The Longform Podcast

Here is a pretty fun interview I did with Evan Ratliff and the team over at Longform. Evan (with Nick Thompson) runs The Atavist whose mission is to make the world safe for deep and broad journalism. Evan is also pretty incredible journalist in his own right. Anyway here's an excerpt:


"I was 24 when my son was born. People always say that kids get in the way, right? But actually it had the opposite effect on me. I feel like I could have spent my twenties doing all sorts of self-destructive things - that was my natural inclination - but having a kid suddenly makes that not OK.... The stakes of everything just went up. I think I'm the type of person where, for any reason, I only respond to pressure. That kid just so raised the pressure, for everything. ... So I started writing for the Washington Monthly, and the Monthly pays shit, everybody knows that, right? They were paying ten cents a word at this point. But because they have these big-shots writing for them, nobody ever calls for the check! But I would say, 'no, I need you to send me that check. Yeah, I know it's only $150, but I actually need that check, you really need to send that check.'"

Hell yeah. This was 2001. My baby walking, gotta get 'em some shoes.

Some other thoughts:

I've been obsessed with this notion of what constitutes progress. I think on the Left there this notion that this happens then this happens then this happens. And maybe that's a reflection of how history is taught in high school. But if you look ,my favorite era th Civil War. There's a strong argument for African-Americans in the South that their labor situation did not change. And I think some historians would probably go so far as to argue that it was for the worst. But the fact is that before 1865 you could take somebody's kid and put them on the auction block, and after 1865 you couldn't. That's an actual thing.

I thought this again while I was in Richmond last week. It was brought home as I listened to historian Brian Daugherity talk about Brown vs. the Board. Virginia, as most of you know, greeted Brown with a campaign of massive resistance. Daugherity talked about his time teaching public school in Mississippi where, to this very day, there are all white academies that sprung out of total fear of "nigger citizenship." These places should be ashamed of themselves. But they stand. My point is, somehow, we think that schools just integrated in 1954 or within the decade after. In fact, to this very day, the struggle continues. History is in motion. We are tied to it. We can not sever ourselves. 
 
As an aside, Richmond is awesome. And people who think "we" should have let the South secede should not comment here.

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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