Michael Brown’s death last year in Ferguson, Mo., created a new martyr for the black movement in America. Never mind what really happened: to many people, black and white alike, Mr. Brown was the victim of racist policing in a racist system in which all whites are complicit. If you question this narrative, beware. You will be judged as part of the problem.
But is it true? Is the system racist? Are all whites complicit? According to the most influential black intellectual in the U.S. today, the answer is yes.
“Here is what I would like for you to know,” writes Ta-Nehisi Coates in his new book, which is addressed to his 14-year-old son. “In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body – it is heritage.”
Mr. Coates is being widely described as the heir to James Baldwin, the novelist and social critic whose powerful work on the brutal realities of race galvanized an earlier generation of Americans. Much of the nation remained segregated then. Black people were denied their voting rights, and racists blew up little girls in churches.