On A Word Thomas Chatterton Williams Needs To Keep Out Of His Mouth.

Robert Lashley
6 min readFeb 2, 2023

The man who blamed hip-hop records on his act of domestic violence wants to lecture black people (who think Tyre Nichols's death’s had a racial component) about agency.

In the last few years, Thomas Chatterton Williams has cultivated a quieter, more eloquent online reputation. Gone is the writer who, in N+1, declared that black people didn’t have a world-class literature outside of Ellison. Few have championed Albert Murray’s elegant theories on race so fervently( though I wish he would champion more of his writing outside of his one book excoriating myopic racial thought). Instead of comparing him to Richard Spenser, Williams has recently defended the right of Ta-Nehisi Coates to be read, advocating for him to be taught and argued with counterpoints( something I think is needed for him and every major writer)

Yet when he slathers his “race had nothing to do with the murder of Tyre Nichols” article with

. But white and nonwhite people alike should be wary of forfeiting their agency so easily. We should always remain skeptical of systems-level thinking that reduces the complexity and unpredictability of human action to a simple formula.

One is left with questions. First, given these cases of dead black people at the hands of police have a near metronomic consistency to their events and rituals( degenerate savage failing upward within a system, falsified police reports, Video that shows what actually happened) what is complex or unpredictable about what happened to Nichols? Given the lack of evidence of police falsifying reports on such epidemic levels and an array of studies that show blacks far more likely to be arrested, and convicted, should black( or white liberal skepticism) of the justice system be seen as a relinquishing of agency or just…skepticism? Williams answers none of these, instead relying on passive-aggressive invective toward James Baldwin and anecdotal stories geared toward post-work legacy readers.

Yet the most heinous problem with Williams using the word agency lies in this paragraph he wrote in Losing My Cool, his conduct memoir.

This passage, around page 57 of my copy, wreaks of the personal decay that has plagued black men’s memoirs of the 20th century…



Robert Lashley

Writer. Author. Former Jack Straw and Artist Trust Fellow. The baddest ghetto nerd on the planet.