While many of the recent protests around the country have focused on racism and the police, the officers themselves may only be part of the problem.
"We have this long history of racism in this country, and as it happens the criminal justice system has been perhaps the most prominent instrument for administering racism," Coates said. "But the racism doesn't actually come from the criminal justice system. It doesn't come from the police. The police are pretty much doing what the society that they originate from want them to do."
However, Coates also told Hayes that it was important to avoid fatalism.
"I'm the descendent of enslaved black people in this country. You could've been born in 1820, if you were black and looked back to your ancestors and saw nothing but slaves all the way back to 1619. Look forward another 50 or 60 years and saw nothing but slaves.
There was no reason at that point in time to believe that emancipation was 40 or 50 years off. And yet folks resisted and folks fought on. So fatalism isn't really an option. Even if you think you're not going to necessarily win the fight today in your lifetime, in your child's lifetime, you still have to fight. It's kind of selfish to say that you're only going to fight for a victory that you will live to see.
As an African-American, we stand on the shoulders of people who fought despite not seeing victories in their lifetime or even in their children's lifetime or even in their grandchildren's lifetime. So fatalism isn't really an option."
Check out the full video above, which also includes remarks from former RNC chair Michael Steele.