There is no such thing as America's Foremost Public Intellectual. I can't even begin to imagine how they'd do the brackets. But naming one seems a harmless form of sport, and when Ta-Nehisi Coates made a suggestion, it didn't bother me. But he named a black woman, and someone whose name I probably should know was shocked and said Coates obviously should have picked one of a few specific white men, or perhaps a particular dead white woman if she hadn't been dead. That doesn't make the guy America's Foremost Public Asshole (for the same reason and because the competition is even fiercer), but it isn't good. Coates discusses.