WE WERE EIGHT YEARS IN POWER: AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY
I would venture to say this is the best nonfiction book about racism that I have read to date. Coates has the most astounding ability to create lyricism and poetry out of pain, in a way that only a handful of writers are able.
Coates has published in this book eight essays, one that he wrote every year of the Obama presidency, each accompanied by thoughts given with hindsight, each on a different aspect of Obama’s presidency and the issue of race in America.
So insightful, so moving and so evocative, We Were Eight Years in Power reminds its reader that racism really is the biggest social problem American (and Western) society faces today. If people were able to fully comprehend the extent of racism that exists in America, as Coates writes of it, any even blasé or passing suggestion of equality would be unthinkable.
He also gives a fascinating and nuanced look at Obama’s approach to race and the trials and tribulations he faced as a Black man in the highest position of power in a country built on racism. This book makes clear the crushing culpability of all white people and all of American history in the legacy of racism; America’s dream of greatness is one built on beliefs that are inherently false.
Coates also reminds us of another sobering thought: Black people have been in chains longer than they have been free in America. Racism, if it ever ends, will not do so for many decades and even centuries. To think anything else is naive.
We Were Eight Years in Power is a torturously beautiful wake-up call to those who have the privilege of deceiving themselves into thinking racism is not the single most toxic and pervasive element of American society.
On reparations: “a national reckoning that would lead to a spiritual renewal”
“Mass incarceration became the national model of social control”
“Resistance must be its own reward, since resistance, at least within the life span of the resistors, almost always fails”
“To scream was to defy the storm”
“ I betrayed the wonder in me by privileging the appearance of knowing over the work of finding out”
“Yet the movement demanded of African Americans a sort of