The Anger Behind the Story

Ta-Nehisi Coates explains the feelings behind his article "Fear of a Black President."

"It is, I think, a properly angry essay," writes Atlantic editor-in-chief James Bennet at the beginning of the September issue, referring to Ta-Nehisi Coates's article on President Obama. Coates's article — called "Fear of a Black President" — looks back at Obama's 2008 campaign, and his pledge to reckon with race. That reckoning, Coates writes, has not happened:

In his first two years as president, Obama talked less about race than any other Democratic president since 1961. Obama’s racial strategy has been, if anything, the opposite of radical: he declines to use his bully pulpit to address racism, using it instead to engage in the time-honored tradition of black self-hectoring, railing against the perceived failings of black culture.

In this conversation with Atlantic magazine editor Scott Stossel, Coates admits to a certain anger simmering behind these words, and explores his complex feelings about the president's position on race.


Jennie Rothenberg Gritz is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she edits digital features.

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