Atlantic Columnist: 'Melissa Harris-Perry is America's Foremost Public Intellectual'

"Melissa Harris-Perry makes America smarter"

On Monday, Atlantic columnist Ta-Nehisi Coates came to the defense of MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry who gave a weepy apology on her program Saturday in reaction to criticism she received for mocking former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney's adopted black grandchild.

Coates first says that he understands why interracial families would be offended by Perry's statements, but then hypocritically goes on to say that conservatives only attacked Harris-Perry for political points, not because they care about genuine "racism":

The conservative movement does not believe that racism is an actual issue to be grappled with, but sees it instead as a hand grenade to be lobbed into an enemy camp...

When not attempting to shame their enemies on trumped-up charges of racism, the conservative movement busies itself appealing to actual racists. We are into the sixth year of the era of a black president. In that time the conservative movement has gorged on a steady diet of watermelon jokes, waffle jokes, affirmative-action jokes, monkey jokes, barbecue jokes, terrorist machinations, secret Muslim plots, and dastardly Kenyan conspiracies. Three months ago, the movement reached a new low, waving the flag of slavery in front of the Obama's home. It is tempting to call this the climax of a long campaign. That would exhibit an unearned optimism at odds with history.

Coates makes no attempt to explain how those examples, virtually none of which have involved mainstream conservatives , compare with a nationally syndicated TV anchor mocking a family for adopting a black grandchild.

After calling Romney a product of a white-supremacist upbringing, he goes on to defend Harris-Perry for mocking his black grandchild:

There is a sense that Romney's grandchild should be off-limits to mockery. That strikes me as fair. It also doesn't strike me that mocking was what Harris-Perry was doing. The problem was making any kind of light of a fraught subject—a black child being reared by a family whose essential beliefs were directly shaped by white supremacy, whose patriarch sought to lead a movement which derives most its energy from white supremacy. That's a weighty subtext. But there is no one more worthy, and more capable, of holding that conversation than America's most foremost public intellectual—Melissa Harris-Perry...

Specifically in this instance, Harris-Perry is a black woman with a white mother. Through her mother, Harris-Perry has a Mormon ancestry that extends back through generations. This is not a fact recently produced to inoculate her against criticism, but a theme that she returns to regularly...

...With that context of insight, Harris-Perry is uniquely qualified to speak on racism, Mormonism, and history. It's true that what she offered was a humor segment, not a deep analysis. But I strongly suspect that the humor originated in her own feeling of comfort with the subject matter, justified by her biography.

Coates finishes saying "Melissa Harris-Perry makes America smarter" and doesn't deserve to be lumped in with the latest gaffes at MSNBC like those of Martin Bashir and Alec Baldwin.