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.

  • Behold The Power Of Greens

    My folks were partial to Collards, Mustard and Beat Greens. But we didn't mess with the hog, and back then, even the fowl. Still, my Pops was nice with his. I've moved on to using turkey wings mostly, these days. Anyway, Ari Weinzweig does the knowledge pm greens, and their stock, over at the Food Channel:

    While most everyone in the South generally seems to like greens, there's no question that they play a particularly big role in African-American cooking in the region, and anywhere in the country, in fact, southern blacks moved to in large numbers.

    Having learned a bit (I have a lot more to still learn) about the historical role of greens in the southern kitchen, I realized that all Ted and I were doing was unknowingly recreating what used to go on in the plantation kitchens: white masters wanted the cooked greens, but they ignored the potlikker. Slave cooks a) were understandably always working to provide food for their families and b) understood the high nutrient value of potlikker. So they happily drained it off the greens and used the broth to feed their own families.

    Today it's worth having a bit of the potlikker just because it tastes so good. But I think it's also worth raising a shot glass of it in a respectful toast to the slave cooks who did the unglamorous work. They developed the roots of African-American eating the rest of us get to enjoy today.

    Having read this, I'm sure someone will remark that there's nothing black about collards because their (white) family loves them too. Yes, we get that. No one's trying to leave you out. You don't have to be black to like them. Though they do tend to tighten those curls.

  • The Annals Of White Music Pt. 30404567

    My buddy Brendan Koerner recently steered me to Ziggy Stardust, in an effort to help me with a story I'm working on. This suggestion has also aided my transformation from authentic b-boy to authentic white boy, though I don't think that was Brendan's intent, I can, indeed, feel the my Caesar  untightening as we speak.

    Anyway, I'm really enjoying the album. Reminded me a lot of The Flaming Lips Yoshimi record. But that aside, I went searching for some live renditions of Ziggy, and found this gem with Arcade Fire. Which of course led me to another gem. Enjoy. I'm off to apply the skin lighteners. Man, that burns...



  • CNN Goes Hard

    Who knew, fam? The guy with the Obam as Hitler sign is surprising. Neither is the dude with his two-year old. I'm shocked at how aggressive the reporter was--clearly made her anchor uncomfortable.

  • More Conservative Please

    Clearly the problem with the GOP is that they have too many Arlen Specters:

    After Mr. Specter's stimulus vote in February, he plunged in polls of Republican voters. And Pat Toomey, a conservative and former congressman who narrowly lost to Mr. Specter in the 2004 primary, smelled blood. Mr. Toomey officially announced Wednesday that he would challenge Mr. Specter in the primary in May 2010.

    "For 30 years, Senator Specter has consistently voted for increased government spending and a liberal agenda on social, labor, immigration and national security policies," Mr. Toomey said, adding that those positions were "wrong" for Pennsylvania.
  • More On The Decline In Black Incarceration

    Kai Wright offers some interesting analysis. This caught my eye:

    As the Sentencing Project details, a big part of the decline is structural. Crack busts drove drug arrests and convictions in black neighborhoods. But crack long ago faded from the drug market, if not the popular culture. Moreover, the large-scale drug dealing businesses--and that's what they are, like it or not--have adapted their distribution channels in response to the cops' military-style sweeps of the '80s and '90s. Here's how John Jay College of Criminal Justice scholar Ric Curtis once explained the shift to me:

    "Many of the businesses had been modeled on the McDonald's or Wal-Mart style of operation. ... They had all these street-level functionaries that were just interchangeable cogs for them, but they were getting arrested in extraordinary numbers. ... So eventually they said, 'You know what? Fuck this. It's too much of a pain in the ass. We're gonna downsize. We'll retain management and lop off labor. And management is gonna go to a new style of business.'"

    The new style of business, as the Sentencing Project notes, abandons the street corner and instead focuses on delivery to regular, known clients. So the big players moved the market off the street and out of the cops' hair. Cynical as it sounds, that's actually something of a policing victory--it means fewer turf wars and safer neighborhoods. (Sure, it literally sweeps the problem out of sight, but it certainly doesn't get rid of drug use and -dealing, and in no way mitigates the damage both wreak upon individuals, families and communities.) In any case, the new distribution system means fewer black arrests, fewer black convictions and fewer black inmates.

    Heh, talk about acting white. Best comment I've seen on this was from some joker over at Yglesias's place, who noted with mock outrage, that "the whites were muscling in on the black drug trade." Fuckers. Can't ever let us have anything.


  • Mocking The Mock Draft

    I have no idea why people pay attention to these things:

    Bottom line: mock drafts are useless. They serve no purpose. If you want to educate yourself about the draft, study the most highly rated players at each position and then study team needs and draw your own conclusions. Do not waste another second of your life on the mock draft.

    I guess mock drafts aren't made to be taken seriously. Still it's silly to have "draft gurus" pretending like they know who's going where and in what round. The don't. And that's the beauty of it. The not knowing.


  • Rambling, Rambling and more rambling

    This spousal abuse conversation is getting awkward for me. In theory, I always say that anyone should participate an any conversation, as long as they're bringing a basic level of respect. In practice, I'm starting to feel like I'm discussing other people's business.  I also think I'm applying a rather rough ideological prism. Norman Mailer (probably not the best name to invoke in this discussion, but I've already stepped in it, so what the hell) used to call himself a "left-wing conservative." I've always felt much the same way.

    Again, it comes from my background as a nationalist. One of the seldom acknowledged facets of black nationalism is its emphasis on personal agency and responsibility. It is, at its core, a rather conservative (small "c") belief system. It proffers a world of competing powers and interests, and is deeply skeptical of cooperation between those powers based on anything other than clear, mutual interests. Hence the critique of integration. Black nationalism shares the problems of all other forms of nationalism--it easily slips into prejudice, it can blind its believers to other world-views, and it's subject to shaping history narrative in a manner that suits its own interest. 

    But one thing that it understands and appreciates, which I've always found wanting in the cold machinery of liberalism, is the power of individual agency. Those of us who preferred Malcolm to Martin did so, not so much out of animus towards whites, but because implicit in Martin's message was, "your doomed if these people who hate you don't see the light." Malcolm, on the other hand, seemed to say, "Let white folks be white folks. You be you. You have the power to be you, and you have a responsibility to be you."

    Perhaps that's Pollyanna-ish. It may be true that our greatest barriers are institutional. It's also probably true that integration was the only moral and practical option. But I think what a lot of us responded to when we heard Malcolm, was the idea of personal agency. The thought that we could "do for self," as my Dad used to say to me. Most of us heard Martin and were enthralled. But still others of us heard him and were terrified. The implicit notion of integration--that your welfare is fundamentally tied to the children of your overlords, that you exist at their tolerance, at their sufferance--will do that to you.

    [MORE]

    I think some, not all and maybe not most, of that translates to gender issues. Women aren't a minority, so that changes things. But having been around some skuzzy dudes in my time, I always wanted a daughter so that me and Kenyatta could teach her how to go out and kick some ass. OK, so those aren't the purest of motivations, but to the topic at hand, I bring that old sense of not wanting to lean to hard on a society that continually screws this issue up.

    And yet, ultimately we can't escape each other, can we? My brother John and my sister Kelly both have acquaintances who were killed in the past two years by ex-boyfriends. These were not women who did not leave. These were women who'd taken out protection orders, but the dudes just violated them and killed the women anyway.

    I mention that because I think it's gone unacknowledged in this discussion. I don't know how the numbers break down, but I bet there are significant numbers of women who, in fact, don't stay but are attacked nonetheless. I believe in personal agency and societal agency--but one doesn't cancel out the other.

    More »

  • Good News On Incarceration Rates

    Well sorta:

    For the first time since crack cocaine sparked a war on drugs 20 years ago, the number of black Americans in state prisons for drug offenses has fallen sharply, while the number of white prisoners convicted for drug crimes has increased, according to a report released yesterday.

    The D.C.-based Sentencing Project reported that the number of black inmates in state prisons for drug offenses had fallen from 145,000 in 1999 to 113,500 in 2005, a 22 percent decline. In that period, the number of white drug offenders rose steadily, from about 50,000 to more than 72,000, a 43 percent increase. The number of Latino drug offenders was virtually unchanged at about 51,000.

    The findings represent a significant shift in the racial makeup of those incarcerated for drug crimes and could signal a gradual change in the demographics of the nation's prison population of 2 million, which has been disproportionately black for decades. Drug offenders make up about a quarter of the prison population.

    The decline of crack, and the rise of meth probably has a lot to do with this. The dip looks pretty real, given that it covers a decent amount of time.


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