Police officers fight crime. Police officers are neither case-workers, nor teachers, nor mental-health professionals, nor drug counselors. One of the great hallmarks of the past forty years of American domestic policy is a broad disinterest in that difference. The problem of restoring police authority is not really a problem of police authority, but a problem of democratic authority. It is what happens when you decide to solve all your problems with a hammer. To ask, at this late date, why the police seem to have lost their minds is to ask why our hammers are so bad at installing air-conditioners. More it is to ignore the state of the house all around us. A reform that begins with the officer on the beat is not reform at all. It’s avoidance. It’s a continuance of the American preference for considering the actions of bad individuals, as opposed to the function and intention of systems.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, "The Myth of Police Reform"

A few weeks ago, Kenyatta and I had dinner with another couple. They are old friends of ours, and like us, children of black consciousness. Kenyatta and the couple were talking about the beauty and wonder of Paris (I’ve never been.) They were contrasting that with all of the race critiques we came up on, some of which we still hold. And some point one of us said something to effect of, "You know you really gotta give it up. These white folks got done did something."

When you are a young intellectual black kid, you often find yourself in this desperate search for some sort of anti-Western tradition. That Saul Bellow quote—"Who is the Tolstoy of the Zululs"—really captures a lot of the dilemma for those of us looking for a "native" tradition. That search ends all kinds of ways for different people. But for us, I think it ended in the rejection of the premise, in the great Ralph Wiley riposte that “Tolstoy is the Tolstoy of the Zulus.”

That line was sorcery for me. It found me a black pathologist, and set me free by revealing that my own search for something “native” was an implicit acceptance of the very racism that I sought to counter. The way out was not to find my own, but to reject the notion of anyone’s "own." If you reject the very premise of racism—the idea skin color directly contributes to genius or sloth—then all of humanity becomes "native" to you. And so empowered, I could—out of my own individual identity—create my own intellectual and artistic pedigree, and I was free to have it extend from Biggie to to Wharton to Melville to Hayden.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, "The Federalist Papers"

"You must remember I am the King of England. When you are a king you can’t go executing people as the fancy takes you. A king is the head of his people, and he must stand as an example to them, and do as they wish." He forgave the startled expression in Lancelot’s face, and took his hand once more. "You will find," he explained, "that when the kings are bullies who believe in force, the people are bullies too. If I don’t stand for law, I won’t have law among my people. And naturally I want my people to have the new law, because then they are more prosperous, and I am more prosperous in consequence." They watched him, wondering what he meant to convey. He held the look, trying to speak with their eyes. "You see, Lance, I have to be absolutely just. I can’t afford to have any more things like those babies on my conscience. The only way I can keep clear of force is by justice. Far from being willing to execute his enemies, a real king must be willing to execute his friends."

T.H. White, The Once and Future King

Why did men fight? The old man had always been a dutiful thinker, never an inspired one. Now his exhausted brain slipped into its accustomed circles: the withered paths, like those of the donkey in the treadmill, round which he had plodded many thousand times in vain. Was it the wicked leaders who led innocent populations to slaughter, or was it wicked populations who chose leaders after their own hearts?

T.H. White, The Once and Future King