Ezra Klein: Why Ta-Nehisi Coates is hopeful

The author of Between the World and Me on why this isn’t 1968, the Colin Kaepernick test, police abolition, nonviolence and the state, and more.

Vox, June 5, 2020

The first question I asked Ta-Nehisi Coates during our recent conversation on The Ezra Klein Show was broad: What does he see right now, as he looks out at the country?

“I can’t believe I’m gonna say this,” he replied, “but I see hope. I see progress right now.”

Coates is the author of the National Book Award winner Between the World and Me and The Water Dancer, among others. We discussed how this moment differs from 1968, the tension between “law” and “order,” the contested legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., Donald Trump’s view of the presidency, police abolition, why we need to renegotiate the idea of “the public,” how the consensus on criminal justice has shifted, what Joe Biden represents, the proper role of the state, and much more.

But there’s one particular thread of this conversation that I haven’t been able to put down: There is now, as there always is amid protests, a loud call for the protesters to follow the principles of nonviolence. And that call, as Coates says, comes from people who neither practice nor heed nonviolence in their own lives. But what if we turned that conversation around? What would it mean to build the state around principles of nonviolence, rather than reserving that exacting standard for those harmed by the state?

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