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.

  • 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.

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  • Judicial Malpractice

    Like Matt, I don't understand how in the world a journalist writes a critical piece on a possible Supreme Court nominee and includes this graff:

    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 should add that the thrust of the piece is that Sotomayor isn't that sharp. That may well be true, but how do you asses that without thoroughly reading her opinions, and talking to broad range of supporters and detractors? I know. You use anonymous quotes!

    Sarcasm aside, minorities and women are particularly sensitive to being told they're stupid--as they should be. It doesn't mean that there aren't any stupid minorities and women. But if you're going to make that case, you really should cover your ass.

  • Hate Crime Laws

    This comment is bubbling below, and its a question I have myself, so I thought I'd pull it out:

    I have to confess that I'm a bit meh about hate crimes legislation. Matthew Shepard was murdered, after being kidnapped and beaten, etc. So, many crimes were committed. And absolutely, they were committed because he was gay. We punish the crimes of murder, kidnap, and battery. I'm sure that in Montana, the punishments are quite severe. Why isn't that enough?

    I'm not engaging in rhetoric, I'd like a real answer.

    The thing that made me leery of Hate Crime Law was the infamous Fat Nick case, in which a kid got 15 years for what really sounded like beef--with a quasi-ethnic twist. The victim had literally come to the neighborhood to steal a car. Read about the whole story here:

    It is true that Fat Nick chased Moore through the streets that night, and after finding him hiding behind a porch set upon him with the softball bat, saying, "What up, nigga? This is what you get when you try to rob white boys." But it was also true that Glenn Moore and his two friends had come from East New York (one of Moore's friends, Richard Pope, lived there), on a failed excursion to steal a car in Lindenwood. Moreover, there had been a spat of robberies in Howard Beach in the weeks preceding Nick's attack, documented by letters to the editor of the Queens Chronicle. "Where were the press, Mayor Bloomberg, or Police Commissioner Kelley when they held my family hostage?" said Edward Benedetto, the author of such a letter, as he described being robbed at gunpoint by three black men to a Chronicle reporter after the media descended on Howard Beach.

    In his confession, Fat Nick seemed accepting of the presence of black people in East New York, whereas detective D'Angelo seemed coercive, as though he had a bigger arsenal of generalizations about race at his disposal than Nick did, albeit for different purposes. In other words, it seemed possible that Nick had selected Glenn Moore because he was black, but it seemed uncertain as ever that Nick was a racist, as opposed, say, to a street punk with an anger problem who acted with the instincts of a racial profiler, and who should only have been charged with aggravated assault.

    The law isn't my area, and I'd love to hear a solid defense of hate crime laws. It strikes me as weird that the mere utterance of a racial slur during a violent act automatically makes it worse.

  • David Souter On The Outs

    But you already knew that. John Nichols argues that this is why Arlen matters:

    No matter who Obama picks, the chances that his nominee will be confirmed with relative ease have risen significantly in recent days. Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter's switch from the Republican caucus to the Democratic caucus moves a key member of the Judiciary Committee into the majority-party camp. If and when Minnesota Democratic Farmer Labor Party candidate Al Franken is finally seated, Democrats will have the 60 votes they need to advance a nomination without having to contend with a Republican filibuster.
  • Byron York Is Not A Racist

    Byron York claps back with this shocking claim:

    A few commentators on the left are calling me a racist for my post, "The black-white divide in Obama's popularity."  I suppose if you haven't been called a racist by the usual suspects on the left, you haven't been writing for very long...

    I wrote that citing Obama's "sky-high ratings among African-Americans make some of his positions appear a bit more popular overall than they actually are." I thought the word "overall" conveyed the idea that there was a difference between the total job-approval number and the complexities of opinion of Obama on various issues.  Maybe "across-the-board" would have been better than "overall," but I doubt that would have kept a left-wing activist like Matthew Yglesias, or Andrew Sullivan, who has himself been accused of racism and, quite recently, anti-Semitism, from branding me a racist.  The numbers inside the Times poll are newsworthy, if the critics would take the time to read and analyze them.

    The fact that York, at no point, quotes a single "left-wing activist" calling him a racist should tell you something about the honesty of his rebuttal. For employers of the "not a racist" form letter, the unsubstantiated charge is the heading.

    One reason I spent so much time yesterday talking about people who play the "not a racist" card is because I was fairly sure this would be York's response. I can't tell you how comical it is to see that he actually followed the script. (Meekly defend your position and feign victimhood for having been called racist--whether you were called one or not.)

    In fact neither Matt nor "left-wing activist" Andrew called York a racist. But "you're a racist" is the  easiest argument to respond to, so York just pretends that they did. It's an incredibly dishonest and intellectually cowardly move, but it's the stock and trade of your average pundit  looking to "score points." Instead of evaluating your adversary's critique, you simply stick your fingers in your ear and exclaim "not a racist" and "left-wing activist" and hope no one's the wiser.

    Meanwhile, York never responds to the fundamental critique of his column summed up here by noted lefty, flagrant race-card dealer, and former aide to Newt Gingrich, (and self-professed friend of Byron York!) Robert George:

    The "problem" with this analysis is -- what's the point? Analysis of the GOP's relative strengths and weaknesses comes down to geographic assessment. Schneider doesn't devote a segment to "What would the Senate look like if white Southerners didn vote for Republicans (which in some states they do to upwards of 70 or 80 percent)?" But blacks voting for Democrats is staged as some sort of "exception" that should implicitly invalidate the reality of the current political situation.

    Ironically, this Schneider segment -- as pernicious as it was in itself -- actually undermines York's even-worse piece: Simply put, because blacks tend to vote overwhelmingly black Democrat at the presidential level, there is actually very little difference between black support for Barack Obama and that of any "generic" Democratic president.


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  • Orgins

    A.O. Scott says the new Wolverine flick kinda blows:

    "Wolverine" is shorter and less pretentious than "Watchmen," but almost programmatically unmemorable, a hodge-podge of loose ends, wild inconsistencies and stale genre conventions. Vengeance is the default motive for most of the mayhem that is perpetrated, and for good measure there is a military-scientific government conspiracy overseen by a reptilian bad guy (the excellent Danny Huston).

    A flotilla of secondary characters parades through the scenery, mostly mutants with various powers and questionable franchise-enhancing capabilities. Ryan Reynolds, Taylor Kitsch and Will.i.am show up and do what they can, but prove hopelessly unable to compensate for the absence of, say, Halle Berry, Anna Paquin or Ian McKellen.

    "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" will most likely manage to cash in on the popularity of the earlier episodes, but it is the latest evidence that the superhero movie is suffering from serious imaginative fatigue.

    I'll catch it on DVD. Not because of its merits or lack therof, but because the theater's are just too damn loud these days.

  • Speaking Of Jigga

    I was just scrolling through some old videos, and came across the Feelin' It video. My son came in and asked me the name of the song--I told him and mentioned to him that I play it all the time. He remembered. I told him the sound sucked, and decided to play the real one.

    I have a general rule about most hip-hop in this house--more important than what the boy hears, is who is willing to talk to him about it. So we've had our share of conversations about everything from Ghetto Boys to Ghostface--that last one was hard. I like to think of myself as liberal. Still, no Dad is prepared to hear his 8-year old say, "If you feel it raise your L in the sky"--even if you've done exactly that in last, uhm, decade.

    Hip-Hop wasn't created with the idea that one day heads would be fathers. Anyway a much better--and tagentially related--video is below. This is actually probably my favorite hip-hop video ever, and one of my favorite period. This is so how it feels...The life of a black male in four minutes, "Everybody start to rush\Swinging through is your friendly neighborhood lush..."


What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we still save the night sky?


The Faces of #BlackLivesMatter

Scenes from a recent protest in New York City


Desegregated, Yet Unequal

A short documentary about the legacy of Boston busing


Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life

The Supreme Court justice talks gender equality and marriage.


Social Media: The Video Game

What if the validation of your peers could "level up" your life?


The Pentagon's $1.5 Trillion Mistake

The F-35 fighter jet was supposed to do everything. Instead, it can barely do anything.



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