You may think he’s a big deal, but he’d rather you don’t.
Ta-Nehisi Coates may be a big deal. He may be one of the top black writers of our time. But that doesn’t matter much to him — he does not want to be the one black voice you know. And he has good reason to say so.
In his recent interview with Playboy magazine, he explained,
“It makes me sad that people don’t read more black writers. I want the notion of there having to be ‘the voice’ for black folks completely obliterated. There is no one voice on climate change. There’s no one person on sports. I think that allows for a kind of laziness among nonblack people who don’t want to read other people’s shit. It saves them from having to compare me with other writers who are not black. It allows them to say, ‘You’re king of the blacks over here.’
The journalism I’m making stands up with any of these white folks you want to put up. If you want to have a conversation about where I stand in my field, we can talk about that. I’m black, very proud to be black, standing within the tradition of other black writers. That’s my culture, that’s my ethnicity, that’s my struggle, that’s my tradition, that’s my literature, but don’t use that as an excuse not to explore that tradition.”
So read more black authors, study black culture, and know your sh*t before you start calling Ta-Nehisi Coates the “Kind of the Blacks.”