Barack Obama’s eight years as America’s first black president indirectly paved the way for the country’s «first white president», according to one of America’s most influential African-American writers.
Ta-Nehisi Coates’ collection of essays We Were Eight Years in Power takes us on a journey through a unique presidency that is intimately linked to the author’s own remarkable career. At the outset Coates is a young, penniless blogger and rap music enthusiast living off his wife. Towards the end of the Obama presidency he has become a celebrated writer, with president Barack Obama as his interview subject. Obama became a symbol to Americans, his inauguration a miraculous triumph for the democratic equality project. Eight years later they find themselves faced with the total opposite: Donald Trump becomes president. Coates explains it all by looking at race.
«TRUMP, however, could do whatever he wanted – because he was white.»
Inaugurated by error
The US Civil War (1861-1865) and the abolishment of slavery were followed by the Reconstruction Era. In the state of South Carolina, which had a black majority, several African Americans were now appointed to positions in the administration. Until one day its white residents put an end to it. Thomas E. Miller was a representative for «Good Negro Government» – which, according to the historian W.E.B. Du Bois, was hated by whites – but in the autumn of 1895 he had to accept that «We were in power for eight years.» Coates claims that no substantial change in the African-American condition has taken place since then. White supremacy permeates all aspects of society, a claim the author substantiates with facts drawn from his own and other studies.
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