We Were Eight Years in Power
Ta-Nehisi Coates
Contributed by Andrea Barraza
Chapter 4

Chapter Four provides an analysis of the fourth year of Obama as President of the United States. Coates asserts of his dissatisfaction with the great level of enslavement on the insanity that existed in the country before Obama clinched the presidency. The insanity was initiated in the slavery period where whites mistreated blacks and exposed them to heinous forms of sufferings. He talks about the “generational destruction of human bodies” (Coates 171). Black people had been historically beaten, harmed and lynched, since the onset of White Supremacy which originated from the slavery period to the 21st century. During the slavery period, human bodies were treated as more of such capital of production by white masters, rather than being regarded as valuable. He states that the offenses relating to the mistreatment of blacks over the years have an impact on poll taxes, domestic terrorism, and mass incarceration. He also laments of perpetrators of criminal activities aimed at targeting blacks. He also states that the level of resistance that blacks have shown the government in the form of protests is ademonstration of the dissatisfaction in the way they are being treated by whites. He also states that America as a plundered land. He indicates that for a long time, America was defined by the principle of whiteness as a show of citizenship. Thus, while America has had people of different social demographics, whites have been given a better regard as opposed to other racial groups. Thus, the situation prevents the country from reaping the benefits of being a multicultural society.

The author also suggests that the vision of Malcolm X had before he died in 1965 lies within Obama’s current vision. In this regard, the author tells a story of his mother which dates back to 1962. It was during this time that there existed serious social issues discussed on matters race and especially with regards to the position of black people held in the US society. He goes on to narrate how his mother took part in the protests that led to the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. Coates also discusses how her mother lamented the murder of Malcolm X since he played a huge inspirational role to African Americans. Therefore, the author suggests that seeing Obama in office is an indication that “Malcolm X’s public pronouncements have been a gift to seemingly every contemporary black artist and intellectual” (Coates 192). The author, therefore, seems to suggest that the great inspiration that had been created earlier on by Malcolm is a continuous thing, evidenced in the success of many African American citizens of the modern-day US, including people like Obama and many other artists.


Chapter Four focuses on demonstrating the great reverence that people had on Malcolm X and how this has shaped the modern day America especially with regards to the role of African Americans in the US society, as he refers to Obama as an example. As a symbol of black redemption and being able to be recognized in their own country, the author demonstrates how Malcolm X served a great purpose by inspiring people to press on in an effort to realize the achievements they wished for. This inspiration was, particularly, important in motivating black people to continue working hard and pushing on as they were seeking to be accorded the needs they believed they deserved in addition to seeking the respect they also felt that they deserved from the white people (Coates 190). Although Malcolm X was murdered, the dream that he had established appeared to continue living on. Many black people perceived the incoming of Obama as one of the most promising opportunities through which they would have had the chance to gain the level of recognition that they have, over time, been seeking.

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