Cultural Realities: Ta-Nehisi Coates

Posted on in Art + Soul by Roy Strassman

Nourse Theater, November 8, 2017

Beginning last August and continuing into February, City Arts & Lectures is hosting an incredible series of writers, thinkers, cultural figures, and various artists. This highly anticipated evening featured Ta-Nehisi Coates, zeitgeist writer for The Atlantic, in conversation with his friend and Atlantic staff writer Alexis Madrigal. Coates’s most recent release is a collection of essays titled We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy. Many consider Coates the current laureate in that esteemed black literary lineage that most recently included the great James Baldwin, and Coates’s work is reminiscent of Baldwin’s.

Madrigal began the evening asking Coates about his writing process, to which he replied, “You must first always be excited!” (That right there is inspiration for inspiration!) He then weighed in on the effects of his upbringing and former poverty: “You need to stay on the edge to be hot. You can’t be too comfortable.” Later, while talking about his own musical inspirations, he mentioned hip-hop and its syncopated poetic lyrics, his paragon being LL Cool J.

He touched on many topics, but white privilege was always central.

He said that gentrification, which forces many of the poor to flee their homes, is nothing more than one current manifestation of white privilege. He said that white privilege pervades virtually every aspect of modern life in the US, and always has.


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