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.

  • 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.


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  • 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.

  • Name Your Dual-Spec

    1.) This is a World of Warcraft post.

    2.) If you don't play WoW, stop reading now. It's about to get real nerdy in here.

    3.) You've been warned.

    Alright. I'm going frost for PvP on my mage, and Arcane for PvE. On my paladin, I think I'm going holy\healadin for PvP and tankadin for PvE--though I'm not completely sure on that count. What's everyone else going?

  • Battered Women And Responsibility Pt. 2

    This is a pretty solid rebuttal to Linda Hirshman's piece by Hilzoy. One thing Hilzoy brings to bear here is some actual life experience (which she writes) and I'm generally more swayed by lived narrative than theory. Having said that let me respecfully quibble with something:

    It seems fairly clear to me that it is not helpful to battered women to tell them that they should 'take responsibility for their own well-being.' Battered women are not, in general, under the impression that they are not responsible for their actions. On the contrary: while there are exceptions, a lot of battered women I have known tend to believe such things as: that it is their fault that they were beaten. Moreover, most already think that they were stupid to stay. They don't need other people to tell them this, or even to suggest obliquely that they ought to recognize their own "bad choices", any more than an anorexic needs lectures on the dangers of obesity.

    We shall immediately reject the idea of blaming any woman for the mere fact of being battered, or saying that any one is responsible for someone else battering them. That isn't being debated here. That said, I think it's worth teasing out the difference between blaming someone, or even blaming yourself, and, as Hilzoy, says taking responsibility for your own well-being.

    I don't like the word blame. I don't like the idea of "blaming" women for being battered, nor do I like the idea of "blaming" women for not leaving. Also, as I just said, I don't like the idea of telling battered women that they are "responsible" for some dude deciding to hit them--mostly because they manifestly aren't. A person's decision to strike someone is his decision alone.

    I think where I part ways with Hilzoy is in conflating, say,  thinking that it's "their fault that they were beaten," or thinking, "they were stupid to stay" and taking "responsibility for their own well-being." I don't think the former and the latter are the same. You can "blame yourself" or "fault yourself" for any number of reasons, many of them having little to do with taking responsibility. A kid may well blame himself for doing poor on a math test by saying he's stupid, but that doesn't mean he's taken responsibility, that he's acknowledged that he's capable of doing better the next time. Likewise, an abuse victim who blames herself for being beaten by saying she's "a bad person" is, for sure, finding fault with herself, but isn't, necessarily, claiming responsibility for leaving.

    Unlike responsibility, fault and blame don't require choice, and they don't neccessarily offer any prospect of power. This, to my humble mind, is extremely key. Blaming a battered woman for being battered is foolish, not because it makes the woman "responsible," but because it doesn't point to a way out. At it's best it invokes a false responsibility (making the victim "responsible" for the aggressive action of the batterer) at precisely the wrong point (your responsible for the assault, not the leaving). At it's worse it is actually an evasion of responsibility because it looks to something innate and unchangeable as the source.

    To go back to Hilzoy's point, it's true that the battered woman, indeed, does not need a lecture on "bad choices." That said, how can one ever leave if they don't understand that they have some power to do so? How does one accept that they do, indeed, have some power to leace, and then turn around and say that the power comes with no responsibility?

    Perhaps we are hitting on a point of ideology, and deeply ingrained beliefs. In my case, that a person is, in fact, ultimately responsible for their well-being, that in fact the world can't really exist any other way. That doesn't make leaches and cowards, any more than they actually are. But I don't know how those of us who are personally oppressed, or historically have been oppressed, can claim power in any other way, but to define how we want to live, and, if need be, how we want to die.


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