I came up in a time when white intellectuals were forever making breathless pronouncements about their world, about my world, and about the world itself. My life was delineated lists like “Geniuses of Western Music” written by people who evidently believed Louis Armstrong and Aretha Franklin did not exist. That tradition continues. Dylan Byers knows nothing of your work, and therefore your work must not exist.
Here is the machinery of racism—the privilege of being oblivious to questions, of never having to grapple with the everywhere; the right of false naming; the right to claim that the lakes, trees, and mountains of our world do not exist; the right to insult our intelligence with your ignorance. The machinery of racism requires no bigotry from Dylan Byers. It merely requires that Dylan Byers sit still.
We suffer for this. So many people charged with informing us, with informing themselves, are just sitting still.
Coates comments further on Dylan Byers vehemently refusing to see Melissa Harris-Perry as a public intellectual. Byers’ stance is a textbook example of gate-keeping and of the centrality of white men in the canon.