Ta-Nehisi Coates is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle. More
Born in 1975, the product of two beautiful parents. Raised in West Baltimore -- not quite The Wire, but sometimes ill all the same. Studied at the Mecca for some years in the mid-'90s. Emerged with a purpose, if not a degree. Slowly migrated up the East Coast with a baby and my beloved, until I reached the shores of Harlem. Wrote some stuff along the way.
Michael Crowley wanted to hear more welfare/crime/affirmative action/black people bashing from Obama:
Instead he argued that "I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community." This is a complex and nuanced point--one which, taken from the context of Obama's larger assessment of race in America, won't satisfy people horrified by a preacher who blamed 9/11 on U.S. policies. Other headlines are likely to focus on Obama's overall call for racial reconciliation and a more perfect union. Obama said, quite rightly, that the recent flaps over Wright and Geraldine Ferraro "reflect the complexities of race in this country that we've never really worked through--a part of our union that we have yet to perfect." But the question is whether working class voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania and West Virginia and elsewhere believe, particularly in a stalled economy, that racially perfecting the union really ought to be a central goal of the next president. I would like to believe so. I'm not convinced they do.
This is the same logic which led Clinton, in 2004, to tell Kerry to throw gay people off the bus. Crowley is addressing the political implications here. But from my perspective, we deserve to know how sharp the rest of America really is. Have we gotten past Willie Horton and welfare? We deserve to know that.
There are people who bear the brunt of cynical welfare-bashing and to us, it looks neither smart, nor insightful. In fact, I'd argue that sort of calculating, inauthentic triangulation does absolutely nothing to close the racial chasm. We deserve to know what we are, to have a campaign fought on issues. We deserve politicians who are willing to risk something, not a bunch of sniveling cowards, huddled around a mass of spreadsheets and demographic data. At some point the question becomes, What are you willing to loose for? What is so essential to you that you won't toss it aside? It was beautiful to hear Obama cite the black community AND his white grandmother as two things he would never disown.
First off, just as fan of debate, I have to say that this cat is the most incredible counter-puncher I've ever seen. Let's review: It was widely believed that the Wright conflict represented a mortal threat to Obama's candidacy. You could turn on Fox or MSNBC any day this week and hear the talking heads and their claims of impending doom. But Obama pulled the rope-a-dope. All campaign his pushed race to the back, and let all of us--people like me--wax on about what this means for black folks. Only when cornered and with nowhere to go, does he come out with combination that stops the doom-sayers cold. It was the "reject and renounce" moment writ large. Obama turns what everyone is sure a gaffe, into a devastating counter-attack. That is a mean bit of jujitsu
I appreciated Obama extending the olive leaf to Geraldine Ferraro, despite my criticisms, I really did. The dude is running for president, it's his job to lead, and back and forth bickering about her comments would be unsightly coming from him (I said coming from him, not me). No one likes to see people whining to the refs. That saidm this is why Geraldine Ferraro is dead wrong. Being black put Obama in this debate--but there is not a candidate in this race, who sharp enough, or intellectually flexible enough to give the speech Obama just gave--on any subject. What's Hillary Clinton's earth-shattering speech on the future of feminism and gender? Where is John McCain's great ideology-bending speech on foreign policy? Obama has been thinking about this stuff all his life, so I guess to some extent he has an advantage. But it takes a supple mind to offer such a textured analysis of where we find ourselves.
I especially appreciate that he didn't taken Mickey Kaus's foolish, cynical and hamfisted advice and throw black folks off the train. It would have done nothing but lost him some black votes, and gained him nothing among whites, who likely would have taken it all as disingenuous. Instead he explained why we feel the way we felt, why we tend to shout, and with that in hand, did the same for ethnic whites. White bloggers, them being, you know white, tend to think that was the most important point in the speech. But we've had black conservatives before who basically sided with ethnic whites. What Obama did was show how all these grievances, while understandable, ultimately miss the point, that both of us are shooting at the wrong enemies. He went right at the jugular of the Reagan coaliton, and did it without fear. Obama articulated old liberal "voting against your interest" argument, without the patina of condescension and insult.
I'll spare you more and just tell you this--Both Charles Murray and Jesse Jackson think this was a great speech on race. When was the last time you saw that?
More on this later. I thought this was pretty damn good. I don't know if it's a winning speech, but if it isn't, it's hard to see any black person winning anytime soon. This was the part that got me:
I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother - a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.
These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.
That just struck me as honest, and honorable.
This cat is always so sharp. As always, Glenn is just, no pun intended, right:
Neither Jerry Falwell nor Pat Robertson ever retracted or denounced their view that America provoked the 9/11 attacks by doing things to anger God. John Hagee continues to believe that the City of New Orleans got what it deserved when Katrina drowned its residents and devastated the lives of thousands of Americans. And James Inhofe -- who happens to still be a Republican U.S. Senator -- blamed America for the 9/11 attacks by arguing in a 2002 Senate floor speech that "the spiritual door was opened for an attack against the United States of America" because we pressured Israel to give away parts of the West Bank.
The phrases "anti-American" and "America-haters" are among the most barren and manipulative in our entire political lexicon, but whatever they happen to mean on any given day, they easily encompass people who believe that the U.S. deserved the 9/11 attacks, devastating hurricanes and the like. Yet when are people like Falwell, Robertson, Hagee, Inhofe and other white Christian radicals ever described as anti-American or America-hating extremists? Never -- because white Christian evangelicals who tie themselves to the political Right are intrinsically patriotic.
This is a great point and furthermore, saying that American foreign policy caused 9/11--as crude as that claim is--is at least a claim, and can be argued. Unlike, say, arguing that gays caused Katrina and 9/11.
Allow me to sweat myself for a minute. Kirkus reviewed TBS last week. While it's inaccessible to non-subscribers, the review is on the B&N website here.
"The world was filled with great causes-Mandela, Nicaragua, and the battle against Reagan," Coates writes. "But we died for sneakers stitched by serfs, coats that gave props to teams we didn't own, hats embroidered with the names of Confederate states." It's one of the saddest descriptions of the crack epidemic ever put to page. Given the tragic number of African-Americans who didn't survive that epidemic, it's a pleasure to read the author's awed appraisal of a fatherwho never stopped striving for the best in his family and community, no matter how hopeless the view outside his window. A rare, lyrical family memoir that rises above banal domesticity.
Heh yeah. We were a lot of things. Banal domestics ain't one of em...
I am a Hillary Clinton supporter.
There, I said it.
And I'm tired of the dirty looks I get when I out myself. Why is it so surprising that someone like me – a black, educated, progressive chick – would put my support behind Hillary Clinton?
Oh, I know. I'm black, so, of course, I should support Barack Obama for the number one position in the country.
Wait but wasn't it only a year ago that people were running around claiming that Obama had little support in the black community? It's amazing how quickly the narrative switches. Anyway, obviously I'm fine with black folks voting for Hillary, but please do not invoke the following reasoning;
It's never okay to be racist in our world, but, unfortunately, it's still 'normal' to be sexist.
This is good to know. From now on I'll tell my son that he has been born into a magnificent age in which racism is dead. The foolish Gloria Steinem argument is one of those backwards statements that people just repeat without even attempting to prove. They just say it. And of course, if you see the "Gloria Steinem" card, you know the "Questioning My Blackness" card isn't far behind:
Now, in case you're questioning, I do have race pride. No question about it. I am absolutely connected to the beautiful, soulful energy of African-American culture. But I hate that I just had to say that. I hate that all black Clinton supporters are somehow expected to qualify their blackness, as if we are naïve at best and traitors to the race at worst. Hillary's national co-chair, Sheila Jackson Lee, had to do it, too. She said on the Tavis Smiley Show, "I did not leave my blackness at the door. I am still a sister. I shout in the church. I love the Lord. And I love my people."
Who cares. No one's talking about your people, stop changing the subject. I'd give her the Strawmanship Of The Year award, if I hadn't already given it to Ferraro. I accuse you of supporting an oppurtunistic, morally bankrupt candidate and the respons is, "How dare you question my blackness?!?!" I mean, really. Get a grip. Drop the whining and woe-is-me-ism. Make the case for your candidate and then keep it moving.
Folks I think this is a big deal. While I expect Obama to put some distance between him and Rev. Wright, he can't do his standard shtick of attacking black people, and call that a speech on race. That's not a dis. I like him dealing with black homophobia. I less like him dealing with black antisemitism, not because I think there are no black antisemites, but because I think it's a trumped up issue which people overstate and then exploit. People attack Farrakhan--like he somehow is demonstrative of the mind-state of black folks--while ignoring these rabid right-wingers who "support" Israel, because they believe it will beckon the Apocalypse...
Oh sorry, was I ranting? Anyway, my point is he needs to stand up for Trinity and he needs to stand up for black people--if only just a little bit. Even if he doesn't share Rev. Wright's views, he can't act like they come out nowhere. Most white people in this country simply have not a clue what it's like--not so much for us young'uns--but for folks who actually saw segregation. I'm thinking about people like Rev. Wright and my Pops, folks who actually went into the service and found that a substantial portion of this country still didn't see them as any more American. Barack can be candid. I expect him to make a case for us letting bygones be bygones---and I'm with him on that. I'm so tired of fighting over Affirmative Action, but I'm just getting warmed up on an Earned Income Tax credit for men, and a case for a different prison policy hinged on fiscal responsibility. But he can't act like these views come out of nowhere. He just can't.
As If I needed any more reasons to feel good about the impending end of my cable TV service...
Not exactly shocked McCain doesn't take Hannity's bait. It's a good move for him, as TPM has said--he either lets the 527s do the dirty work, or maybe he just knows that he's got even worse people who are--still--backing him...
Yeah, hackery is one thing. But fake hackery is just over-board. RIght wing fool, Bill Kristol relies on that vaunted source of info NEWSMAX and thus reproduces a major error in the pages of the Grey Lady in which he accuses Obama of being at particularly ferocious Rev. Wright Sermon in Chi-town. One problem--Obama was in Miami. Seriously, what does it take for this idiot to loose his job? Isn't this like his third error?
So after some input from a few other people (Hey Pops! Hey Chris!) I think I may have gone a little too hard on the Wright Rev. I still don't know what I think--I imagine that part of my distaste stems from a visceral dislike of people using religion to further politics. I know that everyone in the country does this, and among black folks it's been especially powerful. I don't have a strong argument here against it, accept a very personal one, and that being that I was essentially raised agnostic, and thus just don't "get" religion. But that's about me, not Rev. Wright,
That said, one of the big things that's made me reconsider all this is the fact right-wing political folks are some much worse and utterly and unapologetically bigoted. My Pops sent me the following off of HuffPo and I think you might see what I'm talking about within:
Every Sunday thousands of right wing white preachers (following in my father's footsteps) rail against America's sins from tens of thousands of pulpits. They tell us that America is complicit in the "murder of the unborn," has become "Sodom" by coddling gays, and that our public schools are sinful places full of evolutionists and sex educators hell-bent on corrupting children. They say, as my dad often did, that we are, "under the judgment of God." They call America evil and warn of immanent destruction. By comparison Obama's minister's shouted "controversial" comments were mild. All he said was that God should damn America for our racism and violence and that no one had ever used the N-word about Hillary Clinton.
More later, once I know how I feel. One thing that's clearly at work here though, is something present in all of black life--we always get penalized more. Clearly Wright's statements aren't even in the same ballpark as some these wing-nuts. Furthermore, while it's simplistic to say it this way, isn't it basically true that 9/11 results from American foreign policy? Did we or did we not empower the Mujahideen in Afghanistan?
Haha. An oldie but goodie...
Sullivan basically sums up my feeling:
It's nutty, offensive and paranoid stuff. And it is perfectly legitimate for reporters and voters to ask questions. It is not much nuttier than Falwell and Robertson, however. And I don't think it's racist to understand that the black church has a different cultural style in its preaching and activism style that helps add some dimension to Wright's record.
Also here's a video of Trinity's incoming pastor which makes me really hopeful
So this is me on Ferraro in Slate:
The racist card is textbook strawmanship. As opposed to having to address whether her comments were, as Obama said, "wrongheaded" and "absurd," Ferraro gets to debate something that only she can truly judge—the contents of her heart.
It's a clever and unassailable move: How would you actually prove that Ferraro is definitively a racist? Furthermore, it appeals to our national distaste for whiners. It's irrelevant that the Obama campaign never called Ferraro a racist. It's also irrelevant that Ferraro said the same thing of Jesse Jackson in 1988. And it's especially irrelevant that Ferraro apparently believes that Obama's Ivy League education, his experience as an elected official, and his time of service on the South Side of Chicago pale in comparison with the leg-up he's been given as a black male in America. By positioning herself as a victim of political correctness run amok, Ferraro stakes out the high ground of truth telling.
A couple commenters pointed out that I never explicitly said why I thought Ferraro's comments were racist. Fair enough. Basically anytime you reduce someone success or failure strictly to their race, the comment is racist, no? The most potent aspect of racism, to me, is that it simplifies people, it dehumanizes them, and strips them of all complexity. Ferraro argued that the most essential factor in Obama's success was that he was lucky to be black--not his skills as a politician, not his intelligence, not his education, not his speech-making. He's black, and thus is getting a pass from hypnotized blacks and, more importantly, sympathetic whites.
When you discount all of someone's attributes, and essentially say that, but for the sympathy of white people, you would not be in this race, I don't know what else that is, besides racism. It's dehumanizing, belittling, and false. Again, if I said that the only reason Hillary was in contention is because she's a woman, that would be patently sexist. There'd be no debate at all. So why are all complicated about race?
Man I tried to avoid this dude. At first I thought it was that his personal life was being dragged out into the open. But now, Kilpatrick has gone off the deep-end--taking his critics with him, as Jack and Jill demonstrates. They're a little kinder to him then I would be, still it's a good post
Most of this video is pretty inoffensive stuff, but casting the crucifixion of Jesus as a racist crime committed by Italians seems silly. I mean, I don't believe in the crucifixion of Jesus as historical fact or as an article of faith, but if I did, this would come off as bigoted to me. I don't think Barack can stand with his pastor on this one, and I'd think no less of him for denouncing this. Citing the also-bigoted Pastor Hagee doesn't cut it. Either we're setting a new tone here, or we aren't. But that's just me. See for yourself.
For the record Kelly Goff was wrong--South Carolina is the first state with a sizable black population. What I think she's trying to say though is that Obama was behind in the polls amongst black voters for months, and they only came around once he actively solicited their votes.
Nevertheless, watch this clip and then afterward say it with me children--There is no racism...There is no racism...There is no racism...
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