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.

  • Sympathetic Interpretations

    I think Reihan is extending an undue helping of generosity here:

    Jeff Rosen has been raked over the coals for his not-positive assessment of Sonia Sotomayor. What I find remarkable is this -- Rosen was being so cautious and careful that he acknowledged his limitations in passing judgment, a good and responsible thing to do, and his humility is being used as a lacerating strike against him.

    Maybe. As I've said, the headline was "The Case Against Sonia Sotomayer." The subhed was "Indictments Of Obama's Frontrunner To Replace Souter."

    Reihan continues:

    Rosen explicitly invited readers to take a different view, and to discount his assessment. Some of Rosen's detractors say, "Well in that case, why did you write anything at all?" Rest assured, most people who weigh in on public controversies of this kind know far less about the subjects of these controversies than Rosen knows about Sotomayor.

    Right. But, in the age of blogging and 24-hour commentary, that's an appallingly low standard. If all it takes to occupy the "respectable intellectual center" is to know more than your average commenter, than there isn't much respectable or intellectual about the center. Perhaps that's the point.

    Having recognized that he was relaying strongly negative assessment, Rosen checked himself before he wrecked himself, which is the best one can do. Should Rosen not draw on the knowledge of legal insiders to sketch out potential criticisms?

    Reihan is a colleague and one of my favorite writers from across the ideological way. But I don't find this very credible. I don't think anyone is seriously arguing that Rosen should "not draw on the knowledge of legal insiders." It's helpful to read the damning graph again:

    I haven't read enough of Sotomayor's opinions to have a confident sense of them, nor have I talked to enough of Sotomayor's detractors and supporters, to get a fully balanced picture of her strengths.

    The very process of journalism is exactly what Rosen said he didn't do. I'm fairly confident that if you turned in a piece with a graph like that to any competent J-school professor, you would fail. I'm not sure why Rosen should be held to a lower standard.

    Reihan wants us to lay off on Rosen because he exercised "humility." But "humility" is the floor for a decent writer--not the ceiling. You don't get credit for not beating your wife. You don't get credit for admitting that you didn't do your job.


  • One Last Bit Of Rosen-Gate

    It's worth reading Reihan's response to me, Glenn's response to Rosen. I don't know that I have any more to say,except this: I know a number of commenters are P\Oed by this whole affair, as they should be. But, for me, at some point, I need to stop swinging and get back to studying.

    My views on all of this here and for all to see--I change nothing. But I can't repeatedly restate those points.I'm not built like that.

  • Another Point On Barry And Gays

    I meant to bang on this more, but I got so pissed off when I was writing. Anyway, this point was made in comments:

    Focusing on Barry's opposition to recognizing gay marriage causes us to miss the forest for the trees; in a majority black city with a majority black political leadership, the City Council voted overwhelmingly (12 to 1) IN SUPPORT of recognizing gay marriage (albeit ones performed outside of DC). This represents a great political victory for the gay rights movements, and refutes the meme which claims that the African-American community is monolithically, implacably, and irresolutely opposed to recognizing gay civil marriage.

    I don't think that can be said loudly enough. There are 12 members of the City Council. Seven of them are black. One is Marion Barry. To anyone who's followed Barry's career, I'm not sure why "Marion Barry Is A Demagogue" is breaking news. It's really wrong to erase the other six votes on that measure, and make Barry the face of blacks on the Council, and blacks in the City.

    Here's something else--consider the fact that D.C. is in the South. Not the deep South, but the South all the same. It's bordered by two slave states, and one Confederate state. I can't think of any other southern jurisdiction that's gone this far on gay marriage. To the contrary, most Southern states have set about the business of a constitutional ban.

    That leaves with a very uncomfortable fact--the most progressive place for gays in the South, is also the blackest. I wouldn't draw too much causality from that statement. Much like I wouldn't draw too much causality from black and Prop 8. But that didn't stop anyone then, did it? Why should it stop them now?

  • A Brief Ill-Considered Rant

    Andrew is concerned about Barry anti-gay marriage position. I think a few things should be said:

    1.) Andrew is vulnerable on this in a way, that I am not. This is serious business for gay people. I think it's a mistake to totally disregard Barry and to disregard Ward 8. I suspect that if you did, indeed, poll Ward 8 you'd find a lot of opposition to gay marriage.

    2.) I have some deadlines looming over me, and if I didn't, I'd expend a little shoe-leather myself and try to get a picture of what's actually happening in my old home. I feel like the Post's coverage has been pretty one-dimensional and wanting. Maybe that's a sign of the times.

    3.) I think having said all that, that is another case of the worst of us repping for all of us. Barry represents one Ward, in a majority black city. It is true that it's a heavily black Ward--but Southeast, and by extension Marion Barry, can't speak for all of D.C., any more than Harlem can speak for Jamaica, Queens. Eleanor Holmes Norton is just a black as Marion Barry.

    I've argued strongly against white gay people expecting automatic sympathy from blacks, on the basis of shared victimhood. There was no shared sympathy extended to blacks from the Irish, or the Italians. There likely will be none in the future from Mexican-Americans.

    That said, as a black person, it is painful and infuriating to watch this unfold. There is something utterly unreflective about people who can only use their pain to advance their own narrowly-defined interests, who can't use it to see the humanity of others. I think people who argue that gay marriage is going to "destroying our youth" are a fucking joke, and I will treat them as such.

    Nothing threatens "our youth" more than credentialed ignorance--especially when the credentials are claimed from up high. Somewhere on the internet there is a place where reasonable people are interested in high tea with bigots, and converting those who are on the fence. I don't want any part of it. Compassion is a resource too. My stores are limited. There will be no quarter here.

  • OK, This Is Just Creepy

    I don't get with the Mormon-hating. Didn't get with it when Romney was running. I won't get with it now. But dig this:

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints confirmed Tuesday afternoon that someone improperly, posthumously baptized the late mother of President Obama into the Mormon faith.


    Last June 4 -- the day after then-Sen. Obama secured enough delegates to win the Democratic presidential nominee -- someone had the president's mother Stanley Ann Dunham, who died in 1995 of cancer, baptized.

    On June 11, she received the endowment.

    I think the arrogance of "baptizing" someone posthumously says a lot. I think the arrogance of baptizing someone who's child, only 30 years ago, would have been scorned in your church says even more.


  • The Meme Builds More...

    From my colleague Marc Ambinder:

    Conservative talk radio hosts have begun impugning Sotomayor's credibility. And the respectable intellectual center -- see Jeffrey Rosen's case against her temperament and inherent intellectual abilities -- is beginning to have doubts.

    The case against Sonia Sotomayer is, at the moment, built on a haphazard reading of her opinions, anonymous quotes, and this amazing admission by Rosen:

    I haven't read enough of Sotomayor's opinions to have a confident sense of them, nor have I talked to enough of Sotomayor's detractors and supporters, to get a fully balanced picture of her strengths.

    I can't get past that line--mostly because, as Greenwald said yesterday, it drips with unintentional irony--Rosen is attacking Sotomayor's ability to do the necessary intellectual heavy-lifting, while explicitly neglecting to do any of his own. In this instance, His piece reads like a burglar's brief against rampant criminality. Authored mid-robbery, no less.

    I mean him no disrespect. I'm sure he is a hard-working, talented writer. Journalism is difficult, and in this age, the urge to immediately have an opinion on everything is quite strong. But this is exactly why that urge has to be resisted. Opinions matter--even ill-informed ones. You don't get to be the "respectable intellectual center" and then practice your craft in the gossip-laden, ignorant muck. Not for long anyway. You know what this is--Great power. Great responsibility.

  • A Beautiful Use Of Negative Space

    I think Matt gets at the biggest problem with Wolverines "Orgins" be it in comics or in the film:

    Wolverine isn't a character whose origins we're curious about. Wolverine is a character whose origin is that he has no memories and we don't know where he's from other than that at some point he was mixed up with a shady covert ops program that bonded adamantium to his skeleton. That's the origin. That's the character.

    I think we actually are curious about his orgins, but that's the appeal--it's in what you don't know.  How, exactly, does Wolverine know Sabretooth? How did he get admantium bones? Why is he so prone to rage? That negative space is where you put your imagination. This could be generational--I read comics mostly in the 80s, and these were still questions. But I think in story-telling, period, there something be said for letting the consumer wander.

    I never wanted to see a Gwen Stacy clone--the reach she evinced from the grave, the way she altered the Spiderman character was so profound. But the financial upside of filling in the space, of bringing back characters, of revealing orgins is simply to much for some editors, I think. It's certainly too much for Hollywood.

    On another note, sometimes I feel like Yglesias never left this space. All my links are belonging to Matt.

  • Be Serious

    John Judis makes the argument for a Latino judge. I'm mostly cool with his points about democracy and ethnicity, but then he says this:

    Is Sonia Sotomayer qualified to be on Supreme Court? I'm agnostic on that subject--I don't know enough about her--and if you read Jeff's piece carefully, so is he.

    No he isn't. The headline was The Case Against Sonia Sotamayer. It was subtitled Indictments Of Obama's Frontrunner To Replace Souter. He concludes the piece by calling Sotomayer "a gamble."  Judis continues..

    If she has the requisite abilities, and if her opinions are broadly those of Obama himself, then the President should certainly consider her. What if she is very good, but that there are more brilliant jurists around on the faculties of law schools? When Wilson chose Brandeis, he did choose the leading progressive jurist in America. But when Johnson picked Marshall or when Reagan chose O'Connor, there probably were other lawyers around who were more brilliant. Still, these were good choices and good for our country.

    Unlike all those conservative white guys who were clearly most qualified jurists in the land. It's amazing how assumptions that Sotomayer may not be the most qualified candidate (as though there's a such thing) has seeped into TNR's water supply. Funny how that happens. More amazing than that is the fact that the two writers weighing in on this know virtually nothing about Sotomayer's jurisprudence.

  • It's The Racism, Stupid

    Matt had a series of posts a few weeks back about racism and the tea parties. I thought about commenting but, frankly, I wasn't sure what to say. I couldn't tell whether the signs were indicative of the movement, or indicative of a few oddballs. I think it says something that people feel comfortable toting that sort of message to a rally. But my instincts led me to allow for a "charitable interpretation," as one commenter put it last week.

    All of that said, I think Matt was on to something.

    One common refrain of black Southeners from Robert Smalls to Booker T. Washington to Martin Luther King is the notion that white Supremacy has actually corrupted the white South, that while it is a blight on the physical conditions of blacks, it is a greater blight on the spiritual, moral, and mental conditions of whites.

    I never understood how that could be true until relatively recently. But when you think about the embrace of white supremacy by political leaders, you understand that it was not simply an embrace of evil and bigotry, but an embrace of superstition, ghost stories and, ultimately, utter ignorance. At times this has been literally true. There's a short portion in Capitol Men that discusses a late 19th century effort by the federal government to upgrade public schools in the South. For fear that black schools might benefit, South Carolina declines all federal help thus fucking over its white children in the name of white supremacy.

    Racism, like all bigotry is, at its root, lazy thinking. Thus the demagouge who employs racism is engaged in a kind of mental corruption, aimed not at the victims of racism, but its alleged benefactors. Thus when George Wallace asserts the following...

    In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.

    ...he is, for sure, defaming black people. But he's also engaging his followers in a seductive flight of delusional stupidity. The "segregation" part of that quote isn't the worst part. It's the white nationalist hoodoo, the unreflective vanity of "greatest people that have ever trod this earth" that's the killer.

    More »

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

Writers

Up
Down

From This Author

Just In