Black Twitter has a lot to say about the public feud between black intellectual thought leaders Dr. Cornel West and Ta-Nehisi Coates. Although West, a professor at Harvard University and the author of Race Matters, has criticized Coates in the past, he lambasted Coates in a recent op-ed in The Guardian titled Ta-Nehisi Coates is the Neoliberal Face of the Black Freedom Struggle. In the piece, West, slams Coates’ latest book, We Were Eight Years in Power, and denounces his view of black America as “narrow and dangerously misleading.” West also argues that Coates, a journalist and writer for The Atlantic, fails to address the intersectionality between white supremacy and other societal ills like classism, capitalism, and American imperialism.
“Coates rightly highlights the vicious legacy of white supremacy – past and present. He sees it everywhere and ever reminds us of its plundering effects. Unfortunately, he hardly keeps track of our fightback, and never connects this ugly legacy to the predatory capitalist practices, imperial policies (of war, occupation, detention, assassination) or the black elite’s refusal to confront poverty, patriarchy or transphobia,” reads West’s piece.
In response, Coates addressed West’s attack on Twitter before abruptly deleting his Twitter account Monday evening. By then, a number of diverse groups chimed in about the feud, including “Black Twitter,” Bernie Sanders’ supporters, and feminists. Even white supremacist leader Richard Spencer weighed in, tweeting his support for West’s article.
Jelani Cobb, a respected writer for The New Yorker and a long-time friend of Coates, rushed to his defense, arguing that West’s criticism is rooted in a deep-seeded jealousy due to Coates’ rise to prominence as a proficient writer and influencer. Cobb also pointed out that West has not used the same harsh tone when he’s disagreed with white liberals like Bernie Sanders, who was criticized for mishandling race issues early on during his presidential campaign.
Black Lives Matter had to disrupt Bernie (TWICE!) to even get him to talk about race. Let’s not talk about the sketchy race dynamics inside the campaign that black folk were telling me about. Ain’t heard a word from you about that neither.— jelani cobb (@jelani9) December 18, 2017
Here are a few noteworthy tweets and reactions over the public feud between the two scholars.