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January 09, 2014

Ta-Nehisi Coates: Melissa Harris Perry Is The Country's Foremost Public Intellectual, And If You Disagree, You're Racist

Melissa Harris Perry Tampon Earrings_0.jpg
Melissa Harris-Perry, wearing tampon earrings,
re-enacting a famous moment from a William F. Buckley Jr. debate in 1969

Yup.

That's what he says. And he says if you can't see that -- if you disagree with this uproarious claim -- you're racist.

Liberal in good standing -- but white liberal in good standing -- Dylan Byers questioned this, um, debatable claim, and for that Coates called him racist, or, at least, blinded by white skin privilege.

Which is just This Year's Model of saying "racist."

Coates couldnít even concede that it might be debatable, or try to genuinely defend his position. He chooses to comprehend all things through one prism. Byers must be a racist. Perhaps a latent one; perhaps itís his obliviousness rather than his intention. No matter. Coates goes on to lament, ironically, that others do not have a wider appreciation for what goes on in the world around them. While wagging his rhetorical finger at Byers, he explains his own worldview quite well:
Öthe privilege of being oblivious to questions of never having to grapple with the everywhere; the right of false naming; the right to claim that the lakes, trees, and mountains of our world do not exist; the right to insult our intelligence with your ignorance.

Then again, that might be a charitable take. Itís more likely that Coates is aware of what heís doing. Why else does he move goalposts in the piece ó content, by the end, to argue that Melissa Harris-Perry is merely a shunned black intellectual?

Now, if Ms. Harris-Perry is such big intellectual shakes, surely Mr. Coates must have frequently referenced her important academic work before she joined MSNBC as a TV Clown.

Now, I hadnít heard of Harris-Perry before she was on TV. That means nothing. Apparently I have genetic and pigmentary disposition towards obliviousness. So I turn to a specialist: Coates. As far as I can tell (via Google) he didnít see fit to mention the Americaís foremost intellectual until she was on television. Maybe I missed something. I scanned an array of liberal publications. Other than The Nation, where she writes, Harris-Perry was barely mentioned anywhere until she was on television. In these liberal publications, she is never (as far as I could tell) referred to as a leading intellectual, much less a foremost intellectual. Thatís certainly no way to treat the sharpest interlocutors of this historic era.

In fact, using Coatesí criteria Rachel Maddow has a far stronger claim to the throne of foremost intellectual. And if you disagree, youíre a homophobe.

Speaking of actually important public intellectuals (who happen to be black): Thomas Sowell is an intellectual in a real discipline, not a faked up "here's a new way to say racist or sexist this month" "studies" sort of field.

And he's got a column about Bill DeBlasio's Marxism.


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posted by Ace at 06:11 PM

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