With the final term for the first president of color, a black man, Barack Hussein Obama, came the rise of what Ta-Nehisi Coates describes as “The First White President”. He makes this claim unabashedly and in comparison to the other white presidents before Barack Obama. With the rise and dangerous presidency of Donald Trump came a new era of exaggeration and danger for all minorities – all those who do not look and believe they are white, similar to Trump. The rise of Trump came with the fall of the white working class, and the absence of being black.
Coates is quick to argue and claim that Trump is the first white president and that no other qualification – other than being the epitome of the poor, white working class – granted him the position after Barack Obama. Coates even criticizes himself by saying “it is insufficient to state the obvious of Donald Trump: that he is a white man who would not be president were it not for this fact” (Coates 76). Whereas other presidents before Obama held what Coates calls a “bloody heirloom”, Trump and his supporters unabashedly clung to the shared belief that they are white. Coates, in his novel Between the World and Me, suggests that this fragile and belief and Dream have not only plundered and continue people of color – particularly Black Male Bodies – but continue to do so in the ‘progressive’ era. This plundering, a word that Coates often uses, and this belief in whiteness have been the “core of…power” for those who believe they are white (76).
While Coates establishes that Trump’s running as a Republican candidate, a “party that has long cultivated white voters”, the conservative party is not entirely at fault. Coates criticizes liberals for ‘accepting’ and prioritizing “class struggles…instead of…racist struggles” (78). Coates continues by stating “to accept that whiteness brought us Donald Trump is to accept whiteness as an existential danger to the country and world” (78). The incompetence of the 45th president is no laughing matter or satirical fever-dream, he is dangerous to ALL MINORITIES. Coates defines him as the following “the first white president in American history is also the most dangerous president” (87).
Almost a full year into this toxic and dangerous presidency, minorities in America have experienced first hand Trump’s “apocalyptic potential” (87). From arguing with the leaders of North Korea, the perhaps most oppressive country known, to continue insulting people of color, women, scientists, and/or anyone that shows any disagreement with him, 45 has proved that one year is too long. Coates, an excellent writer, and essayist capture this perfectly in his novel and in his article. While Coates initially rose to fame with his criticism of Obama’s policies, his criticisms of 45 are much more crucial and essential to contemporary culture. As a black man who fears for his son’s future, this novel is much more personal, warm, and thoughtful. His uncertainty is echoed in his strong words in his essay. In a culture where media is being scrutinized on both sides, his factual and critical side is much needed. While those who believe they are white may argue that minorities – women, people of color, people with disabilities, and the LGBTQIA community – are over exaggerating, the only counter-argument is the most incompetent president in American history.
Coates, Ta-Nehisi. Between the World and Me. Simon and Grau, 2015.
Coates, Ta-Nehisi. “The First White President.” The Atlantic. October, 2017, pp 74-87.