David Brooks Writes a Sestina About Ta-Nehisi Coates -The Toast

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Sarah Miller’s previous work for The Toast, including other sestinas by David Brooks, can be found here.

Before I talk about you, Ta-Nahesi Coates, I want to say how interesting
it is to be white,
and what a kick I get out of receiving actual cash money to reflect upon the lives of people.
And, although I enjoy my written meditations on all Americans,
there’s something extra special about the African-American
experience. Your whole situation really makes me think.

Gosh, I love to think.
One’s brain – so interesting.
Case in point: You are black and an African-American.
I am white
and a Jewish-American.
(Which means I get pogroms.) But we are both people.

And since we are people
we think.
Me? I tend to be fascinated by American
stuff. Like: “The world is so interesting!”
and, you – perhaps because you are not white –
are fascinated by African-American

stuff. Like: “Being African-American
means living with the brutal awareness that most people
who are white
never think
about how violent and enraging and unending (and not merely interesting)
it is for me and those I love to co-exist with racist, delusional America.”

Mr. Coates, as an American
I feel pressed upon to present my opinion of your opinion of our opinion of African-Americans.
I’m not saying your dark, deeply personal view isn’t interesting.
But I wonder at your dismissal of so many people,
many of whom I happen to think
are terrific, even if they happen to be white.

I accept that part of being white
and being American
and being a columnist means I definitely need to think
and write about African-American
issues and people.
It’s no problem, because it’s all so interesting.

Yes, Mr. Coates, I admit that whites have done a real number on African-Americans.
I want to say out loud to you I don’t think that makes all Americans bad people.
But you really made me think. What a debt of gratitude I owe you for being so interesting.

Sarah Miller is the author of the novels Inside the Mind of Gideon Rayburn and The Other Girl. She has written for many publications and lives in Nevada City, CA.

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