One of the foremost black intellectuals in the US has deleted his Twitter account after a public row. Commentators Melvin Rogers, Patrisse Cullors, Carol Anderson and Shailja Patel discuss the impact on the debate and struggle for racial equality
In a blistering Guardian article last Sunday, Harvard scholar Cornel West labelled award-winning African American author Ta-Nehisi Coates the neoliberal face of the black freedom struggle. A furious debate raged all week among black academics and activists.
The disagreement between Coates and me is clear, said West. Any analysis or vision of our world that omits the centrality of Wall Street power, US military policies, and the complex dynamics of class, gender, and sexuality in black America is too narrow and dangerously misleading. So it is with Ta-Nehisi Coates worldview.
Coates hit back on Twitter, listing the articles he has written criticising US foreign policy, before quitting the social media site and deleting his account of 1.25 million followers.
So did this row between two of the best-known African American thinkers set back, or advance the struggle for black equality? We asked black academics and activists for their verdict.
Melvin Rogers: Criticisms of our allies are valid, but must be properly pitched
Brand says it missed mark after being accused of racism in campaign promoting body lotion
Dove has apologised after publishing an advert on its Facebook page which showed a black woman turning into a white woman.
The brand was accused of racism over the online advertising campaign and it later admitted it had missed the mark with an image posted on Facebook.
The advert showed a black woman removing her top to reveal a white woman underneath supposedly after using Dove body lotion.
The campaign has since been removed from Facebook but was shared by Naomi Blake, an American makeup artist who goes by the name Naythemua.
So Im scrolling through Facebook and this is the #dove ad that comes up ok so what am I looking at, she wrote as the caption.
Under the post, she was asked if people would be offended if the white woman had turned into a black woman. She said: Nope, we wouldnt and thats the whole point. What does America tell black people? That we are judged by the color of our skin and that includes what is considered beautiful in this country.
She added that Doves marketing team should have known better and said the tone deafness in these companies makes no sense.
Following the removal of the advert, Dove, which is owned by Unilever, tweeted: An image we recently posted on Facebook missed the mark in representing women of colour thoughtfully. We deeply regret the offence it caused.
In a further statement Dove said: As a part of a campaign for Dove body wash, a three-second video clip was posted to the US Facebook page.
This did not represent the diversity of real beauty which is something Dove is passionate about and is core to our beliefs, and it should not have happened.
We have removed the post and have not published any other related content. We apologise deeply and sincerely for the offence that it has caused.
However the damage was done and the nearly 3,000 comments below the tweet were almost exclusively negative. Many social media users called for a boycott of Doves products.
Ava DuVernay, the director of the film Selma, was one of many prominent people to criticise both the advert and the apology. She said on Twitter: You can do better than missed the mark. Flip + diminishing. Deepens your offence. You do good work. Have been for years. Do better here.
The trans model Munroe Bergdorf, who recently was at the centre of a racism row with LOreal, tweeted to say: Diversity is viewed as a buzzword or a trend. An opportunity to sell product to women of colour. Dove Do better.
Others pointed out this was not the first time the company has been accused of racism. In 2011 Doves before-and-after advert charted the transition of a black woman to a white woman after using its body wash.
At the time, Dove said in a statement: All three women are intended to demonstrate the after product benefit. We do not condone any activity or imagery that intentionally insults any audience.
I feel like its not super controversial, he explains that afternoon. Ithink Trump is an embarrassment to the country. And his approval rating isterrible.
Legends three-legged, rescued French bulldog, Penny, is scampering through the halls of his Los Angeles home like an asthmatic pinball, and he pauses for her to pass underfoot as he brings us two glasses of ros. He is wearing a white T-shirt and jeans and his mood is the human equivalent of the prayer-hands emoji. That seems to be his default. Its difficult to picture Legend angry or anything other than the absolute essence of calm. He doles out thoughtfully articulated thesis statements in a rhythmic murmur, perhaps best described as a mix of pillow talk and a TED talk.
Legend, 38, released his sixth album, Darkness and Light, last December, which earned praise from the Guardian for its musical weirdness and lyrical bleakness. Now he is preparing for an arena tour of Britain this autumn, where he will be joined by his 16-month-old daughter, Luna, who does not much appreciate this whole interview thing.
Da-ad! she calls from upstairs, her voice echoing into the dining room. Luna! Legend yells back, cutting himself off mid-sentence. She knows Im talking, he says.
Luna pads downstairs and joins Legend at the piano. The shelves behind him are covered in awards, including 10 Grammys and an Oscar; her onesie is covered in tiny pink owls. He runs his hands over the keys as she smashes them intermittently, pausing for me to clap, then staring back at her dad for approval. They have clearly done this before. Lunas giant brown eyes and halo of curls make frequent appearances in the feeds of Legends 7.1 million Instagram followers, as does his wife, Chrissy Teigen, a model, feminist firebrand and celebrity in her own right. (Actually, she has more than 14 million followers, but whos counting?)
Well, [Trumps] an entertainer, too, in a New York way, says Legend. When he is criticising something, he is usually projecting. So, he calls people liars because he is a liar. He talks about the entertainment business because he rose through the entertainment business. He talks about people being corrupt, because he is corrupt. He talks about people being violent because he encourages violence. So, hes usually projecting when he criticises someone. Legend and his wife are active in the resistance against Trump, ignoring fans on social media who tell them to stay in your lane.
Artists, I think, by constitution and disposition, are just more liberal than the average population. They tend to want progress and change, he says, and they also tend to have worlds that are more diverse maybe than the average person.
I think it would be harder if we were trying to put up some facade that wasnt real, but since who we are on social media is really natural and really a reflection of who we are in our private life in a lot of ways, I think it feels very unforced for us, he says. It feels like a natural conversation. When I talk about politics on Twitter, when I Instagram my daughter, these are just the things Im thinking about and the things I care about.
Legend and Teigen give a lot to their fans through social media, but it is also a way of controlling images of themselves. Ithink it devalues paparazzi photos when you control your own narrative, he says. I think we have enough wisdom to know when its the right time to share and when it isnt. Occasionally, well make a mistake but, generally speaking, Im happy with what weve chosen to share, and I think its generally better than the alternative of going through publicists and tabloids.
The long read: Tommy J Curry thought forcing a public discussion about race and violence was part of his job. It turned out that people didnt want to hear it
One Thursday morning in May, Tommy J Curry walked through the offices of the philosophy department at Texas A&M University with a police officer at his side and violence on his mind. The threats had started a few days earlier. Since you said white people need to be killed Im in fear of my life, one person had written via email. The next time I see you on campus I might just have to pre-emptively defend myself you dumb fat nigger. You are done. Curry didnt know if that person was lurking on the university grounds. But Texas is a gun-friendly state, and Texas A&M is a gun-friendly campus, and he took the threat seriously.
Curry supports the right to bear arms. It was part of how he ended up in this situation. In 2012 he had appeared on a satellite radio show and delivered a five-minute talk on how uneasy white people are with the idea of black people talking about owning guns and using them to combat racist forces. When a recording of the talk resurfaced in May, people thought the tenured professor was telling black people to kill white people. This idea swept through conservative media and into the fever swamps of Reddit forums and racist message boards. The threats followed.
Anonymous bigots werent the only ones making Curry feel unwanted. Michael K Young, the president of Texas A&M, had called the professors comments disturbing and contrary to the values of the university. Curry was taken aback. His remarks on the radio were not a regrettable slip of the tongue. They were part of why the university had hired him.
A police officer met Curry inside his academic building and rode with him in the elevator to the philosophy department, on the third floor. In a hallway, the professor pointed to photos of his graduate students so the police officer would know who was supposed to be there. The officer told him to keep an eye out for unfamiliar faces. Curry picked up his mail. There were a few angry letters, and also an envelope marked with a Texas A&M logo. He put the hate mail into a folder and carried the whole bundle downstairs. Back in the car with his wife, he opened the university envelope. Inside was a copy of a letter from a campus official that he had received a few days earlier by email before his inbox was flooded with racist messages.
I am delighted to offer my congratulations on your promotion to Professor at Texas A&M University effective September 1, 2017, said the letter. This measure of your achievement is an indicator of the very high esteem in which you are held by your peers. We are honored to have you on our faculty.
As the car pulled away from the campus, Curry reread the letter and rolled his eyes. He has not been back since.
The drama that unfolded at Texas A&M is about a scholar who was welcomed by a public university because of his unusual perspective, and who became estranged from the university for the same reason. It is a story about what a university values, how it expresses those values under pressure, and how that pressure works. It is about freedom and control, reason and fear, good faith and bad. Mostly, it is a story about a black man in America who did exactly what he said he set out to do, and who became a cautionary tale.
It starts in Lake Charles, Louisiana, where Curry grew up in the 1980s and 90s. His family lived in a mostly black neighbourhood on the east side of the city. The white folks lived on the other side of the highway. At the Woolworth store downtown, he saw the faded outline of letters that remained visible on the window glass: No Coloreds. Currys father sold insurance. He told his son stories about how white people used to break into black peoples homes and terrorise them. The family kept a shotgun behind the couch, and Tommy Sr owned a pistol as well. He constantly told us that there is a very real threat of white violence, said Curry. The idea of black people having a right to defend themselves is just something I grew up with.