(THIS ARTICLE IS MACHINE TRANSLATED by Google from Norwegian)
Ta-Nehisi Coates' essay collection We Were Eight Years in Power takes us on a journey through a unique presidency, linked to the author's extraordinary career. Coates is initially a young and money blogger financed by his wife, and glowing enthusiastically about rap. Towards the end of the two parliamentary term, he himself becomes a celebrated writer (thanks in part to the book Between the World and Me), with President Barack Obama as his last interview object. Obama became a symbol for the Americans, his inauguration was a kind of miraculous victory for the democratic equality project. Eight years later, they crash into the total revulsion: Donald Trump becomes president. Coates explains this from a racial perspective.
Trump, on the other hand, could be as he wanted – because he was white.
The book title is a quote: After the American Civil War (1861-1865) and the abolition of slavery, the "Reconstruction era" followed. In the state of South Carolina, there were a majority of black residents, several of whom were now assigned administrative positions. Until the white people set foot. Thomas E. Miller was representative of the "Good Negro Government" – hated by the whites, according to historian W.-EB Du Bois – but in the fall of 1895 he had to state: "We had the power for eight years." Coates claims it there has been no significant change in conditions for African Americans after this. "White supremacy" permeates all social conditions, which the author substantiates with facts from his own and others' studies. For many, America's first black presidential family – as spotless and exemplary as they were – was an anomaly, a disaster. For some, President Obama was mistaken – he was never the rightful president since he was "not born in the United States." Trump, on the other hand, could be as he wanted – because he was white. The first white the president of the United States. "The Whites" had finally regained their land.
Coates suggests similarities between Obama and King, and between X and himself.
The white supremacy. Coates never takes off his "race glasses": Systematic and bottomless racism is to him the root of evil. The story is the frame story and gives the author's attitude a foundation. Because of slavery, with the brutal exploitation of black people, whites could build their wealth. The blacks were considered "property" and had value only as "capital generators". But slavery was abolished, thus a new system that could preserve the system was required. Racial segregation laws – which would keep the white public space free of black presence and preserve the concept of the "inferior race" – cemented the injustice. The black population was barred from access to good schools, good housing, good neighborhoods, good jobs. The natural consequence was unemployment and crime, which were then (away) explained as "the nature of the negro". This provided the basis for a dangerous race hatred, as the author James Baldwin has described, among other things The Fire Next Time - by the way, one of Coates' literary Bibles. The 1960s civil rights movement brought two iconic men to the front line: Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. King was the pacifist, Malcolm X was the warrior. The killings on them further polarized the fronts. Coates suggests similarities between Obama and King, and between X and himself. The first pair are bridge builders, the second is on the barricades – this is a core point in the book. Through the eight texts, all preceded by personal diary notes, we read the unwritten between the lines: Successful African-American leadership – personal and political – often supports the white supremacy that one is actually trying to fight. Willingness to reconcile and good behavior is something that benefits only whites, in line with Black lives matterthe attitude of the movement. Coates strongly argues for compensation in the chapter The case for repairs.
Did Barack Obama help Donald Trump into the oval room?
Hope and tragedy. When Obama takes the stage and the White House in 2008, young Coates is deeply gripped. He has never seen anything like it. Here comes a superb leader, one who always calls himself black, even though he has a white mother and who is married to Michelle – a black woman. Unlike Coates, he has never had to endure bullying, always felt loved by his family and encouraged to aim high. As an African American president, he realizes that he must never make mistakes, he must embrace "white innocence" and Never withdraw the "breed card". But on two occasions he stumbles: The president's mild comment ("It was a stupid act.") When a black university professor in 2009 is arrested as he attempts to enter his own house, is negatively received by the white section of the population. Later, when black boy Trayvon Martin is shot and killed by a white man, because the boy "looked threatening," Obama renounced his neutrality: "If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon." He reaps mischief and is ridiculed by whites.
A leader of the free world with one primary qualification – white complexion.
Eight years of a black presidential family of impeccable behavior – despite drone wars and several political defeats – are matched by new eight years of constant and open racism. This is how the road was opened to what was to come: a leader of the free world with one primary qualification – white complexion.
The story is the frame story, and gives the writer's attitude a foundation wall.
Obama had managed to give even one Malcolm X-Coates hope for progress, despite the conviction that "being black in America is being looted." In the weeks following Trump's election victory, Coates is shattered. He's in the Airforce One with Obama. What about the president's optimism? Obama responds with familiar rhetoric: "Being optimistic about the long-term prospects for America does not mean to believe that everything will go in one straight line. It goes forward, sometimes it goes backwards, sometimes it goes sideways, sometimes it goes in zigzag. ”
Eight years of a black presidential family of impeccable behavior is matched by new eight years of constant and open racism.
Did Barack Obama help Donald Trump into the oval room? Or to put it another way – would it be better if the United States had never got its first African-American president? Coates leaves the question unanswered, but the book's subtitle says: An American tragedy.