Ta-Nehisi Coates

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.

  • In The Ensuing Melee...

    Someone mentioned Okkerville River in the hip-hop thread. That's all I need to link to my favorite cut on the new album--"Lost Coastlines." Only "On Tour With Zykos" comes close. Nice to see a brother in the video giving dap.

    Man, this is a long way from "Verbal Intercourse." This may not be your speed, feel free to talk up whatever you're digging these days.


  • Michael Steele Threatens To Quit

    Republicans rejoice. Liberal bloggers mourn. In all seriousness, I doubt it'll come to this. It's a bizarre trap, they've got themselves in. I respect the move toward diversity, and I don't think the impulse should be discounted. But the problem is, given their past baggage, they can't really dump the guy. If they did, I'd be shocked if Steele didn't--I can't believe I'm saying this--play the race card.

  • The Atlantic Debates Hip-Hop

    No, I can't believe I wrote that headline either. Still, this dialogue between Alyssa Rosenberg, Gautham Nagesh and Hua Hsu fits perfectly into our discussion yesterday. I considered jumping in myself, but thought better of it--the only hip-hop I'm listening to these days is Doom and the occasional Ghost. I'm basically done with the music for reasons I haven't yet figured out. And if you're done, you kind of give up all right to make big pronouncements about its future. Still, this line from Alyssa made the old man in me proud:

    Jay-Z's still rapping, but hearing him rhyme "My president is black / My Maybach, too / And I'll be goddamned if my diamonds ain't blue" on his cover of a Young Jeezy track celebrating Obama's inauguration in the middle of an economic downturn just depressed me.

    I actually love that line, but I take the point.

  • No One Left To Take Shots At

    I think Hitchens attacks on Wanda Sykes say a lot about his deterioration as a writer, and a thinker. In one instance he calls her a "black dyke." In another he calls her a "sable sapphist."

    Writing is really hard work--mostly because thinking is really hard work. When you don't want to do that work, but you want the meager payment it offers, the fleeting fame it brings, than you resort to thinking on the cheap. You go for shock. And you do it that way because you have nothing to offer except your rep as contrarian, and a provocateur. You do it because you are lazy.

    To call his statements racist, or homophobic, demeans racist and homophobes. Indeed  Hitchens displays something more than that--weakness. Weakness is the root of these sorts of slurs--an unwillingness to do the hard work of taking your opponents at their merits. So you name call and strawman. You mock what you don't understand, what you fear.

    Adam has a nice take-down, in which he notes that Hitchens doesn't even get the humor he's objecting to. I wrote a post doing the same, and then thought better of it. Life is short. Enough letters today on who's wrong on the internet.

  • The Next WoW

    So much for World of Starcraft. Whatever they do, it's going to have to have a serious PvP system to make me wander over. WoW may be it for the kid. It's going to take something compelling to get me to play another MMO.

  • The New Shady Joint

    I can't even lie and claim that I'm going to cop it. I'm just too old to be amazed by the schitck. Now that's not correct--ever was never amazed by shock-rap, but I endured it if you had the mic skills and the beats. But these days, I can't even take Straight Outta Compton--except "Parental Discretion" and "If It Ain't Ruff" which is still amazing ("Ice Cube is equipped to rip shit in a battle\Move like a snake when I'm mad and then my tale rattle...")

    That said, I always appreciate a fine piece of writing and this piece over at Pitchfork was pretty good:

    Star Trek isn't the only franchise reboot expected to do big numbers this summer-- instead of the 13-year-old who got into The Slim Shady LP and found that underground shit he did with Scam, Relapse is for that guy's little brother who's 13-years old right now, and Eminem is fully committed to upping the ante for today's desensitized sensibilities. Do a double-take when he rapped "I just found out my mom does more dope than I do"? This time, you get to untangle the knotty word thickets of "My Mom", wherein young Marshall gets bullied and tricked by you-know-who into an addiction to prescription pills. Recoil when he threatened to push a fat girl off the high dive in swim class? He's now murdering his cousin in a tub and drinking the bathwater. Cringe at Eminem advocating roofies at a kegger? Get ready for the term "felching" to enter the public consciousness as Eminem gets anally raped by his stepfather in a tool shed. Got all that? Congrats, you're now four songs into Relapse.


    As much as I loved music, I always found telling someone how something sounded really hard, and thus music criticism really tough. Still, this is a nice contribution to the genre.

    One question I have for the assembled. Does Em have a truly classic album? He's a great rapper, no doubt. But does he have an It Takes A Nation, an Illmatic, an Aquemini or a Death Certificate?

  • Live From Ward 8

    Always nice to get some reporting from the ground. Adam, tempers some of my enthusiasm for my old home, and notes that this weekend's victory probably has a lot more to do with strategy than with war against homophobia:

    I would say that it's very early to draw too many conclusions from the results in Ward 8. The marriage equality resolution passed in large part because the people who really cared about the issue showed up, and those people were in favor. Thirty-two people can hardly be seen as an accurate representation of views in Ward 8, which has a population of 70,000 people. Polling suggests that in a citywide referendum, supporters of marriage equality would be facing an uphill battle, which is precisely why opponents support a referendum and gay-rights advocates oppose one.

    At the same time, I think polling on the subject has largely overstated the intensity of black opposition to marriage equality in D.C: My theory is that if gay marriage was legalized, no one would care. But if it were put to a vote, the result would be very close. That's because while black people tend to be more opposed to gay marriage, it's not an identity-defining issue in the same way it is for white folks in the religious right. The memory of institutionalized oppression creates doubt where in others there might be religious certainty.

    I think black voters, particularly in D.C., are malleable on this issue. (We did, after all, have domestic partnership laws "before it was cool"). The line that got the most applause during the entire meeting was the Rev. Wiley's declaration that "we would be in serious trouble if, as slaves, our freedom was put to a referendum." But that's just what might happen, and if gay-rights activists drop the ball in reaching out to the black community like they did in California, they'll lose.

    I think this pretty much on the money. It's a winnable fight. And a lose-able one. That said, I'd be shocked if this came up for referendum. Although part of me almost wishes that it would. I really believe we could win it.

    Look at me, talking that we shit. I mean, I like boobs as much as the next guy, so take this with a grain of salt...

  • How We Talk About Abortion

    Our debate yesterday over how pro-choicers talked reminded me of this Fresh Air piece an Ayelet Waldman. From my perspective, whatever the moral problems presented abortion itself, the specter of a ban instituted and enforced by the State, present many more.  But then there's another debate, which we hinted at yesterday--how we talk about abortion. My own pro-choiceness doesn't really procede from the question of whether a zygote is a life, as much as it does from a rejection of utopianism. Still, I was struck by how Waldman talked about her abortion. I don't think it much helps to render a moral judgement here--at least I didn't find it helpful. That said, I think the difference in how Waldman thinks about abortion, and how her mother thought about it are arresting.

  • GOP Previews Its Outreach Strategy To Women




    Seriously, is there anything left to say? I don't know why I'm amazed. The politics of this are obvious--this thuggish, moronic excuse for a political group is eating itself alive. The Ignorance of the Southern Strategy begets the ignorance of this video. But we already knew that.

    I'm here to talk about something else. I was actually shocked to see this. And then I felt stupid for being shocked.  I think this points to something that men just don't think much about: That being, how it feels for your looks to be fair game. I think this is what makes bigotry so tough to fight. It's not about the limits of empathy--it's the limits of imagination
    .
    Women make this point all the time about the pressure of being judged for their looks. And I sorta of nod in that, "Yeah, that's fucked up, I'll take your word for it" sort of way. But the truth is I can't see it. I don't get it. It's like when women describe walking down the street and getting cat-called all the way. Because it never happens when I'm walking with a woman, I don't quite get it. It's not that I don't believe it--it's that I can't imagine it.

    And then one day you see it naked, hateful, right in front of you. It must be akin to being white and seeing the Rodney King video--you'd heard black people say that this sort of thing happens. But to see it...

    Rush Limbaugh attacking Nancy Pelosi's looks is beyond sureal--I can't even think of a good metaphor. It's beyond him giving a lecture on drug abuse. It's more than him giving weight loss tips. It's like watching Martians land, like watching a major party--in this era--hand the mic off to an unrepentant bigot.

    Amazing. Don't they know who the fuck votes? Do they really think Sarah Palin can fix this?

  • Foolish (NSFW)

    If you're offended by strong language, don't read any further.

    James Harrison doesn't want to go to the White House because anyone who wins the Super Bowl gets invited to the White House. The Steelers are special however, and deserve to be invited when they're 1-15. Right.

    This is, to paraphrase  MF Doom, how you talk white and act niggerish. If you don't want to go--don't go. But trying to cover it up with some overly clever explanation that fools no one just makes you look stupider. In other news, Skip Bayless is just as bad.

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Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

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What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

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Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

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Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

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Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

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The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

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