Ta-Nehisi Coates is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle. More
Born in 1975, the product of two beautiful parents. Raised in West Baltimore -- not quite The Wire, but sometimes ill all the same. Studied at the Mecca for some years in the mid-'90s. Emerged with a purpose, if not a degree. Slowly migrated up the East Coast with a baby and my beloved, until I reached the shores of Harlem. Wrote some stuff along the way.
"I think Martin Luther King, Jr. would agree with me if he were alive today that if African Americans had been given the right to keep and bear arms from day one of the country's founding, perhaps slavery might not have been a chapter in our history," Ward said.
I don't intend to stop watching. I could go into a lot about my thinking, but it essentially comes down to the my belief that these players are making the same Achilles bargin that young men have been making for eons, and I'm comfortable accepting that.The game will never be "safe," but that doesn't mean that changes can't be made to make the game safer. Some changes I would like to see (some of which may have already been started):1) Off field changes-- Move to fully guaranteed contracts and expand rosters. Players would be more willing to sit if they know they won't be cut off/replaced after being injured. And a larger roster would make it easier for a team to keep an injured players on the payroll.-- Full health coverage for players who played more than 3 years or suffered a career-ending injury.-- Robust mental therapy program for players transitioning into retirement (possibly make it a requirement for retired players seeking health care coverage).-- Doctors work for the league, not for the teams. And each doctor has a clear checklist on the sideline that a player must pass if they're suspected of being concussed.-- Brain function tests at the start and end of every season, which are shared with the players at the start of training camp every year. Make sure their choice is as well-informed as possible.-- If a player suffers a concussion, they're not allowed to play in the following week. If they suffer a second concussion, they have to skip two games. Any more, they're forced to sit out the rest of the season.-- Add another bye week to the season, and either end Thursday night games, or schedule them in such a way that teams only play them when coming off of a bye week.2) On field changes-- Make every offensive player an eligible receiver. Over the long term, I think this would reduce the size of linemen to TE sized players, and it'd eliminate a lot of the "in the trenches" hit a player takes over his career. It would also make the game more strategically complex, as defenses would have to guess who's going out to receive and who's staying to block. It's a big break from tradition, but ironically, it'd make the sport much more similar to the way that it's played by ordinary people in backyards around the country.-- Ban the 3-pt and 4-pt stance. Instead of firing into each other in a way where it's impossible to avoid head-to-head contact, make offensive lineman line up in the way they often do already for pass plays, and make defensive linemen line up more like linebackers. There'd still be head to head contact, but it wouldn't be as natural and inevitable.-- Experiment with different helmet materials. The history of the sport proves that helmets are needed (players regularly died on the field back before helmets were used), but they should experiment with materials that make leading with the head less likely. Maybe something closer to the leather helmets of old, or like the headgear boxers use when sparring.(To fantasize for a moment about helmet technology: I don't think they'll ever be able to create a helmet to stop concussions, despite what NFL PR tries to tell us. But I'd like to see something that registers the amount of force taken by a player over the course of a game. And once it reaches a certain threshold, a player has to leave the game. Like it slowly turns red the more hits it takes, and once it's glowing red, the player has to leave the game.)What do you guys think of these ideas? What ideas do you suggest?
Sunday broke with the news that Dr. James Andrews hadn't cleared Robert Griffin to come back into the Week 14 game against the Ravens after suffering the initial knee injury, despite Mike Shanahan claiming otherwise as part of the justification for pushing RG3 back in for four plays. Shanahan pretended that there was a conversation with Andrews offering his consent for the move when Andrews noted that he had been shielded from evaluating Griffin by the head coach.The medical staff -- including Andrews -- evaluated Griffin on Sunday after his injury and said that he was, according to the untrustworthy Shanahan, "fine to play," suggesting that the team had checked with the doctors to "ask them their opinion if we would be hampering his LCL ... or was he in good enough shape to go into the game and play at the level we need for him to win." It seems like an impossible argument to win. Griffin didn't have an MRI during the game or miss time until suffering his second knee injury of the day. He had a gigantic brace on his knee built specifically to support his LCL, so it's not a surprise that the doctors would suggest that LCL wouldn't be hampered. Even if Griffin was healthy enough to step back onto the field, the dramatic dip in his performance should have been enough to tip off a coach who's been around football for his entire life that something was wrong.
Andrews, however, told USA TODAY Sports on Saturday that he never cleared Griffin to go back into the game, because he never even examined him."(Griffin) didn't even let us look at him," Andrews said. "He came off the field, walked through the sidelines, circled back through the players and took off back to the field. It wasn't our opinion."We didn't even get to touch him or talk to him. Scared the hell out of me."Yet when asked by news reporters, Shanahan described a conversation with Andrews this way:"He's on the sidelines with Dr. Andrews. He had a chance to look at him and he said he could go back in," Shanahan said Dec. 10."(I said) 'Hey, Dr. Andrews, can Robert go back in?''Yeah, he can go back in.''Robert, go back in.'"That was it," Shanahan said.
"I think it's important for everyone to know that Junior did indeed suffer from CTE," Gina Seau said. "It's important that we take steps to help these players. We certainly don't want to see anything like this happen again to any of our athletes." She said the family was told that Seau's disease resulted from "a lot of head-to-head collisions over the course of 20 years of playing in the NFL. And that it gradually, you know, developed the deterioration of his brain and his ability to think logically."CTE is a progressive disease associated with repeated head trauma. Although long known to occur in boxers, it was not discovered in football players until 2005. Researchers at Boston University recently confirmed 50 cases of CTE in former football players, including 33 who played in the NFL.Seau shot himself in the heart May 2. His death stunned not only the football world but also his hometown, San Diego, where he played the first 13 years of his 20-year career. Seau led the Chargers to their first and only Super Bowl appearance and became a beloved figure in the community.
Tyler said he was holding tightly to his memories of getting up at 5 in the morning to lift weights with his father before heading to the beach for a workout and surfing. And while the diagnosis helps, he said, it can't compensate for his loss."I guess it makes it more real," he said. "It makes me realize that he wasn't invincible, because I always thought of him as being that guy. Like a lot of sons do when they look up to their dad. You know? You try to be like that man in your life. You try to mimic the things that he does. Play the game the way he did. Work the way he did. And, you know, now you look at it in a little bit different view."Tyler added: "Is it worth it? I'm not sure. But it's not worth it for me to not have a dad. So to me it's not worth it."
Last fall, the National Entertainment Collectibles Association, Inc. (NECA), in tandem with the Weinstein Company, announced a full line of consumer products based on characters from the movie. First up are pose-able eight-inch action figures with tailored clothing, weaponry, and accessories in the likeness of characters played by Foxx, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Leonardo DiCaprio, James Remar and Christoph Waltz.The dolls are currently on sale via Amazon.com. A press release announcing the deal stated that the line was similar to the retro toy lines that helped define the licensed action-figure market in the 1970s and that the collection will include a full apparel and accessories line. At the time of the announcement, NECA president Joel Weinshanker said the company was "very excited to bring the stellar cast of Django to life and honored to be working with another Tarantino masterpiece."Action figures for Tarantino films Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 may have been better suited for such commercial pursuits. But for some projects, anything goes. On Facebook last week, a post from "Black Is magazine" posed the question: "Who's in the market for a Django Unchained action figure? Funny or offensive?"
I finally took some time to give a few serious spins to Kendrick Lamar's Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City. Bad on me. Really bad on me. Good Kid is not simply one the best hip-hop albums I've ever heard, but one of the most moving pieces of art I've seen/heard in a long, long, long time. I sort of initially bristled at the notion of comparison to Illmatic--my personal favorite ever--but it is exactly the right comparison. Nas was able to do was conjure the chaos of inner city black America in the late '80s and '90s. Now Kendrick Lamar summons it nearly 20 years later (with more focus, by the way) and virtually nothing has changed.
Michael Nodianos hasn't been charged with a crime in connection to the alleged rape of a 16-year-old girl by two members of the Steubenville High School football team in August. The case ignited a firestorm of controversy and national attention after hackers affiliated with the group Anonymous began breaking into the websites and email accounts of several football players and locals. The hackers believed these people had gotten off too lightly.
As some initial gleeful Twitter responses from students to the alleged rape demonstrate, one reason rape continues is that communities not only don't hold perpetrators responsible, but close ranks to defend or even celebrate them. By stepping in and holding people accountable, Anonymous stands a very good chance of taking action that actually does something to stop rape.But: This type of online vigilante justice is potentially invading the privacy of or defaming innocent Steubenville residents, and even if everything published is true, there are very serious legal limits to the Anonymous strategy. Not all of the leaked allegations are attached to Twitter or YouTube accounts--many of the most serious cover-up claims, which we won't reprint here, are at this point only rumor. The allegations will infuriate you, but they don't rise to the level of real evidence that can be used to truly hold responsible those who participate in sex crimes.
One of the rather frequent responses I get when posting the stories of people like Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, or Robert Smalls is that their story deserves to be a movie. A biopic is seen by a lot of us as the ultimate testimonial to a person's life. Moreover, movies have the unique power to reach and influence millions of people. Finally, movies offer the possibility of all the imagery and input we hold when thinking of, say, Harriet Tubman to be made manifest before the world. I think this impulse is basically correct. It is especially correct given that Hollywood doesn't just ignore slavery and the Civil War but turns out revisionist dreck like Gods and Generals.
At the same time I think it's important to not talk as though it were an entity separate from the politics, economics, and history of America. The person who would bankroll a Harriet Tubman biopic would likely be someone who was particularly touched by her story. Such a person would not have to be black, but I don't know how you separate the paucity of black people with the power to green-light from the paucity of good films concerning black people in American history.
Moreover, movie-making is risky and expensive. Any discussion of the lack of a Harriet Tubman biopic should begin with the shameful fact that median white wealth in this country stands at $110,000 and median black wealth stands at around $5,000. It would be nice to think that this gap reflected choices cultural and otherwise, instead of the fact that for most this country's history its governing policy was to produce failure in black communities, and most of its citizens supported such policies. It would be nice if Hollywood were more moral and forward-thinking than its consumer base. But I would not wait around for such a day.
What I would do is interrogate the basic premise that holds that black lives (or any heroic life) is not truly legend unless a financier decides it should be. Movies are an art form—one that I very much enjoy—but they are one of many. Those of us who are unhappy with Hollywood's presentation of black life should not restrict themselves to Hollywood. What was the last play we saw by a black writer? What was the last book by a black writer we read? What did we give for Christmas, Kwanzaa or Hanukkah? When was the last time we went to see an exhibit by a black artist?
Finally, this is a particular moment in Hollywood—one wherein glorious righteous violence and what Alyssa Rosenberg calls "transgressive badassery" reigns supreme. I do wish Hollywood would do other kinds of movies. But a constant view of slavery through lens of badassery somehow feels like more of the same.
I recently finished Kate Larsen's excellent biography of Harriet Tubman--Bound For The Promised Land. Tubman, like any mythical figure has had her exploits elevated beyond actual events. But even in Larsen's historical telling she emerges as a super-heroic figure. It's true she didn't shepherd 200 slaves out of Maryland. The number was more like 70--which is to say, given the logistics, a lot.At any rate, I've done a lot of thinking on the place of myth in African-American history. Django aside, we don't really have many avenging angels. Reviewing the primary documents of the time, I don't even detect much taste for mass vengeance. There's often a taste for particular vengeance on particular people, but more than anything there's a strong desire to be left the fuck alone. Actions, like absconding with oneself, are usually set in motion by the threat of sale and the disruption of family ties. At first I was surprised by the lack of race hatred. But when I thought about it, it makes sense.
So what we have is two more showdowns in which the parties disagree not just on the outcome but even on the parameters of an outcome. Obama thinks the debt ceiling needs to be raised, full stop, without becoming a bargaining chip in a fight that threatens the stability of the global economy. Republicans want to use that chip. Then there's the sequester, which Obama thinks should be replaced with spending cuts and tax revenue, and Republicans think should be replaced with spending cuts and more spending cuts.If Obama makes it through both these events without either accepting draconian social policy or triggering an economic meltdown, then today's compromise will be seen as a clever first step. That's not what I expect. I expect instead that his willingness to bargain away his strongest leverage, and the central theme of his reelection, will make the next rounds harder, and embolden Republicans further. I suspect he will wish he had ripped off the Band-Aid all at once, holding firm on tax cuts and daring House Republicans to defy public opinion.
Put all that together and here's what the fiscal cliff accomplished then: It affirmed to Republicans that Obama will do pretty much anything he can to avoid a debt default, regardless of what he says. It affirmed the White House anxiety that the GOP might not blink before we default. To put it mildly, that's quite an asymmetry. I want to believe the president can get through the next stage in this endless budget stalemate without accepting some of the more dangerous spending cuts conservatives are demanding. But at this point I'm having a hard time seeing it.
A military order, whose constitutional legitimacy rested on the president's war powers, the proclamation often disappoints those who read it. It is dull and legalistic; it contains no soaring language enunciating the rights of man. Only at the last minute, at the urging of Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase, an abolitionist, did Lincoln add a conclusion declaring the proclamation an "act of justice."Nonetheless, the proclamation marked a dramatic transformation in the nature of the Civil War and in Lincoln's own approach to the problem of slavery. No longer did he seek the consent of slave holders. The proclamation was immediate, not gradual, contained no mention of compensation for owners, and made no reference to colonization.In it, Lincoln addressed blacks directly, not as property subject to the will of others but as men and women whose loyalty the Union must earn. For the first time, he welcomed black soldiers into the Union Army; over the next two years some 200,000 black men would serve in the Army and Navy, playing a critical role in achieving Union victory. And Lincoln urged freed slaves to go to work for "reasonable wages" -- in the United States. He never again mentioned colonization in public.
I have been forced to realize this as my world has been restricted due to chronic pain disability. I choose to push myself to work full-time, which means I have negligible time in which to read and enlighten myself. I work, I come home, I cook/eat/shower/clean and go to bed at ridiculously early hours - honestly I get most of my reading done during my work breaks. I am also an infovore and yearn for new knowledge, but I have a choice between loopy-because-of-pain or loopy-because-of-meds.My point is basically, this has all forced me to realize I simply can't be the learned, knowledgeable person I would so much like to be. I like to think I'm a pretty damned smart person. The people I work with are upset that I am "only" a secretary and not something higher-skilled, intellectual-leaning. I loved school, but cannot sustain that type of learning if I value my ability to perform basic self-care. So I move through life learning based on lived experience, of myself and others. And I have come to think it is just as valid a school as is traditional academia.Great White Men have contributed very much to our society, but so have many others who aren't studied and taught in classrooms. As Ta-Nehisi points out, much of the base of his intellectual approach was formed by hip-hop and other (generally-regarded-by-outsiders-as) "unserious" arts. Those ideas are just as worthy of contention as those of St. Augustine. And yet no one would think it reasonable to point and laugh at the educated white kids who don't know Nas. (FWIW, I don't know Nas either.) But if the ideas of Nas have sense and create a meaningful theory, why don't those kids know Nas, and aren't they just as worthy of ridicule for not knowing his work? The answer is yes, they are, but that is exactly what demonstrates why no one should be ridiculed for not knowing a particular author, artist, or work, even the very Big and Important ones.Another thing my disability has taught me is that as long as it gets done, the way you got there doesn't matter (or rather, is just as right as the conventional way). Adaptation is very important for disabled people. And it is just as applicable here: TNC, and other Black thinkers, have arrived at a worldview that is fully-formed and worthy of study and debate. Does the result not count because the method was not conventional? Must outsiders conform to the inside path in order to have their outside-influenced views accepted? Maybe there's more to this world than we can all learn about in a lifetime. Maybe we are all limited beings. Maybe, if the world is so vast and so full of curious and layered experiences ripe for examination and enjoyment, none of us can expect every one of us to know every bit of it. Maybe we can appreciate the place the other person comes from without making sure they first display the correct status markers to be considered serious. Maybe a whole lot more people are "serious" than we have ever allowed for. And maybe our "serious" canon isn't as universal as we've always presented it.
And the fact is that I would actually rather die by shooting than live armed.
If you were confronted with an "active shooter," do you think, in that moment, you might wish you had a gun?
I think that last question gets to the heart of a difference. I actually wouldn't wish I had a gun. I've shot a rifle at camp once, but that's about it. If I had a gun, there is a good chance I would shoot myself, thus doing the active shooter's work for him (it's usually "him.") But the deeper question is, "If I were confronted with an active shooter, would I wish to have a gun and be trained in its use?" It's funny, but I still don't know that I would. I'm pretty clear that I am going to die one day. That moment will not be of my choosing, and it almost certainly will not be too my liking. But death happens. Life -- and living -- on the other hand are more under my control. And the fact is that I would actually rather die by shooting than live armed.This is not mere cant. It is not enough to have a gun, anymore than it's enough to have a baby. It's a responsibility. I would have to orient myself to that fact. I'd have to be trained and I would have to, with some regularity, keep up my shooting skills. I would have to think about the weight I carried on my hip and think about how people might respond to me should they happen to notice. I would have to think about the cops and how I would interact with them, should we come into contact. I'd have to think about my own anger issues and remember that I can never be an position where I have a rage black-out. What I am saying is, if I were gun-owner, I would feel it to be really important that I be a responsible gun-owner, just like, when our kids were born, we both felt the need to be responsible parents. The difference is I like "living" as a parent. I accept the responsibility and rewards of parenting. I don't really want the responsibilities and rewards of gun-ownership. I guess I'd rather work on my swimming. And I think, given the concentration of guns in a smaller and smaller number of hands, there's some evidence that society agrees.Which is not to say those of us who don't own guns don't want to live. We do. But it's not clear that this particular way of living will even be effective. I think about the shooter down at the Empire State Building a few months back. The police showed up to protect the public and ended in a shoot-out with a guy. Nine bystanders were wounded -- all at the hands of the police. It's just not clear to me that this sort of situation wouldn't repeat itself, but with citizens doing the wounding. With that kind of risk, perhaps it's better to handle "gun safety" before we get to the moment of an "active shooter."
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Pardon my French
As a candidate, Barack Obama said we needed to reckon with race and with America’s…