My letter to the Atlantic, October, 2017

In the opening to his dazzling piece on the white supremacist foundation of Donald Trump’s presidency, Ta-Nehisi Coates lists the many instances in which candidate Trump disparaged Barack Obama’s considerable intellectual achievements, including insisting “that his acclaimed memoir, Dreams From My Father, had been ghostwritten by a white man, Bill Ayers.” This manufactured illusion spread throughout the fever swamps of racist and right wing websites and news outlets starting in 2008, and like “birtherism,” it took on a lingering life of its own—fact-free and faith-based. To be clear, I of course had nothing to do with writing or ghosting for Barack Obama. It’s true that people of European descent, or in Coates’ phrase, “those who believe they are white,” have an urgent challenge if we are to join humanity in the enormous task of creating a  just and caring world, and it begins with rejecting  white supremacy—not simply despising bigotry and backwardness, but spurning as well all the structures and traditions baked into law and custom and history and economic condition. It extends to refusing to embrace optics over justice, “multiculturalism” or “diversity” over an honest reckoning with reality—to becoming race traitors, if you will, as we learn the loving art of solidarity in practice.

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