If there’s real beef between the Harvard philosopher Cornel West and The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates, Coates says he doesn’t understand it. West is a vocal critic of Coates and his status as a public intellectual.
Coates addressed the controversy at a panel Tuesday hosted by The Atlantic, saying he remains confused why the feud started in the first place, and that he can’t seem to find a huge difference in the things West has spoken about and what Coates himself has written.
Coates spoke about the first time he saw Cornel West 20 years ago, and found it surreal to have that same person “write critical things about you when they have so clearly not read your work.”
“I am mystified as anybody else” about West’s argument, Coates said, adding that he hopes people read Race Matters, West’s groundbreaking 1993 book.
In December, West, who is also an outspoken critic of President Barack Obama, wrote a column for The Guardian calling Coates “the neoliberal face of the black freedom struggle.” West’s criticism and Coates’s response to the column went viral, and the moment was pegged by some as a feud between America’s top black intellectuals. After the row sparked a wider debate on Twitter, Coates—in what became a much talked-about moment—quit the social media platform.