There is a wall that I always hit when I read commentary by Ta-Nehisi Coates owing to my personal background and race. While I can relate to his preferred interpretation of Civil War memory on an intellectual level I am aware that his understanding comes from a very personal place and a sense of community that will always be foreign to me. The following comes from Coates’s most recent post on the killing of Michael Brown and the overall situation in Ferguson, MO.
Some 600,000 Americans—2.5 percent of the American population—died in the Civil War. What came before this was a long bloody war—enslavement—against black families, black communities and black bodies. What came after was a terrorist regime which ruled an entire swath of this country by fire and rope. That regime was not overthrown until an era well within the living memory of many Americans. Taken all together, the body count that led us to our present tenuous democratic moment does not elevate us above the community of nations, but installs us uncomfortably within its ranks. And that is terrifying because it shows us to be neither providential nor exceptional, and only special in the subjective sense that our families are special—because they are ours.