Categorized | Arts & Entertainment

Ta-Nehesi Coates’ “We Were Eight Years in Power” is a must-read

Kamal Morgan
Contributing Writer

“Out here, in the concrete and real, sentences should be supernatural, words strung together until they compelled any listener to repeat them at odd hours, long after the bass line had died.” These are the words of Ta-Nehisi Coates, a national correspondent for The Atlantic, author, journalist and comic book writer of the revamped “Black Panther” series.

Coates’ writing is praised as one of the newest voices of black Americans. He uses his poignant and compelling writings to reveal a narrative of black Americans’ indignation not seen since the writings of James Baldwin. His new book, “We Were Eight Years in Power,” got its title from a South Carolina congressman, Thomas Miller, who was appealing to the state’s constitutional convention to preserve the citizenship of African Americans, but refused to preserve the power of white supremacy.

His book is a collection of eight essays including his latest, “The First White President,” and was published in the The Atlantic from 2008 to 2016 during Barack Obama’s presidency. Before each of the essays, there are notes that detail his thoughts during those periods and how he was perceiving not only himself, but the evolving American society around him. In the essays he discusses how he started to conjure up his ideas, what he hesitated to include, his personal connection to the book and what he wanted his readers to get out of reading it. His notes allowed fans who have been following him for years and even new fans to see his personal life and get a better point of view of each essay.

His essays included various subjects; for example in one essay he explores the conservatism of Bill Cosby where he repeatedly encourages the reestablishment of black families, black self-reliance and a cleansing of black culture. Another essay is “The Legacy of Malcolm X,” which not only explores the revolutionary and inspiring ideas of Malcolm X, but compares him to Obama as both men wander into the politics of blacks and have speeches filled with self-creation. His most famous essay, “The Case for Reparations,” explores the plundering of blacks’ rightful liberties and the natural imperfection of humans. This essay digs deep into America’s past as Coates exposes systematic racism that has haunted the nation since its nascent. Coates beautifully describes the need for reparations as “America’s maturation out of the childhood myth of its innocence into a wisdom of worthy of its founders.”

From the first essay to his last, Coates’ transformation as a writer is just like the transformation of Obama from the start to the end of his presidency. Each of them started with the hope of a post-racial America that didn’t seem possible. As the years went by, their hope slowly vanished as the affliction of race relations arose again from police brutality and the creation of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Coates’ book is a must-read as it gives a better viewpoint of America’s reoccurring problem of racism in our society.

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