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.

  • Rosen On Sotomayor

    He thinks he's being misread:

    Conservatives are already citing my initial piece on Sotomayor as a basis for opposing her. This willfully misreads both my piece and the follow-up response.
    A few months ago I had the privilege of sitting on a panel with Chris Hayes, over at The Nation. We were talking to a bunch of students who hoped to one day be lefty opinion journalists. A woman asked Chris how the a liberal journalists can make a presumably apathetic, and ill-informed public care about liberal issues. Chris gave a beautiful answer--Do your fucking job.

    OK, so maybe it wasn't that colorful. But the essence was that the reader has no obligation to pay attention to what you care about. It's your job to apply the basic tools of journalism--great reporting and writing--and thus make people care. His argument was that the best thing the liberal writer could do for other liberals, was be a great writer.

    I thought about that when I read Rosen today. The fact is that he was sloppy, and his sloppiness empowered people whom he probably doesn't care much for. But had he not rushed the piece in the first place, had he taken more time, it never would have come to that. The first rule, always, always, is to do your fucking job.
  • Mickey Kaus--Meh

    Today we face the ever-present dilemma--How do you respond to the disingenuous argument? Do you simply ignore it (Did you hear something?) and keep going? Or do you respond (I'LL CUT YOU!!!) and dignify the dishonesty. Today I opt to respond mostly because, well, this is funny.

    Mickey Kaus takes note of a WSJ article pointing out that rappers are scaling back on their bling because of the recession. Mickey then takes this as evidence that Maria Batiata cringe-worthy contention that  Obama would kill off "bling" and make black kids think its cool to wear a suit (stop laughing) has been redeemed.

    The problems with Battiata's piece were legion. The problem with Kaus's piece is, as Conor Clarke points out, singular--Obama isn't mentioned in the entire piece. Like not once. Now, I don't put it past Mickey to believe that Obama is responsible for the recession. And who knows, maybe Obama is responsible for it-- right along with climate change, mumbo sauce, and the decline of British sea power.

    Still, while I've yet to see proof of Obama's divinity, I think this post is proof of Kaus arguing in bad faith. Kaus knows full well that Battiata didn't claim the recession would kill off bling. But he doesn't much care about facts, nor does he care about the actual content of his arguments, nor does he care about the people reading his blog. He just says shit, mostly with the intent of being heard.

    Now that I've obliged him, I feel just a little dumber this afternoon. A simple "I'LL CUT YOU!!!" would have sufficed. Or rather this...

  • Especially The Blacks And The Jews...

    Received this note yesterday, and I think it presents it an excellent opportunity to expand my portfolio:

    Someone still needs to set up a Blacks-n-Jews matchmaking service.
     Clearly, that someone should be you.  The Onion has personals,
    presumably for folks who want to date someone with a similar sense of
    humor - likewise, sort of, your blog could really fill a niche by
    targeting Black-Jewish unions, the subject of some great posts (okay,
    not always romantic unions, but just go with me on the theme).  I
    really think you're in a great position to pull this alliance even
    tighter.

    Give it some thought.

    Hah. You guys are free to do you in the comment sections. Just keep it clean. One thing I'd like to see some data on is, in terms of interracial relationships, are blacks any more likely to hook up with Jews than whites of other ethnic backgrounds? I suspect not. I think living in the Northeast will play tricks on your eyes.

  • Lefty Fan-Boy Time

    I really hope these fools listen to Pat Buchanan. I'd love to see them push  the argument that a Latina who goes from the the South Bronx to Princeton summa cum laude, who has more time on the bench than of the people serving had when they were nominated, who was nominated to the bench by a Republican, is an unqualified Affirmative Action pick.

    My sense is that they aren't that stupid--at least in the Senate. Michael Steele and his band are another story. But, after thinking about this some more today, I'd actually be shocked if the GOP fought this the way Buchanan wants them to fight it.

    On another note, maybe that Rosen piece was some sort of stealth liberal tactic. It really would be a disaster (for them, not us) to go around (as Buchanan does here) claiming this woman isn't that smart.

  • About That "Wise Latina" Statement

    It's worth looking at the whole speech, and at least considering the statement in context:

    Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences, a possibility I abhor less or discount less than my colleague Judge Cedarbaum, our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging. Justice O'Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am not so sure Justice O'Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes that line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life.

    I think we can immediately dispense with the crazies who think this statement should disqualify Sotomayor for the Supreme Court.  It's worth noting that William Rehnquist once endorsed segregation, and yet rose to be Chief Justice of the court.

    That said, I think Sotomayor's statement is quite wrong. I understand the basis of it, laid out pretty well by Kerry Howley over at Hit & Run.  The idea is that Latinos have a dual experience that whites don't have and that, all things being equal, they'll be able to pull from that experience and see things that whites don't. The problem with this reasoning is it implicitly accepts the logic (made for years by white racists) that there is something essential and unifying running through all white people, everywhere. But White--as we know it--is a word so big that, as a descriptor of experience, it almost doesn't exist.

    Indeed, it's claims are preposterous. It seeks to lump the miner in Eastern Kentucky, the Upper West Side Jew, the yuppie in Seattle, the Irish Catholic in South Boston, the hipster in Brooklyn, the Cuban-American in Florida, or even the Mexican-American in California all together, and erase the richness of their experience, by marking the bag "White." This is a lie--and another example of how a frame invented (and for decades endorsed) by whites is, at the end of the day, bad for whites. White racism, in this country, was invented to erase the humanity and individuality of blacks. But for it to work it must, necessarily, erase the humanity of whites, too.

    Sotomayor, unwittingly, buys into that logic by conjuring the strawman of "a white male." But, in the context that she's discussing, no such person exists. What is true of the straight Polish-American in Chicago, may not be true for the white gay dude working in D.C. I'm not even convinced that what is true for the white dude in West Texas, is true for the white dude in Austin--or that what's true of the white dude in Austin, is true of other white dudes in Austin. There's just too much variation among people to make such a broad statement about millions of people.

    I think this blog offers some context for what I'm writing here. I hope people won't interpret this as an "End of Racism" argument. It really should go without saying that people act on falsehoods all the time. I also don't raise this as an argument for why Sotomayor should not be on the Supreme Court. I raise it because I think a lot of us would do well to challenge our thinking in spaces like this. I know I would.

  • Echoes Of The Crack Age

    Man, what happened to Vinia Mojica? I thought she was so hot in this video. No bikini, no grind, no crazy extensions. Just a tee-shirt, jeans, doorknockers and a smile. What else did a 15-year old kid really need? Almost 20 years later, and I haven't changed.

    Anyway, I'm ashamed to say that I didn't realize how great this song was until I heard it at a party a few years back. I loved it as a kid, but hearing it at live spot all these years later (and not in the middle of the cliche-ass old school set) had me wide open. I put my ring up to my man's waves, and saw the ocean...

  • The Case Against Gay Marriage

    Made by a dude who knows all about marriage, since he's been married thrice:

    But I think that the fundamental objection to gay marriage among most who oppose it has very little to do with one's feelings about the nature of homosexuality or what the Bible has to say about sodomy. The obstacle to wanting gay marriage is instead how we use and depend on marriage itself--and how little marriage, understood completely, affects or is relevant to gay people in love. Gay marriage is not so much wrong as unnecessary. But if it comes about, it will not be gay marriage that causes the harm I fear, as what will succeed its inevitable failure.

    Blogger, what? Isaac Chotiner, rightfully, rips him a new one:

    There is something nice--refreshing even--about a single article that incorporates everything you despise in a certain worldview. What's more, rather than looking for polite or euphemistic words, it is lovely to be able to say that the article is, simply, dreadful.
  • A Warcraft Memorial Day

    There were a couple of redeeming features to my Memorial Day--I knocked out my morning run in Central Park. I knocked out a solid 50 pages of A Nation Under Our Feet. I cooked dinner.

    But on the whole, it was straight nerd debauchery around these parts as I spent most of Memorial Day raiding in Naxx. It was insane. If you ever want to lose weight, try playing a marathon WoW session. I ate at like 11 and then didn't eat again until like 8:30 that night--Diet Coke doesn't count.

    It was a good raid. I've started tanking recently, and I did OK for the most part. We were running ten-man and (no disrespect to my guildies) it was mostly our B-team, in terms of gear. We could not get Kel'Thuzad down. That ice-block was just too devastating.

    I think all told I put a solid eight hours, easily breaking my "longest WoW session" record. It really is something to spend that sort of time, via TeamSpeak, with a bunch of people you've never met in person. And yet the numbers keep growing. I can't tell you how many people approach me, when I'm traveling for the book, and either note that they play, or complain about their husband playing.

     

  • Clarence Thomas Thinks He Has It Hard

    But really he has no idea. Dig this:

    Especially harsh reprisals could be brought against blacks aligned with conservatives and Democrats, for they were generally regarded not merely as opponents but as "traitors."...In the rural hinterlands of Portsmouth, Virginia, black Republicans attacked "colored conservatives" at a prayer meeting and beat two of them badly. In southside Virginia's Campbell County, a black man who betrayed the Union League was tied up by his heels and suspended from a tree for several hours until he agreed to take an oath of loyalty. Two "conservative negroes" in Lincoln County, North Carolina, had their houses stoned and doors broken down...One black man living outside Augusta, Georgia, went so far as to insist that he would cut the throat of any son "willing to be a Democrat."

    Even knowing the history, it's surreal to read about a black dude saying he would "cut the throat" of any of his kids, should he turn about to be a Democrat. This is taken from Steven Hahn's wonderful and epic history A Nation Under Our Feet. I want to thank all the commenters and e-mailers who urged me to read this book. It really is incredible and it gives such a textured portrait of black people living in the 19th century.

    As I've talked about before, it's really unfortunate that our narrative of black life goes something like this--Slavery, Civil War, Dark Ages, Civil Rights, Dark Ages Again, Barack Obama. Maybe those last two can still change. But my point is that this notion of summits and valleys does a disservice to all the black people, many of whom were killed, who worked to make all those summits possible. There's a portion in the book where Hahn just reads down this list of names of black folks who were murdered for defying the the conservative white supremacists in the South. The handles are so ordinary and there's an incredible power in seeing them one after the other. So many people who are just names. So many martyrs forgotten.

    I think Hahn's book will be hard for those who don't have an intense interest in the subject. It's really well-written, but also dense (as it should be).  Still this is a major, major work in the effort to break this notion of black passivity and victimhood. I'm 160 pages out. I'll write again when I'm done.

  • Segregated Proms

    Not that this was the first we've heard of it, but this piece on segregated proms was pretty interesting. I wish the editors had opted for a full on feature, instead of just a photo essay. Still, one theme came across that I found, at once, depressing and uplifting. The notion of segregated proms, really, is about the inability of white parents in the town to let go:

    Black members of the student council say they have asked school administrators about holding a single school-sponsored prom, but that, along with efforts to collaborate with white prom planners, has failed. According to Timothy Wiggs, the outgoing student council president and one of 21 black students graduating this year, "We just never get anywhere with it." Principal Luke Smith says the school has no plans to sponsor a prom, noting that when it did so in 1995, attendance was poor.

    Students of both races say that interracial friendships are common at Montgomery County High School. Black and white students also date one another, though often out of sight of judgmental parents. "Most of the students do want to have a prom together," says Terra Fountain, a white 18-year-old who graduated from Montgomery County High School last year and is now living with her black boyfriend. "But it's the white parents who say no. ... They're like, if you're going with the black people, I'm not going to pay for it."

    "It's awkward," acknowledges JonPaul Edge, a senior who is white. "I have as many black friends as I do white friends. We do everything else together. We hang out. We play sports together. We go to class together. I don't think anybody at our school is racist." Trying to explain the continued existence of segregated proms, Edge falls back on the same reasoning offered by a number of white students and their parents. "It's how it's always been," he says. "It's just a tradition."

    It's obviously cool to hear that young people are leading integrated social lives. You could see people like this ending the tradition once they become parents. Or not. I kept thinking that if you're the sort of person who is pissed that your town had a segregated prom, you're also a likely candidate to leave and raise a family elsewhere.

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