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.
"Theodore Hertzel is the father of Zionism. He was a Jew who at the turn of the 19th century said, this land is our land, God wants us to live there. So he went to the Jews of Europe and said 'I want you to come and join me in the land of Israel.' So few went that Hertzel went into depression. Those who came founded Israel; those who did not went through the hell of the holocaust. "Then god sent a hunter. A hunter is someone with a gun and he forces you. Hitler was a hunter. And the Bible says -- Jeremiah writing -- 'They shall hunt them from every mountain and from every hill and from the holes of the rocks,' meaning there's no place to hide. And that might be offensive to some people but don't let your heart be offended. I didn't write it, Jeremiah wrote it. It was the truth and it is the truth. How did it happen? Because God allowed it to happen. Why did it happen? Because God said my top priority for the Jewish people is to get them to come back to the land of Israel."Hagee is one of these dudes who actually backs Israel because he thinks it will usher in the end-times and the mass slaughter or mass conversion to Christianity of all Jews. This idea of people supporting you because of your part in their delusional grand-plan looks familiar. Black nationalists--like Jewish nationalists--frequently flirted with people who had no love for them, but greatly endorsed their desires to return to Africa. This goes back to Garvey meeting with the Klan, and Elijah Muhammad dancing with George Rockwell (see above picture). In fact, Rockwell's meeting with the Nation was one of the main things that pushed Malcolm X out of the Nation. Man, ideology can be blinding.
Four police officers who were caught on video beating three suspects in a drug-related triple shooting will be fired, Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey said Monday.As some of you know, I think we need to take a new approach to police brutality cases. I think making prosecution the highpoint of an attempt to punish cops gone thug, or cops simply gone negligent is the sort of strategy that leads to community disappointment, mostly because people are loath to convict cops. I'm not saying that cops shouldn't be prosecuted--these guys especially should be--but to me the more important factor, the more forward-thinking concern, is getting these bums off the streets and removing their right to police my son. At the very least, they have forfeited that.
Three other officers have been suspended, Commissioner Ramsey said at a news conference, and one officer has been demoted.
...I saw Obama's speech as trying to bridge that divide--to say, as someone who had one foot in each community, "This is why the way they do things you don't like--not because they're different, but because they're very much like you." To be sure, he did it in a hamfisted way. But the grandmother example was, I thought, less an attempt to throw Grandma under the bus then to say that "racism is not the same thing as being an evil person". I'd venture to say that most white people know at least one older person who is both an extremely good, moral and virtuous person, and a racist. When it is a grandmother, a beloved teacher, a longtime employer, or a friend's parent, we discount their unacceptable beliefs, because we have personal proof of their general goodness. Thus we come to understand that good people can have very bad ideas. I think it was perfectly fair of Obama to extend that same charity to Reverend Wright.
What I love so much about Megan's post is that it rejects ideology and offers some humanity to this whole debate over this whole "state of racism" business. It's a great post. By all means check it out.
I'm trying to be optimistic about this and stick with my standard, "we are the future" line. Very difficult when you read things like this:
Later, when asked if she thinks this campaign has been racist, she says she does not. And she circles back to the sexism. "The manifestation of some of the sexism that has gone on in this campaign is somehow more respectable, or at least more accepted, and . . . there should be equal rejection of the sexism and the racism when it raises its ugly head," she said. "It does seem as though the press at least is not as bothered by the incredible vitriol that has been engendered by the comments by people who are nothing but misogynists."
This is the same woman who, only a week ago, equated "white" with "hard-working," whose surrogate claimed that Obama would not be in the race if he weren't black. When I read things like that, it brings forth some really dark thoughts about race in this country, and how black people should proceed. This is the case for Malcolm X and Jeremiah Wright, the case for a complete blindness to a nation of black men toiling in prisons, to black girls growing up fatherless. This is the case against Barack Obama--that his compassion for people who step on his wife and kids for power, is in fact a compromise of black people. I know that this a short-sighted way of seeing the world, that the great tragedy of African-American life is that the only way forward is jettisoning of our anger. But of course it can't truly jettisoned, it can only be hidden and in moments like this it returns.
Feminists have expended whole barrels of ink wondering why the fuck they have virtually no following among black women. But over the past week all I've heard is this stupid-ass attempt to raise the profile of privileged white women at the expense of black boys and girls who I see out on Lennox Avenue scrapping in the belly of the beast. Nothing is more irritating than watching people who think they know what beef is because they watched Roots, and took an Af-Am Studies class at Wellesley, tell me that it's now all good. Hillary, and people who support this sort of invective, are loathsome and disgusting. I don't care if they're racist--they clearly find racism useful. The only women who they care about, the only young girls who they truly are concerned about, are the ones from their side of the tracks.
A comment below makes the point that we've heard more about racism than sexism in this campaign. That's probably true, but I don't think it's because racism is less acceptable or that it's because no one it's thinking about sexism. More likely it's because no one credible has actually accused Obama of gender-baiting. There is no one working on Obama's campaign who said that Clinton wouldn't be in the race if she were a woman. Michelle Obama was never quoted as saying that it's good Clinton is running for president and then slyly adding, Shirley Chisholm and Elizabeth Dole also ran for president. Barack Obama, himself, was never quoted implying saying that his base of black voters was synonymous with hard-working America.
My point is that racism has been an issue in this campaign, because Clinton and her people have made it one. I'm not sure I see a strategy here--I actually think that race-baiting hurt Clinton much more than it helped. Whites who would be affected by such tactics were going to go for her anyway. But there was no guarantee that Obama was going to beat her 9 to 1 among black voters. That's really what killed her. But my point is that I don't so much see conspiracy as a see a complete lack of discipline. It's not that the Obama campaign is less sexist than the Clinton campaign is racist. How would we know that? It's that they're a much more disciplined group that, for the most part, understands that sometimes it's best to just shut up. The same can't be said for Hillary's surrogates. Look at Ferraro. Look at Bill Clinton. These fools race-bait and then defend it. They can't stop digging. And, evidently, Hillary can't pull rank and make them stop digging. Does Ferraro really believe she's helping Hillary's cause now? Probably not. It's just foolish pride, at this point.
Nice piece from the always interesting Barbara Ehrenreich. Once again the parallels between the black struggle and feminist struggle are just stunning. Ehrenreich pillories this idea that it's some sort of noble accomplishment to show that women can be as vile and nasty as men. Pillory is the wrong word. She recognizes that the idea of innate female superiority is a myth which is ultimately destructive, and its good that Hillary is helping to rid us of that. But Ehrenreich rightly points out that she shouldn't be lionized for it.
Was I saying something about parallels? Oh yes--this reminds me of how people often celebrate Bob Johnson as a black hero because he showed he could be just ruthless, cold, and calculating as any other white capitalist. Or folks who celebrate Frank Lucas because he showed that blacks too could be organized criminals. Yay. It's also the OJ reflex--defending and celebrating otherwise loathsome people, because the people who run the world are allowed thier share of otherwise loathsome people. There's some truth here--a true end to racism/sexism must include an end to noble savagery, or noble femininity. But the people who push such an end shouldn't be confused with people who actually raise the bar for morality for all people.
Very nice piece in this week's New Yorker. I'm impressed by the breadth of the sourcing. It is worth noting,however, that David Brooks made this point back in 2004. You remember 2004 don't you? That was the year when fools were running around talking a permanent majority. Brooks, to his credit, saw through all of it. His piece was written before the election. I wonder whether he had any second thoughts. Back to Packer. He has some lovely quotes in there especially from Pat Buchanan who once again reveals himself to be two steps from evil incarnate. Anyway my only issue with Packer is that he subscribes to the myth of Obama's problem with white working class which has been pretty well debunked. Otherwise, I loved it.
I don't even know if I should be linking this but what the hell. I felt bad for Rachel Maddow in this. I think she was trying to respect someone who's an icon to a lot of women. Ferraro actually goes so far as to say that Obama's Annie Oakley riff and the "dirt off your shoulder" move was sexist. We're getting to the point where some folks are just claiming disrespect because they lost. I know there's a lot of theorizing out there about this hurting Obama's ability to pull the votes of women. I'd be more likely to believe that were it not for the fact that one of the great tragedies of modern feminism is its inability to really get a hold on a broad swath of American women. I no more buy that Geraldine Ferraro represents American women, than I buy that Al Sharpton represents American blacks, or that John Hagee represents all church-goers. Anyway, one of the good things about watching this is it dispersed any anger I hold toward Ferraro. She's just a nut, and for the past twenty years she's been ignored. Here is her fifteen minutes, and she's milking it for all its worth. I wish her the best. As I've said before, she is not the future.
The most depressing aspect of Democratic primary is the fact that for many of us, it still is 1993. We can disregard the Republicans because, Barack’s observation aside, these cats ain’t really looking like the party of ideas. Should we fall for the same “He’s a commie!” strategy they’ve been running for decades, then like a pro football team falling for twenty straight play-action fakes, we deserve to lose.
The retro thinking that really has me concerned is on our side. A few days back I was doing some last minute blogging before a flight when I came across this gem from Marie Cocco, in which she offers a list of sexist slights endured by Hillary Clinton throughout her campaign. I found almost nothing to disagree with until, I tripped over this fallacious passage:
Would the silence prevail if Obama's likeness were put on a tap-dancing doll that was sold at airports? Would the media figures who dole out precious face time to these politicians be such pals if they'd compared Obama with a character in a blaxploitation film? And how would crude references to Obama's sex organs play?
It had been only days since Obama had been thumped in a state in which life-long Democrats volunteered themselves, on camera, to say that they would never elect a black president, or a Muslim president—which this year seems to just mean a nigger president. It had been mere hours since the story broke about about a guy in Georgia selling a tee-shirt comparing Obama to Curious George. Indeed, Cocco’s own paper had recounted a list of racist incidents that Obama’s campaign had endured which had escaped the media’s notice. That last bit is more an Obama strategy than a media blind-spot. Americans hate complainers, no matter how much justice the plaintiff can marshal. Plus Obama’s whole campaign is basically an away game, and Obama crying racism, would be like Jackie Robinson complaining to the ump in ’47, like Martin Luther King pleading his case to Bull Conner.
One result of starting this blog, is a public exposure of my many pockets of ignorance. Take the economy for instance. In fact, if anyone wants to recommend a great "econ for dummies" book (but not in that series) now is the time. That being said, there are still things that I find interesting that I like to highlight, even if I can't bring great insight.
Item: The housing crisis. Here are two pieces that I've read recently which make an progressive argument against bailing out homeowners and, by default, banks that sold stupid loans. Here's fellow TPMCafer Dean Baker:
The banks made bad loans. Businesses are supposed to suffer the consequences of their business decision, good or bad. That's capitalism. However, instead of letting the banks live with the market, we're chasing after them with buckets of taxpayer dollars.
This is truly painful. We must have big fights to get a few billion dollars to provide health care or childcare for kids. How can we suddenly produce billions for banks, no questions asked?
Second a very elegant piece by Joshua Rosner which argues that too many people in America are homeowners. I read this a few weeks back and never got around to posting about. I think it stands the test of time though:
Indeed, we ought to consider what role the federal government has played in creating this mess. By stimulating home ownership while failing to account for the reasons home ownership is valuable to society, Washington has simply sought to buy our votes with our own debt. As the subprime crisis accelerates and threatens to spread through prime and near-prime markets, policymakers face a watershed moment. To keep us from an economic nightmare, they need to replace the dream of home ownership with policies that actually increase wealth--not just the illusion of it
I find this whole debate interesting because they offer liberal arguments for laissez-faire. I'm a bit of a left-libertarian, in terms of social issues, and to some extent in terms of economic ones also. (At least the ones I understand!) Thus there's a large part of me which resists the idea that everyone--and maybe not even most people--who took out a bad loan was hoodwinked. The thought of homeownership is intoxicating to most grown folks, and I could see some people really overstating their capabilities. Practically though, it's awful politics--as John McCain will soon learn--to look at the people who you want to elect you and tell them "Suck it up." There has to be a middle ground, no?
I know I just criticized the survey article, but i should have mentioned that are much more loathsome alternatives. Like this piece in which the reporter uncritically excepts a bunch of stats and then finds some folks to agree with a conclusion, that probably was drawn before the story was even pitched. I don't like what media has become. But unlike people who think blogs are ruining the world, I'm not sure I ever liked what media was. On any given day I'd rather be reading Andrew Sullivan than Maureen Dowd. I'll take my man dNa over at Too Sense (or anyone over at Too Sense) over Bob Novak any day of the week. Now, I'll take a great book, or a great New Yorker profile over my own blog, also. But this idea that blogs are killing journalism is just stupid. Bob Novak is ruining journalism. That show where daily sportswriters argue and are given points (can't even remember the name) is ruining journalism. That kid Ta-Nehisi Coates is ruining journalism. Spit. Hot. Fire.
The biggest thing that stood out for me when Geraldine Ferraro went on her stupid rant was her contention that, because she was a fund-raiser, Obama should be nice to her. The very idea that she thought her role as fund-raiser made her somehow indispensable to Obama--in the midst of headlines like this--was a metaphor for the entire Clinton campaign. It was like listening to some editors I've known drone on about blogs. Time had passed her by.
Anyway, Ferraro rears her head again in Jodi Kantor's piece on women and the Clinton campaign. The piece is working in the flawed "survey article" genre, in which you gather a collection of quotes from people who disagree, and arrive at no real point, except that, people, uhm, kinda disagree. It's middle-of-the-road-ism at its worst. That said, there's some good reporting, and some things in it which make me even more happy that Clinton has lost:
Some even accuse Mr. Obama of chauvinism, pointing to the time he called Mrs. Clinton “likeable enough” as evidence of dismissiveness. Nancy Wait, 55, a social worker in Columbia City, Ind., said Mr. Obama was far less qualified than Mrs. Clinton and described as condescending his recent assurances that Mrs. Clinton should stay in the race as long as she liked. Ms. Wait said she would “absolutely, positively not” vote for him come fall.
Ms. Ferraro, who clashed with the Obama campaign about whether she made a racially offensive remark, said she might not either. “I think Obama was terribly sexist,” she said.
Cynthia Ruccia, 55, a sales director for Mary Kay cosmetics in Columbus, Ohio, is organizing a group, Clinton Supporters Count Too, of mostly women in swing states who plan to campaign against Mr. Obama in November. “We, the most loyal constituency, are being told to sit down, shut up and get to the back of the bus,” she said.
It's PC, these days, to say that we need/want every vote. No we don't. There are certain people who you'd rather lose without, than win with. If you think Obama is a chauvinist pig for making a joke at Hillary's expense, vote for McCain. If you are a racist ex-token VP on one of the worst performing tickets of all time, quoted in the New York Times claiming Obama has been "terribly sexist" without citing a shred of proof, vote for McCain. If you think that because your candidate lost, you've been disrespected, if you think women, or "Clinton supporters"," or whatever, are the Democratic Party's most loyal constituincy, and then decide to show that loyalty by campaigning against the Democratic nominee, by all means, do your worse. We don't need you.
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