The Hard Truths of Ta-Nehisi Coates

Bejamin Wallace-Wells in New York Magazine:

ScreenHunter_1255 Jul. 17 10.13The first time Coates met the president, at an off-the-record White House conversation with liberal opinion writers in 2013, he left disappointed in himself. “Everyone was too deferential, and I was too deferential, too,” he said. The second time, a few months later, he was determined to do better. Coates had been reading Baldwin’s 1963 book,The Fire Next Time, and as he left his home in Harlem for the train station, his wife, Kenyatta Matthews, said to him, “What would Baldwin do?” On the train to D.C., Coates thought about the off-the-record 1963 meeting that Baldwin had brokered between Robert Kennedy and leading black activists, at which Kennedy felt the full force of black anger. (“They seemed possessed,” Kennedy would later say.) Coates arrived at the White House late and, because he had not prepared for rain, wet. He was not wearing a suit but a blazer and jeans. The president was going around the room answering questions on a wide range of topics, handling each expertly, in Coates’s view.

“And the race aspect is not gone from this,” Coates said. “To see a black dude in a room of the smartest white people and just be the smartest dude in the room — it just puts into context all the stuff about ‘Let me see his grades.’ ”

Occupying Coates’s mind were the racial dimensions of universal health care. It had become apparent, as reporters dug through Census data, that as Republican governors opted out of the federal government’s expansion of Medicaid, blacks and Hispanics would be disproportionately left out because of where they lived.

More here.