Ta-Nehisi Coates talks about Black Pride, his identity and race, and the need for black cultural revitalization.

Ta-Nehisi Coates: We’re in the aftermath of the election, or there might be a new one coming down the pipeline. Because we thought, this time the racists won. They don’t like a black president; they don’t like a black president who is fighting for justice. That’s not it. It’s really not about race at all. Because it’s so much broader than that. There’s only so much racism left to play, but as long as people who were nurtured by the plantation are allowed to control American power, there’s a lot of racism left. In the meantime, black people are on the brink of reclaiming power, which is much more immediate.

The Millennials, that group of people who are particularly devoted to race equality, have a big hand in it. Young black people aren’t leaving the struggle. Young black people are fighting within their communities to defend their places of birth. And they’re doing it through art, like rappers who go around speaking out, but they’re all black rappers. They don’t have a name, but they are speaking out in the black community, using their culture to make things right, to demand changes, and to live the experience of blackness, to live the experience of pain. That said, American society, including our government, is still designed to dismantle black self-empowerment.

There has been so much made in the last few years about black pride, but we don’t get enough that’s actually from black people. Black people from all over the world spoke about their pride at the Pride Congress, but no one here in the United States spoke. The young people at the conference got to see the best images they could find from black pride nationally, but they saw none from the black community. The dominant language about pride and black identity is lacking. So many black people are searching for a way to articulate their identity, and this conference is one way to do that.

Black Pride is not just about celebrating. It’s about activism. In a society that’s constantly trying to outdo each other, and that keeps trampling on our history, and that keeps trying to shape our lives and destroy our history, and that keeps trying to usurp, it’s important to know our history. It’s important to know where we came from. It’s important to know who we are.

It’s also important to know that if you are told you’re “the greatest,” you are the greatest if you refuse to listen to that voice and show them that the greatness is inside of you. And nobody can do that better than you, when you want to be the greatest.