recalls the words of W.E.B. Du Bois, who wrote, "If there is one thing that South Carolina feared more than bad Negro government, it was good Negro government."
Du Bois had witnessed the historic first black politicians, and then the utter evil of white supremacy clamping down on blacks in the South, at the end of the 1800s. He suggested that white supremacists saw blacks as inferior and could not stand being governed by them — but what really angered white supremacists was the idea that blacks would govern well. See where this is going?
"The central thread of this book is eight articles written during the eight years of the first black presidency—a period of Good Negro Government," Coates writes. "Obama was elected amid widespread panic and, in his eight years, emerged as a caretaker and measured architect."
"He was not a revolutionary. He steered clear of major scandal, corruption, and bribery. He was deliberate to a fault, saw himself as the keeper of his country's sacred legacy, and if he was bothered by his country's sins, he ultimately believed it to be a force for good in the world," Coates claims. The author seems to believe these are plain statements of fact, not the extremely debatable assertions they really are.