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Forget Coates vs. West — We All Have a Duty to Confront the Full Reach of U.S. Empire

What are the duties of radicals and progressives inside relatively wealthy countries to the world beyond our national borders?

 Cornel West, left, professor of philosophy at Union Theological Seminary, speaks at the National Press Club on Feb. 21, 2017 in Washington, D.C. Author Ta-Nehisi Coates, right, pictured during a press conference.

Cornel West, left, professor of philosophy at Union Theological Seminary, speaks at the National Press Club on Feb. 21, 2017 in Washington, D.C. Author Ta-Nehisi Coates, right, pictured during a press conference.

So, which side are you on? #TeamWest or #TeamCoates?

Choose fast, preferably within seconds, and don’t come to this gunfight with a knife. No, like some nerdy Rambo, we want you greased up and loaded with ammo: your most painful character smears, your most “gotcha” evidence of past political infractions, a blitzkrieg of hyperlinks and, of course, an aircraft carrier of reaction GIFs.

That’s pretty much how the online debate has played out ever since Cornel West published his piece in The Guardian challenging Ta-Nehisi Coates, an article you either regard as an outrageous injustice or an earth-shattering truth bomb, depending on which team you have chosen.

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We see it differently. We see this debate as a political opportunity, one that has far less to do with either of these brilliant men and everything to do with how, at a time of unfathomably high stakes, we are going to build a multiracial human rights movement capable of beating back surging white supremacy and rapidly concentrating corporate power. As women, both Black and white, both American and Canadian, we see the question like this: What are the duties of radicals and progressives inside relatively wealthy countries to the world beyond our national borders? A warming world wracked by expanding and unending wars that our governments wage, finance, and arm — a world scarred by unbearable poverty and forced migration?

Though West directed his criticisms at Coates, these are by no means questions for Coates alone. They are urgent challenges for all of us who see ourselves as part of social movements and intellectual traditions that yearn for a world where justice and dignity abound.

Read the full article at The Intercept.

Naomi Klein

Naomi Klein

Naomi Klein is Senior Correspondent at The Intercept and the inaugural Gloria Steinem Chair of Media, Culture and Feminist Studies at Rutgers University. Her books include: No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump's Shock Politics and Winning the World We NeedThis Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the ClimateThe Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism; and No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies.  To read all her writing visit www.naomiklein.org. Follow her on Twitter: @NaomiAKlein.

Opal Tometi

Opal Tometi is a Nigerian-American community organizer. Tometi is a co-founder of Black Lives Matter and currently serves as the Executive Director Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI).

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