“You can’t really be a black writer in this country, take certain positions, and not think about your personal safety,” he wrote. “That’s just the history.” (Oh, he's so oppressed. Dare I say, he's beginning to sound like a Jew?)
The author and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates in 2015. Credit Gabriella Demczuk for The New York Times
The journalist and author Ta-Nehisi Coates said on Monday that he and his family would not move into a $2.1 million Brooklyn brownstone they recently bought because media coverage of the purchase had made them worried for their safety.
Mr. Coates and his wife used a limited-liability corporation to shield their identities during the transaction — a legal maneuver frequently used by celebrities seeking privacy — but word of the sale leaked to The New York Post, which published an article about the purchase with pictures of the house last week. Real estate and other news organizations soon followed suit.
“Within a day of seeing these articles, my wife and I knew that we could never live in Prospect-Lefferts Garden, that we could never go back home,”Mr. Coates wrote on Monday in The Atlantic, where he is a national correspondent, referring to the Brooklyn neighborhood. “If anything happened to either of us, if anything happened to our son, we’d never forgive ourselves.”
Mr. Coates could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
Mr. Coates rose to fame in 2015 after the publication of his memoir “Between the World and Me,” which was written in the form of a letter to his son about the history of racial injustice in the United States. It was one of the most discussed books of the year and won the National Book Awardfor nonfiction.
Mr. Coates wrote on Monday that the success of the memoir shocked him, as did the sizable royalty checks he received, which he said helped him buy the stately home at 207 Lincoln Road.
But fame had downsides, he said: more scrutiny, less privacy and a number of disconcerting — if harmless — encounters with fans, including one who showed up at his front door. One day, he feared, an encounter could be less benign.
“You can’t really be a black writer in this country, take certain positions, and not think about your personal safety,” he wrote. “That’s just the history.”
Mr. Coates had hoped the discreetly purchased house could give his family an oasis from the demands of his public persona, he said. He and his wife had lived in the same neighborhood in their 20s, and it felt familiar and warm. “We thought we’d found a port in that storm,” he wrote.
Instead, news of the sale brought them even more attention. Some news media outlets printed his wife’s name, he said, while others “rummaged through my kid’s Instagram account.” It all became too much.
Mr. Coates did not indicate whether he had made plans to sell the Brooklyn home or where he and his family would live instead. He just knew it would not be Prospect-Lefferts Gardens.
“Our old neighborhood was not as quiet as we thought,” he wrote. “Nothing is quiet anymore — least of all us.”