Ta-Nehisi Coates wins a 2015 MacArthur Genius award

I think that’s a hard question… I think we should be supportive of movements like BLM in more ways than just retweeting links or posting stuff on FB… Maybe show up and ask how you can help at a march. Maybe volunteer with an organization that does voter drives. I think the most important thing that people can actually do is listen and try to help when you can. Call out racism whenever you see it, even if it’s uncomfortable for you to do so. If you’re in a position to diversify your place of work, do so… Support black candidates to office when possible (with the exception of ben Carson, perhaps). If you would volunteer to work on a political campaign, do so for a black candidate.

And I do think that far too many white people aren’t familiar with the black experience, but also how can that be, at this point. We have so much written by black authors from their perspective in America at this point (from books like Coates’ to tons of novels) that honestly, white people shouldn’t need to be reminded that it’s out there. Many of those books should be fully incorporated into our national canon. There is literally no excuse not to have read some WEB DuBois, James Baldwin, Malcolm X, or Alice Walker at this point… as well as tons of other authors. If literate people aren’t reading these key American texts by this point, they really need to step up their games at being well-read human beings.


I agree but we’re also talking about a populace that is lucky to read a book a year. I’m not talking about intellectual book readers. I’m talking about people who work a job and watch TV for enjoyment. They probably mean well and are only reflexively racist but they don’t even personally know any black folks. Those are the people that need to be reached. A popular black author sometimes filters down to folks.

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I guess this is a function of living in the south, but I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know black people, even though there was only cosmetic integration and the neighborhood I grew up in was almost all white. And it’s not like African Americans aren’t on TV, either. But I do take your point. It’s that they aren’t as interested in reading as I might be. Although by and large, people read more now then they ever have in history.

But really, you have to start with yourself and then do what you can from there.

I grew up in Seattle. Other than kids I met because of mandatory bussing for public school in the 70s and 80s, I never met a single black person until I was an adult.

Now I live in Oakland, one of the most racially integrated (by numbers) cities in the country but, even then, neighborhoods vary dramatically and there are still outright ghettos. I live in what was a black neighborhood for decades (after white flight) and have a lot of interaction with black folks on my street, etc.


I would hope that most would get some motivation to do the kinds of things in @Mindysan33’s list, which is just a start. What I’m talking about is the fact that most don’t; they think that reading his books and/or articles, and maybe similar writings, and paying attention to Black Lives Matter, and basically just learning and becoming aware, is enough. When that happens, it’s ultimately and ironically all about them, as they’ve pretty much merely used such sources to make themselves feel better.

Oh I do know why that happens. I just wish more white folks would see the absurdity of expecting the Black Expert of the month to talk about the Black Experience as if it’s some singular thing, and as if one person can provide a satisfactory summarizing voice about it. And the absurdity of thinking that by merely listening and becoming aware, they’ve done something good.

Oh, and yeah, it actually would be a good thing if more white people had (like you often seem to have, judging by your comments here) a more realistic sense of what being white means for them, and for other white people, and for the “overculture,” as you put it. Seeing it instead as just the norm, as just the water “most of us” swim in, is actually not seeing a lot about how relatively privileged and empowered they are.

I hope it’s clear by now that if they read it for reasons I’ve just stated again, it’s blocking them from doing more. Or rather, they’re blocking themselves from taking action that would actually benefit black people, because what they’re actually interested in doing is soothing their own guilt.

Granted. And again, I hope at least some such people can go beyond the common white tendency of thinking that simply become aware or “informed” is enough.

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Yeah but 10 years ago, even though I thought I wasn’t, I was oblivious to a lot of this and many other social justice issues, despite being raised by a queer woman who is an ardent feminist and being surround by queer culture (moreso than black or hispanic culture before California).

There are a lot of folks out there that could be allies but they just have no idea of what they don’t know or what to do. I wish there was a good way to reach them (and for even people like us to know what more to do).

Well, if articles or books by Coates and the like are something they’d actually read, it can be a good start. I’m just saying (not that I think you haven’t got it by now) that most readers of his Black Expert work are already onboard philosophically or politically or whatever, but they’re not reading him as anything more than a salve.

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If you ever manage to locate a copy of The National Lampoon’s Encyclopedia Of Humor in a library, you should check out the section on ‘White Culture’. ;->

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