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.

  • Again, Gang Starr Has Done It

    Heh, T.R.O.Y. is devoting an entire month to Primo and Guru. My favorite Gang Starr album is either Step Into The Arena or Moment Of Truth. I remember reading that Primeier was planning to use Jo-Jo on a joint for the MOT album, and I thought, "Damn, another one selling the fuck out." But we we got was just gorgeous--"Major effect to your sector, I'm the corrector\Live and direct, waving my mic like a scepter." Probably my favorite Primo material is on the first Group Home album and the second Jeru album--the 95-97, late Golden Age era. In those days, Primo could do no wrong. That Group Home album is a wonder--really subpar MCing ("When I make moves, I ride trains with my cousin?") married to some incredible beats.

  • Moments When You're Glad McCain Didn't Win

    Yeah, I know everyday. But then you see something like this, and you're really glad:

    ...McCain's raw emotions burst forth recently as he heatedly told Hispanic business leaders that they should now look to Obama, not him, to take the lead on immigration.

    The meeting in the Capitol's Strom Thurmond Room on March 11 was a Republican effort led by Sens. McCain of Arizona, John Thune of South Dakota, and Mel Martinez of Florida to reach out to Hispanics. But two people who attended the session say they were taken aback by McCain's anger.

    What began as a collegial airing of views abruptly changed when McCain spoke about immigration, according to these sources, who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution. Anonymity was also requested by a third source, who was not at the meeting but was told, independently of the other two, that McCain had displayed his notorious temper.

    "He was angry," one source said. "He was over the top. In some cases, he rolled his eyes a lot. There were portions of the meeting where he was just staring at the ceiling, and he wasn't even listening to us. We came out of the meeting really upset."

    McCain's message was obvious, the source continued: After bucking his party on immigration, he had no sympathy for Hispanics who are dissatisfied with President Obama's pace on the issue. "He threw out [the words] 'You people -- you people made your choice. You made your choice during the election,' " the source said. "It was almost as if [he was saying] 'You're cut off!' We felt very uncomfortable when we walked away from the meeting because of that."

    Well, yeah they should look to Obama, because he's the president. But the idea that Hispanics owed the GOP, and McCain specifically, anything is laughable. Moreover, the idea that any voter owes any candidate anything is laughable. Immigration reform shouldn't be a "favor" to Hispanics--it should be good policy.

    Voters are customers, and the merchant who gets pissed off at a customer who shops elsewhere is in the wrong business. Everything we've seen from McCain and Palin, post-election, simply verifies the results. They were not ready for the big leagues, and they lost not simply because of the conditions of the field, but because they were matched against a better team.

  • No Good, Whole Foods Eating, Two-Train Taking, Grey Goose Martini-Sipping Liberals...

    Here's an inappropriate post for the 3:00 hour--a friend got me hooked on the vodka martini. Yes, I know real men drink gin. Whatever. (Grey Goose and a whole lotta hydro!) There's a spot down in Soho that I frequent where the dude just murders these. Anyway, it seemed to me to be a simple drink, so I started trying them at home--some vermouth, vodka and olives. Erm, things haven't gone well. Any bartenders out there want to give me some tips? I don't want to ask my dude because I don't want him to feel like I'm taking my business elsewhere.

    (By the way, that's "murdered" in a good way.)

    UPDATE: I'm using sweet vermouth--and too much of it. Thanks for the input guys.

  • Madea And E. Franklin Frazier

    Somewhat appropriately, Postbougie is on the case:

    I'm a fan of diverse (and preferably complex) representations. They don't have to be reflective or realistic, as long as everything is not The Cosby Show and everything is not Shaft. Perhaps people are up in arms because in the gaping absence of national minority representation in media, Perry has the authority of being the foremost employer of black actors/actresses and the most widely watched storyteller amongst black audiences. But that is an issue of lack of representation and shouldn't be addressed by attempting to narrow down the few existing representations into an image we prefer. Regardless of how artistically or politically progressive Tyler Perry's films may seem, he is pulling in record-making numbers at the box office which means he is reaching sizable audiences on a consistent basis. And because these audiences are predominantly black and latino, white critics have been drastically off the marks with their predictions, and are having to cope with a loyal audience that was previously rendered invisible. But this is an important audience, TP is an important filmmaker, and to dismiss him would be to dismiss the spectatorship of a bunch of people who -- to the dismay of many film and culture critics -- are basically dictating what's popular right now in Hollywood.

    Basically. I think I've seen all of one Tyler Perry flick. His movies just aren't made for me. But neither is the new Star Trek. Or the latest rendition of Saw. Or the new Transformers. Whatever. Let Tyler do Tyler. It isn't his fault that everything ain't Love Jones (nor should it be).

  • A Truly Lazy Act Of Journalism

    No subgenre of journalism deserves to be put out its misery more than the "trend story." Heavy on the breading and light on the catfish, the trend story is typically the work of young reporters whose editors don't care enough to smack them down, or older reporters who are simply unionized hacks. The trend story's evil is only surpassed by its wicked spawn--the "political trend story," a work which applies methodology reserved for light fare ("Stalking With Cougars: Giving New Meaning To Ladies Night!") to actual weighty issues. Like race:

    As the nation's first black president settles into the office, a division is deepening between two groups of African Americans: those who want to continue to praise Obama and his historic ascendancy, and those who want to examine him more critically now that the election is over.

    The political trend story stands out from its older sibling in how it reeks of condescension and bestows upon a lazy-ass writer the unearned privilege of drawing conclusions about millions of people based on a few interviews and a survey. In this case we have the Washington Post attempting to analyze black talking heads who've had to suffer actual black people who don't agree with them:

    During the heated Democratic primary, Smiley questioned Obama's decision not to attend his annual State of the Black Union conference and said he hoped Obama would make it through the campaign "with his soul intact."

    The push-back was "brutal," Smiley recalls. Angry listeners called him a "sellout," an "Obama hater" and "Uncle Tom." Surprised and hurt, Smiley left Joyner's show but now uses the rough patch to make the case for a new book he co-wrote, "Accountable: Making America as Good as Its Promise."

    Typical of the political trend-story, the reporter simply accepts Smiley's version as fact and does no digging to see if there's more to the story. (Hint: There is.) I respect Smiley's pivot--he got aired out last year, but he turned it all into a book deal. I can't say the same of reporters who take any sources line as received truth. The hack indulging in the political trend story, isn't worth the unblemished shoe-leather which his stories are allegedly built upon. These are the sorts of articles which force you to cackle in the face of any dead-tree patrician holding forth on the sacred links between newspapers and democracy. Whatever. Do your job. We'll decide whether your worth mourning.

  • For Those Who Have No Idea What The Taliban Stand For

    I think, in a post-9/11 era, folks would do well to check out Lawrence Wright's The Looming Tower. The beauty of the book is that it clearly shows the roots of Al'Quaeda in both religious fundamentalism, and America's support of a brutal Egyptian dictatorship. And yet it never skimps in assessing the ruthless evil that animates Ayman Al'Zawari and Osama Bin Laden. Likewise, it critiques our endorsement of the Mujaheddin in Afghanistan, while at the same laying bare the thuggism of the Taliban. Check out the book. It's a gripping read.

    A lot of us would do well to learn from that, to understand that one can condemn Dick Cheney and condemn the Taliban. And in case we're wondering why these nut jobs should be condemned I offer the following--a man tortured on suspicion of being gay, and 17-year old girl tortured for the following...


    One account said she had stepped out of her house without being escorted by a male family member, according to Samar Minallah, a rights activist. Ms. Minallah said she distributed the video to local news outlets after it was sent to her by someone from Swat three days ago.

    Another account said a local Taliban commander had falsely accused the teenager of violating Islamic law after she refused to accept his marriage proposal.

    The local authorities said that punishment was unacceptable--because it was conducted in public. Here's the tape. Watch it if you like. It could just be more media lies.


  • Race And The Pittsburgh Shooter

    So much for the post-racial and post-religious:

    Mr. Poplawski's view of guns and personal freedom took a turn toward the fringes of American politics. With Mr. Perkovic, he appeared to share a belief that the government was controlled from unseen forces, that troops were being shipped home from the Mideast to police the citizenry here, and that Jews secretly ran the country.

    "We recently discovered that 30 states had declared sovereignty," said Mr. Perkovic, who lives in Lawrenceville. "One of his concerns was why were these major events in America not being reported to the public."

    Believing most media were covering up important events, Mr. Poplawski turned to a far-right conspiracy Web site run by Alex Jones, a self-described documentarian with roots going back to the extremist militia movement of the early 1990s.

    Around the same time, he joined Florida-based Stormfront, which has long been a clearinghouse Web site for far-right groups. He posted photographs of his tattoo, an eagle spread across his chest.

    "I was considering gettin' life runes on the outside of my calfs," he wrote. Life runes are a common symbol among white supremacists, notably followers of The National Alliance, a neo-Nazi group linked to an array of violent organizations.

    I basically agree with Hilzoy--I don't have any strong gun control politics. But that said, it's amazing to me that these guys are allowed to stockpile this sort of heat. 

    UPDATE: Link fixt. Sorry guys.

  • How The West Was Won

    Headed to Cali today guys to do some reporting. Posting will be light. Entertain yourselves. Jay Culter is a Bear. Chicago must be having a party right about now. I actually think he was worth the two first rounders.

  • Seriously, It's A Joke

    I don't know what to do with people who think I literally believe white people should show the same sort of solidarity they've shown for the past centuries. Or that the nigras are really dead-set on marrying their daughters. But for the record, I don't think white people have to answer for Glenn Beck. It was a joke. I can deal with arguments. But the inability to see ones tongue planted in the cheek is too much. You don't have to think the joke is funny. You don't even have to like it. But you have to at least be able to recognize when someone is kidding. If you're looking humorlessness and dispassion, the web is full of it. We don't need more of it here.

  • Putting Mos Def In Context

    The point was made yesterday that there are white people on TV, every day, who make a living speaking in a manner that's twice as insane as anything you hear on the corner. Indeed. If you're a nut and you happen to be black, you're Cynthia McKinney. If you're a nut and happen to be white, well...



    I know white people aren't embarrassed by Glenn Beck. But seriously, you guys really should be. Come on white folks, where's that sense of solidarity you've showed for centuries? You guys are a sorry bunch. Keep this up and the nigras will be marrying yer daughters!!

  • Nihilism And Gay Marriage

    Sometimes you can't say it better than the people who are going through it. From Andrew, who I will quote at length:

    Moreover, far from nihilistically renouncing nature, the marriage movement aims at reclaiming the mantle of nature for homosexuals alongside our heterosexual peers and siblings and parents. We know now that same-gender attraction, bonding and sex is ubiquitous in nature, and almost certainly has some evolutionary explanation. We know too, experientially, that the love cherished by many gay couples is real and beautiful and deeply human. It is not merely "contractual" or "nihilist". It is organic, natural and completing. It is humanizing and it is civilizing. History is full of such relationships, and they stand proudly alongside their heterosexual peers. The reduction of these shared lives and loves to abstract sexual acts is itself a form of bigotry. It is an attempt to reduce the full and complex human being to one aspect of his or her humanness. It is, in my view, anti-Christian to speak of gays the way this Pope does. The Christian calling is not to guard ferociously the ramparts of the 1950s out of fear but to listen to the experiences of gay people - what the Second Vatican Council calls the sensus fidelium - and try to integrate their humanity into the structures from which they have been so cruelly excluded, with such horrible human consequences, for so long.

    It is Rod's self-evident panic at the thought of such an integration that has made some of us sit up and take note. There is some lurking fear that if this form of being human is recognized as equal in the civil sphere, let alone the sacred one, then the entire edifice of heterosexuality and marriage and family will somehow be destroyed or undermined. I do not believe that in any way. And I don't think it's possible to believe that without, at some level, engaging in homophobia - literally an irrational and exaggerated fear that the gay somehow always obliterates the straight, or that 2 percent somehow always controls the fate of 98 percent. This is where paranoia and panic take over. It is where homophobia most feels like anti-Semitism.

    Be not afraid, as Pope John Paul II kept telling us. Of what should we not be afraid? We should not be afraid of the truth about ourselves.

    That last point about paranoia is key, and it really defines, not just anti-Semitism, but bigotry itself. The most laughable aspect of America's long war against racism, is the justification racist would always trot out--the specter of interracial union. I can remember being a kid and reading about black folks struggling for some small right, that, these days, we take for granted. So you'd have some black dude who'd been born a slave, in some one room shack, but had risen to become a lawyer, arguing for, say, school funding for black kids in rural Alabama. And then you'd see some bigot responding with, essentially, the following, "If we give the nigras school funding, they'll take our women! Do you want a nigra marrying yer daughter?!?!?"

    I would read that and think, "What? The dude just wants some textbooks, WTF??" There's this great riff in Wattstax where Richard Pryor talks about Southern whites accusing a black dude of raping some white guy's wife. The guy brings out his wife and says something like, "The nigger raped her!" The assembled black folks look at the guy's wife who, let's just say is not Scarlett O'Hara, and go, "You sure??"

    But in the white male paranoid mind, the deepest ambition of all black men lay between the two legs of some white woman--any white woman. And white women, of course lacking any real agency in the narrative, joyfully go along. Or are forcibly carried along. From that perspective, white racism really is a fear of a black planet--and (paradoxically) of white women.

    Bigotry, in all forms, requires a shocking arrogance, a belief that other communities deepest desires revolve around your destruction. It is the ultimate narcissism, a way of thinking that can only see others, through a paranoid fear of what one might lose. The fears are almost always irrational. To go back to Chuck D, perhaps he was too cold when he said, "Man, I don't want your sister." But there was deep truth in it, the idea was, "Fool, this ain't about you and your fucked-up sexual hangups." In much the same vein when I read people complaining that gay marriage is a threat to traditional marriage, I think, "Fool, these gay motherfuckers ain't thinking about your marriage. This ain't about you and your hang-ups."

    Bigotry is the heaping of one man's insecurity on to another. Sexism, racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-Islamism, anti-immigrantism, really all come from the same place--cowardice. In his history of lynching, Phillip Dray notes that mob violence against black men wasn't simply about keeping black men in their place--it was about keeping white women in their place. Lynching peaked as white women went to work outside the home in greater numbers, developing their own financial power base. White men, afraid that they couldn't compete with their women, would cowardly resort to lynching. I am not saying that the anti-gay marriage crowd is a lynch mob. But in tying opposition to the sexual revolution what you see is, beyond a fear of gay marriage, a fear for marriage itself. A fear that their way of life can't compete in these new times.  It's ridiculous, of course. But bigotry always is.

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