On account of my stepfamily forming a book club, I have been reading a wide range of literature. Some of the selections have been entertaining and edifying; others, not so much. Due to the latest selection, Between the World and Me, I had to suffer through Ta-Nehisi Coates’s soporific and criminally repetitive prose. Not wanting my efforts to be in vain, I’m going to turn those three hours of my life that I wasted trekking through this “book” into something productive. More than anything else, I intend to demonstrate that American exceptionalist ideas bear a large amount of responsibility for lending credence to the kinds of views espoused by Coates.
But I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss some of the book’s general context first. Ostensibly a letter to his teenage son, the book is part memoir and part soapbox. Simply reading it from start to finish was an arduous task; if you were to read this book while playing a drinking game with some friends – where one chugs a pint for every time Coates uses the word “bodies” or “body” – you’d be wasted by time you finished a couple of paragraphs. Of course, he’s hardly alone in this regard, as “bodies” has increasingly become a popular term for SJW types. I’m guessing that gratuitous use of the word “bodies” is their way of trying to sound deep and soulful as a means of concealing their utter vapidity. But “bodies” is just the tip of Coates’s rhetorical iceberg.
Similar to leftists who use “diversity” as a euphemism for “less white,” Coates employs several cute euphemisms when bashing white people. In fact, a few exceptions notwithstanding, he seems to have a downright aversion to calling white people white. Instead, whites are “the people who believe themselves to be white.” In so many words, he’s regurgitating the standard critical race theory trope that whiteness is a mere social construct. Funny how it’s only white peoples’ “socially constructed” identities that are deemed illegitimate. But it gets even better. Another term Coates has a penchant for is “Dreamers,” which describes white people who subscribe to patriotic pretty lies and the whole myth of whiteness. What’s ironic is that Coates himself is a major proponent of American exceptionalism (emphasis mine):
“Perhaps there has been, at some point in history, some great power whose elevation was exempt from the violent exploitation of other human bodies. If there has been, I have yet to discover it. But this banality of violence can never excuse America, because America makes no claim to the banal. America believes itself exceptional, the greatest and noblest nation ever to exist, a lone champion standing between the white city of democracy and the terrorists, despots, barbarians, and other enemies of civilization. One cannot, at once, claim to be superhuman and then plead mortal error. I propose to take our countrymen’s claims of American exceptionalism seriously, which is to say I propose subjecting our country to an exceptional moral standard.”
This is exactly what I meant when I previously argued that leftists employ the language of American exceptionalism in order to lend moral legitimacy to their radical ideals. While I am in no way a fan of Coates and strongly disagree with his worldview, I cannot help but concede his point regarding superhuman claims.
For years, I’ve always wondered why white Americans – easily among the most tolerant and accommodating people in the world – are constantly castigated for being wicked racists. After reading Coates’s book, I think I’ve stumbled upon at least one explanation. Whites are criticized because by espousing such high and mighty American exceptionalist ideals, they set themselves up for criticism over peccadilloes; nothing short of perfected egalitarianism will satisfy the likes of Coates.
However, we expect Coates and his ilk to criticize white people. What’s more problematic is that so many white elites and pundits are heaping accolades upon James Baldwin’s heir. While it may be easy to dismiss such adulation as the media simply being comprised of venal prostitutes, I contend that many white elites on some level accept Coates’s scathing vituperation because they too hold white Americans up to ridiculously high moral standards – and like Coates find them wanting. Likewise, a large chunk of regular white people accept certain anti-racist tenets to varying degrees. Sure, very few whites are like Tim Wise, but most nevertheless choose Americanism over white identity and interests.
Some readers may wonder why American exceptionalism has become a recent hobby horse of mine. Put simply, I think that the quixotic ideals spawned by the American experiment account for many – if not most – of white America’s pathologies often bemoaned by alt righters and white nationalists. Whether it’s galvanizing whites into supporting wasteful wars in the Middle East, promoting cannibalistic Libertarian economics, demonizing white identity, or exhorting whites to accept open borders, American exceptionalist beliefs are always employed in order to sabotage the collective interests of whites. Although pusillanimous or treacherous white elites bear much of the blame for America’s current weakness, they would never have been able to inflict so much damage without this ideological ammunition.
And if you think I’m wrong, allow me to propose a hypothesis. Imagine that native elites in Asia have been replaced by white American elites, and that these white outsiders have so far managed to fit in. Let’s also imagine that these white elites suddenly promulgate radical beliefs such as multiculturalism, open borders, and the idea of a “proposition nation.” Do you think for a second that the Asian masses would countenance such bizarre platforms? Of course not, because their cultures are more nationalistic, tribal, and collectivist. Such lofty rhetoric would not have the same impact on them.
Ultimately, until the whites who believe themselves to be American begin to embrace a healthy nationalism and collectivism, they will continue to be weakened in the name of ideals – sensible during a time when whites were the vast majority of the country – pioneered by their ancestors. If current trends continue unabated, then the future America will be anything but exceptional.