Ta-Nehisi Coates Speaks at UNT (JOUR 4250)

Ta-Nehisis Coates, a correspondent for The Atlantic, had some amazing thoughts when he came to speak at the University of North Texas on March 12, 2015. His focus was on millennials and race.

One of his best points was that race does not exist. Race is man-made. We simply made decisions about what to call people, put those names on censuses and have left them to manifest. Coats could not be more correct.


White men in power created the division between blacks and whites when the enslavement of Africans began. That enslavement stemmed from indentured servitude when the colonies were created. What does this show us? Division is all about having power and race is just a dividing line that people have created to gain power. Because the majority of exports were cotton in the 1800s, slavery was all about getting rich (and therefore gaining power) through the bodies of black people, Coates said. “Slavery is all about the right to plunder someone else’s body and steal the fruits of their work,” Coats said. That reality is so incredibly sad. Another horrible reality is that black people were stripped of their right to vote up until the mid-1900s, even though they paid tax dollars, in order to strip them of their power.


Coates repeated multiple times that race is not real. Different skin colors doesn’t make people different from each other. What makes individuals different is personalities, culture, religion, values and beliefs. In America, “black” usually means African-American. But some “black” people are Haitian, Caribbean, etc. Why is every person with light skin that is not Latino or African-American called white? Italians are different than Canadians. Poles are different than Australians.

An extremely important question arises when talking about race. What race are biracial people? Why is a half black, half white person called black? Why are they not called white? They are just as much white as they are black. Why is a half black, half Latino person called black? Why are they not called “Latino? With the increasing amount of biracial couples and children, why can’t we come to a conclusion? Although it may not be referred to the “one drop” rule anymore, why does it still have power in our society? I believe that one day, everyone will be of two or more races. This is only more proof that race is not real!


Race may not exist, but racism does. Although many believe it is the right thing to do, adding more races on ballots, survey or censuses doesn’t fix the problem, Coates said. Racism comes naturally to so many people because it has been practiced for so long and passed down through generations. It has only been publicly shunned for less than a century. Children learn racism from family members, society and entertainment. But we need to eliminate it! It is the Millennials’ responsibility to do so. If we can eliminate racism, we can eliminate race and finally see each other clearly without the man-made boundary called race.

What do we do?

1. Educate ourselves: What really makes people diverse? Why do we call people certain things?

2. Reflect: Do you say or do anything that is racist or enforces the division of different races?

3. Take action: Inform your peers, family and friends. Teach your own children (now or someday) to view other people’s differences as a positive thing and not to divide people by physical characteristics.

Come on people! Just like Coates said, some of the world’s biggest problems are being ignored because we can’t get past issues like racism. No one will care about race when we no longer have an ozone layer. No one will care about race if we no longer have water to drink or food to eat.

Coates left UNT with some words of wisdom: To move forward and solve our problems, as a species and intelligent beings, “We must be honest with ourselves about all things,” no matter how ugly or difficult the problem is.


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