Stephen Colbert Asked Ta-Nehisi Coates If He Has Hope For America & Is Unnerved By The Answer


By Constance Grady
Vox (10/3/17)

One of the recurring ideas of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s new book, We Were Eight Years in Power, is that he hates being asked to offer white people hope of a better future in which America might become a post-racial utopia. But when Coates appeared on The Late Show Monday night, Stephen Colbert asked him to offer that hope — and appeared to be almost offended when Coates refused.

“I’m not asking you to make shit up,” Colbert interjected. “I’m asking if you personally see any evidence for change in America.”

“But I would have to make shit up to actually answer that question in a satisfying way,” Coates explained

In his book, Coates writes that he hates being asked to talk about a future he doesn’t believe in, and he simply does not believe that America is going to “get over” racism. As he sees it, white supremacy is so foundational to America that it will be impossible to ever eradicate it. “Our story,” he concludes at the end of Eight Years in Power, “is a tragedy,” but it’s one that Coates has dedicated himself to resisting nonetheless.

There are also troubling racial dynamics to this question. Coates is one of the most important writers on race in America today, but that also makes him one of the only writers on race whose work many white Americans have read — and correspondingly, for many white readers, there’s a sense that by reading Coates, you are absolving yourself of complicity in America’s racism. …

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