The following comes from the comments section in the initial post, by CVT. I thought it was interesting:
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.
The following comes from the comments section in the initial post, by CVT. I thought it was interesting:
Did some more thinking about this and read some comments to my initial post. Here is my problem. "Black Anti-Intellectualism" is a broad lazy phrase, that comes from broad lazy thinking. It is of a piece with "The War On Terror," or "The War On Drugs." It's big and abstract, and ducks the hard thinking needed to get our hands around the problem, and thus get to tangible solutions. To accuse black kids of being anti-intellectual, is, in itself, anti-intellectual. It's a charge that results from not pushing yourself to get tot the core of the problem.
Furthermore, I submit that it's foolish to define intellectual curiosity by how you perform in school. That doesn't mean that the achievment gap is a myth, or that it isn't a problem. But I'm very leery of hazy, undefined, sprawling answers. I'm much more apt to believe that this has to do SPECIFIC problems--a chronic level of broken families, a lack of safety in and around schools, the wealth gap etc.
I don't object to people pointing out the achievemnt gap. It's real and deeply problematic. But it's incredibly weak-minded to basically say that black kids just don't care, or they just don't want to know about the wider world. If that's the line we're taking to our children--as opposed to critiquing ourselves as parents--then our kids are in big big trouble. If we--the very people who are supposed to be their guardians--are condemning from day one as "anti-intellectual," I can only imagine what the wider, unsympathetic world has in store.
Say it with me children: There is no racism. There is no racism. There. Is. No. Rasim.
Pretty cool piece by Chait over at TNR exposing the folly of Sean Wilentz' attempts to blame the rules for Hillary terrible performance in primaries. Wilentz has now taken to arguing that the proportional system devised by the DNC is the reason for Hillary's loss, which is sort of like arguing that the Giants would have lost Super Bowl if the field had been 130 yards long:
Clinton supporters are spending an inordinate amount of time devising scenarios where Clinton would be winning if the rules of the primary were changed retroactively. Yet all the rules were understood and agreed to by both candidates in advance. The rules are not perfect, but the hypothetical alternatives proposed by Clinton's side -- imposing a winner-take-all system, counting the votes in states with no campaigning or only one candidate on the ballot -- would make the race less fair, not more fair. So, yes, it's possible to imagine different, less-fair rules where the losing candidate would have prevailed. But so what?
This is why I am glad Hillary is going to loose. I can just imagine her whining her way through the general, complaining about a double standard, and unfair rules. The last thing we need is a nominee whose team spends most of their time crying on the sidelines, instead of running out on the field to hit somebody.
dNa does me one better and takes apart Hitchens foolish, strawmen-like "Obam Is No King" argument:
Again: I don't see anyone comparing King to Obama other than people who want to explain how much better King was than Obama. They're not in the same fucking league: Obama is an elected official, and the very nature of his position means that he will have to compromise his ideals. And I have yet to see a white politician held to such an absurd standard: It's as thought because Obama might be president, he has to be implicitly compared to the only other black guy who was a national figure that all Americans can agree on liking (even if they have to make him up to do so).
Moreover, dNa notes, Hitchens sees not a wit of irony in the fact that he's waving the flag of King, when King was an avowed pacifist. It is virtually certain that King would have opposed the very Iraq War which Hitchens can't seem to get over.
I've maintained for a long time that Barack Obama is no more unique than any other black person. Hmm, I guess. This video is incredible.
It's amazing to see people making this argument right at the moment when Barack Obama--one of the most cerebral presidential candidates in recent memory--is making such a strong bid for the White House. Furthermore, Obama is doing this with utterly unprecedented support in the black community. And yet, here we have Harold J. Logan spewing generalities to whoever come may over at theroot.
no one who has spent any significant amount of time with African-American teenagers over the past 20 years can fail to have observed that far too many of our children see the behaviors that lead to success in school as fundamentally foreign to their conception of authentic blackness.
Uh, you talking to me? Is he talking to me?? Well given that 20 years ago, I was exactly 12 and on the precipice of my teen years, I think he is talking to me. Seriously, this is the sort of claim tossed out by people who are just tired of thinking. In Logan's defense, he argues that America at large is increasingly anti-intellectual (not sure I even buy that). But to buttress his main point, he offers, literally, NO proof that shows black people today are in the grips of neandrathalism. Logan just leans on a John Mcwhorter book written some eight years ago. Meanwhile there is considerable evidence that the "acting white" explanation, as a meaningful agent in the achievement gap, is either mythical or greatly misunderstood.
Surely there can be no argument that the educational gap between black and white, and between all of us and the rest of the civilized world, is yawning. But leaping from that contention to the idea of a black anti-intellectual culture confuses credentialism with curiosity. Sorry, but I feel this intently. I was an awful student. My two parents weren't much better. But in my house, literature was the national past-time. When I wasn't thumbing through Greg Tate, Chancellor Williams or David Walker, I was transcribing the Chuck D's latest, trying to decipher what was being said. Hip-hop in those days was a great pop intellectual movement--no one who truly understands De La Soul or Nas would ever say that the black kids who pledged themselves to hip-hop, were anti-intellectual.
I can't speak for most of today's acts, but I'm leery of people who cut on BET and then go write essays about the stupidity of black folks. Teenagers generally don't write for op-ed pages, publish studies, or write for the theroot, and thus are easy targets. Furthermore, there is something ironic about accusing black people of essentially worshiping stupidity, when the plaintiff, himself, has not subjected his own claims to any intellectual rigor. Physician heal thyself. You want black kids to raise their game? Set an example by raising yours first.
Baratunde over at Jack And Jill looks at the utter lies of the Clinton campaign, focusing on this week's whopper--Clinton opposed the war before Obama:
The short version is this: Hillary has all to often not demonstrated the leadership qualities necessary to be president. She has had many choices available to her, but she has chosen the course of short term gain (mocking Obama supporters, fuzzy mathematical hypotheticals, Jeremiah Wright dissing, Muslim fear flaming).
Interesting, if not entirely original, piece:
For me and most of the people I know, the postpresidential love for Bill Clinton has evaporated completely and breathtakingly fast. No matter how many mosquito nets and microloans he helps supply to the Third World, I’m out of love. I found Bill Richardson’s endorsement of Obama two weeks ago especially gratifying not in spite of its fuck-you to his former patron but because of it.
And this swing of sentiment isn’t just some elite coastal phenomenon. According to NBC News/Wall Street Journal polling, from Clinton’s impeachment until the end of his presidency, his approval number never sank below 44 percent, but in the latest survey it’s down to 42 percent—and his “very negative” number, 32 percent, is nearly at an all-time high. The other polls tell similar stories: People feel more negatively toward Bill Clinton than at any time in at least the last five years.
So, there are a lot of MCs who were influenced me during the period my memoir covers (roughly 1986-1992). Rakim, Chuck D, Kool G Rap and Big Daddy Kane basically constituted an ad hoc Introduction To The Principles Of Great Writing. Hip-Hop lyrics are a lot like other poetic forms, especially The Sonnet. The beat acts like a wall forcing the writer to contain his lyrics in such a way as to not violate the rhythm. At the same time, the writer must construct an appropriate rhyme-scheme and also say as much as possible. If you've never tried writing hip-hop lyrics I encourage an attempt. It is incredibly, incredibly difficult. When you see MCing done at a high level, it is truly incredible. I must have been, like, twelve when I first heard The Symphony, and when I finally got Big Dady Kane's verse, it occupied, probably, thirty percent of my brain for the next month. You have to hear it to truly get it, but I was just amazed at the word-play--"So I can let lyrics blast like a bullet\My mouth is a gun, on suckers, I pull it\The trigger. You figure, my pockets getting bigger\Cause when it comes to money, Yo Grant's my nigger."
But this isn't a post about what MCs influenced me at the time--more on that another time. This is about the MC who influenced me most at the time of writing. With all due respect to Ghostface (whose Pretty Tony Album left me reeling) I have to give that award to MF Doom. Let me just be grandiose and old and crotchety all at once--MF Doom is the last great MC.
Amazing. I don't think Barack can win. But man, what a comeback. I'd be happy if he kept it within five points.
Heh, dnA sums up my small tiff with Jim Sleeper. Pretty funny.
At least he said sorry. I actually feel bad for him in this clip. That said, I really believe--as I've said before--it would be a good thing for Republicans to start leaving the racist baggage at home, and make a real pitch for black voters. I'd feel fine if Obama won, but McCain got 20 percent of black votes. Won't happen. But it'd make for a better country.
I don't know if I've seen a lazier analysis of Barack Obama, than the one put forth today by Juan Williams. I've done my share of Sharpton and Jackson dissing, but Williams has officially rendered me unable to do anymore. It's just become so effing cliche for any black person looking to be taken seriously by white people to begin their comments with a smackdown of the good Reverends. I think both are problematic. That bears saying on behalf of the substantial number of black folks who know this, and also for the white folks out there who've been fooled into thinking that the sum ambitions of black America can be summed up in two people.
But I detect another agenda in Williams--the need to ingratiate himself with a particular tribe of white America who will not be happy until black folks, en masse, take to self-flagellating in the streets of Harlem, Detroit and B-More. I mean no disrespect to Williams--who I have people in common with--but this sort of errnoneous and factually inaccurate commentary can't be allowed to stand.
So The Atlantic has an interesting item breaking down the phenomenon of the gone but not forgotten, blue-eyed souler, Rick Astley. Don't front like you don't remember. Kid had Mormon's haircut (sorry Colby) and a black man's voice. For an act of incredible cognitive dissonance, see his video here.
Anyway, the Atlantic suggests that this may be the theme song for Obama-ism, what with all its alleged transracialism. But you know me. I mean, I got love for my Atlantic peeps, but I don't know how the theme song for Obama's America is anything other than hip-hop song. Obama's coalition is made up of a black core and some support from other ethnicities, and a lot of support from affluent whites. Also there are tons of young folks involved. It might take me a sec, but lemme think here....where have I seen that coalition before...Oh yeah--on Def Jam.
It's personally a tragedy to me that hip-hop has basically allowed itself to be banished into the bin of ill-repute. And this isn't the "good" bin of ill-repute, the one occupied by those who speak truth to power. This is more like that strip-club buffet sort of ill-repute. Still, hip-hop presaged Obama's America, a place that was not transracial--I hate that effing term--but just allowed folks to be. At any rate, for those reasons ,and many more, I offer up a forgotten gem--Eminem's Mosh--as Obama's anthem.( By the way, Please don't address me on that corny Will.I.AM joint. It gets no love round these parts.) It's probably the best channeling of Chuck D that I've seen this side of the millennium, and really captures the feeling of being young, frustrated--but directing it toward change.The scene at the end when, what appears to be a riot just turns out to be a bunch of people going to vote, is classic. Mosh is just a case of being too early. 2004 wasn't the year. But if you look at this video, it is really amazing how much of what Em is saying is still with us today. Great song. Great video. Great anthem. You guys got any nominations? Lemme know. Will post.
So I slept on Michael Kinsley. Sue Me. For whatever reason this cat sort of melded in my mind with the array of Slate-ish, New Republic-ish writers who've made counterintuitive arguments their hallmark, and contrarianism their religion. My mistake. But this is what happens when you make cartoons of people. Kinsley comes correct this week with a beautiful meditation on that great equalizer--death:
The baby-boom generation in America is thought to have found something approaching genuine happiness in material possessions. A popular bumper sticker back in the nineteen-eighties read, “He Who Dies with the Most Toys Wins.” This was thought to be a brilliant encapsulation of the baby-boom generation’s shallowness, greed, excessive competitiveness, and love of possessions. And it may well be all of these things. It’s also fundamentally wrong. Is there anything in the Hammacher Schlemmer catalogue—or even listed on Realtor.com—for which you would give up five years? Of course not. That sports car may be to die for, but in fact you wouldn’t. What good are the toys if you’re dead? “He Who Dies Last”—he’s the one who wins.
To my mind though, the story turns especially beautiful when Kinsley turns to his own battle with Parkinson's and what it says about his own mortality:
I was around fifty when I went public about having Parkinson’s, and the effect was like turning sixty. A person who is sixty and healthy almost surely will live many more years. But sixty is about the age when people stop being surprised if you look old or feel sick or drop dead. (It’s another decade or so before they stop pretending to be surprised.) It’s often said of people that “she’s a young seventy” or “he’s thirty, going on forty-five.” And it’s true: there is your actual, chronological age, and then there’s the age that reflects how you look, how you feel, how much hair you have left, how fast you can walk, or think, and so on. At every stage of life, some people seem older or younger than others of the same age. But only in life’s last chapter do the differences get enormous. We are not shocked to see a seventy-one-year-old hobbling on a cane, or bedridden in a nursing home, and we are not shocked to see a seventy-one-year-old running for President. The huge variety of possible outcomes—all of them falling within the range considered “normal”—makes the last boomer competition especially dramatic. So does the speed at which aging can happen. Sometimes it’s even instantaneous. Fall, break your hip, and add ten years. Do not pass Go, do not collect two hundred dollars. It’s easy to imagine two sixty-year-olds, friends all their lives. One looks older because he’s bald: no big deal. Ten years later, when they’re seventy, one has retired on disability and moved into a nursing home. The other is still C.E.O., has left his wife for a younger woman, and, in a concession to age, takes a month off each year to ski. Contrasts like these will be common.
Sorry for the extended quote. But that was just beautiful. Every once in a while, OK more than every once in a while, the NYer really lives up its rep. What a lovely piece.
So my response to Jim Sleeper is up. They wanted us to keep our responses a little shorter, so I neglected to tackle Carmen's question about the nature of racism. Even if I don't get to take a stab at it over at TPM, I will here, because I think it's important. Again, briefly, I think it has a lot to do with how things are defined. A guy commenting on Carmen's post compared racism to spousal abuse and argued that the abuser also is victimized by the process. While I don't think the analogy follows all the way, I do think that there's a good point to be made in the logic that spousal abuse is bad for men, also. Anyway, more later.
Sign up to receive our free newsletters