During The Daily Show’s December 13 episode, journalist and best-selling author Ta-Nehisi Coates sat down with Trevor Noah to talk about his latest Atlantic cover story, “My President Was Black,” an article about what it meant to have an African American president in office for eight years whose title echoes the Young Jeezy song, “My President Is Black.” He also summed up the way racism benefits Donald Trump in just a couple of perfect sentences.
Coates said he approached his critiques of Obama’s legacy from a place of “an attempt to really, really understand him” and connect his unique background (he grew up in Hawaii raised by his white mom and a grandmother who encouraged him to embrace his blackness) with his approach to governing.
“When I grew up in West Baltimore anything associated with white people 99% of the time was something malevolent, it was an explanatory force for something bad. Why do you live in the neighborhood that you live in? Why in that neighborhood are you worried about your personal safety? Why is your neighborhood shaped that way? Why do the police deal with you [in this way]? Why are schools the way they are? Who has the power and who does not? That’s just not the experience that he [Barack Obama] had and so his approach was very very different,” said Coates.
Coates also hasn’t been shy about his disapproval of the way Obama has sometimes addressed black Americans, and he repeated that criticism to Noah.
“You represent Andrew Johnson, you represent Andrew Jackson, you represent Woodrow Wilson. You have the heritage of a country that for most of it’s history in terms of policy has not been particularly friendly towards black folks and so when you then address them in this sort of way…why don’t you pull up your pants, why don’t you work harder…it just totally, completely rubbed me the wrong way,” Coates said.
Noah also used his interview with Coates to address the outcome of the current election and president-elect Donald Trump, racism and what it means to be competitive in the Democratic party today (addressing both people of color and white people), and why Hillary Clinton never really figured that out.
“If I have to jump six feet to get to the same place you have to jump two feet for, that’s how racism works,” Coates said. “…And to be president he [Obama] had to be scholarly, intelligent, president of the Harvard Law Review, the product of some of our greatest educational institutions, capable of talking to two different worlds. Donald Trump had to be rich and white. That was it. That’s the difference.”
Watch the extended interview below.