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.

  • People Who Should Quit While They're Ahead Pt. 2

    Yglesias on Dick Cheney:

    It's really remarkable when you think about it that anyone would listen to Cheney on the subject of national security. His administration was by far the least successful in American history in terms of preventing international terrorists from murdering Americans. Also by far the least successful in American history in terms of preventing international terrorists from murdering NATO allies. And the military action his administration pursued in response to the terrorist attack we suffered under their watch has come to be mired in problems, teetering on the brink of failure, almost entirely thanks to a second--but completely unnecessary--war his administration chose to undertake in favor of successfully completing the first one.

    Maybe he's running for president in 2012. Man we should be so lucky.

  • The NAACP Subprime Suit

    The NAACP is claiming that Wells Fargo and HSBC discriminated against black families, by steering them toward subprime loans. I'm of a two minds on the subprime crisis. I hope that one thing that comes out of it, is that we learn not to sign contracts, which make us liable for hundreds of thousands of dollars, that we don't fully understand. Brokers, who stand to gain from the sale, don't count as independent advisers. That said, I think that the banks will need to explain this:

    Blacks still were disproportionately steered into subprime loans when their credit scores, income and down payment were equal to those of white homebuyers, he said.

    Adam has more on the suit.

  • Black People, Culture And Poverty

    Sudhir Venkatesh salutes William Julius Wilson's new book More Than Just Race for its willingness to talk intelligently about the role culture plays in black poverty. I am a Wilson fan, and though I haven't seen his book, I can believe that it's all Venkatesh says it is. I have one quibble. Throughout, the piece Venkatesh uses the term "black" interchangeably with "black and poor."

    The book stands to have a powerful impact in policy circles because it points to the elephant in the room. Wilson knows it is difficult to engineer cultural change. We can train black youths, we can move their families to better neighborhoods, etc., but changing their way of thinking is not so easy. Evidence of this lies in the many "mobility" programs that move inner-city families to lower-poverty suburbs: Young women continue to have children out of wedlock and, inexplicably, the young men who move out return to their communities to commit crime! These patterns flummox researchers and, according to Wilson, they will continue to remain mysterious until we look at culture for an answer.

    I think it takes a real flight of fancy to dismiss the culture argument. If you are rich and you've been rich for generations, you almost certainly develop cultural habits. Likewise, if you're poor and you've been poor for generations, you do the same. If you've been wealthy for generations and you were suddenly asked to function in the ghetto, you may have problems because you didn't know the rules. You weren't acculturated. Likewise, if you're poor and you're trying to climb up the economic ladder, you may also have problems. What will keep you safe in the projects, may well get you fired from a job, or kicked out of school. I think this would be true whether you are poor in West Baltimore, or poor in West Virginia.

    But one reason that a lot of African-Americans get pissed off at cultural arguments is because the "culture of poverty" is often so easily transposed over the "culture of black people." I went to public school all my life. So does my son. I've had my share of contact with the culture of poverty. But the culture that encourages people to jump the broom at weddings, isn't the same as the culture that makes drug-dealing a choice occupation. The culture at, say, Spelman isn't the same as the culture of the projects here in Harlem. And the culture at Spelman isn't the same as the culture at Howard.

    To take it back to that quote, my son is a "black youth." He goes to school with other "black youth." He plays on a football team populated by still more "black youth." Some of these kids have been acculturated to poverty. Some of them haven't. We aren't trying to change how "black youth" think, we're trying to change how people acculturated to poverty think. A disproportionate number of them happen to black. Given the weight of a century of systemic wealth discrimination (from emancipation to the Civil Rights movement), I don't know why we''re surprised by that fact.

    Still, I increasingly wonder what role "black" plays in anything. If you looked at the cultural practices that hold poor black people back, would you find more synergy in middle class black America, or poor white\Latino\Asian America? If you looked at the cultural practices of poor black people in cities, how much would they differ from the practices of poor people in cities historically? Culture attracts such protest from many blacks not because we think that the culture of poverty is a myth, but because the mass of us who, in the space of about 40 years, have made more progress than any group of blacks before us, don't deserve to be told that our culture is making people poor. Seriously. Fried catfish and Outkast ain't never disenfranchised nobody.

  • People Who Should Quit While They're Ahead

    Tucker Carlson takes it to John Stewart, who bodied him back in 2004:

    No, I think Jon Stewart is dishonest. And by the way, I also think he's a sacred cow. There's nobody who has the huevos to attacks Jon Stewart because he's too popular. The press sucks up to him like I've never seen -- it's like Oprah. Jon Stewart, all the kids watch Jon Stewart. He's brilliant. I would like to see somebody have the stones to come out and say, Jon Stewart's kind of a pompous jerk, actually.

    Heh, I always love it when people claim "no one" is allowed to attack a guy, right before they do just that. Anyway, Carlson goes on to claim that Stewart isn't funny and that the rest of the world will soon see this. Of course Carlson has been dumped twice, since Stewart's been on the Daily Show. It's worth rewatching that Stewart take-down. It's timeless. Like KRS tossing PM Dawn off stage and then rocking their crowd. Except better.

  • Three Percent Of D.C. Residents Have HIV

    I really, really, really wish I could say I was surprised:

    The District's report found a 22 percent increase in HIV and AIDS cases from the 12,428 reported at the end of 2006, touching every race and sex across population and neighborhoods, with an epidemic level in all but one of the eight wards. Black men, with an infection rate of nearly 7 percent, carry the weight of the disease, according to the report, which also underscores that the District's HIV and AIDS population is aging. Almost 1 in 10 residents between the ages of 40 and 49 has the virus.

    The report notes that "this growing population will have significant implications on the District's health care system" as residents face chronic medical problems associated with aging and fighting a disease that compromises the immune system.

    Men having sex with men has remained the disease's leading mode of transmission. Heterosexual transmission and injection drug use closely follow, the report says. Three percent of black women carry the virus, partly a result of the increase in heterosexual transmissions.

    There's something to be said for the demographics of D.C. making this possible. But still, those numbers are just shocking.

  • The Strength Of Street Knowledge

    Below is the most damning clip from the Cramer\Stewart face-off. Stewart is obviously a genius, and he had Cramer's number. Still, something about it all didn't sit quite right with me. Stewart rightly attacked CNBC for not doing their job, and then he attacked Cramer for "throwing plastic cows through his legs." But I couldn't stop wondering the sort of nation takes its most crucial advice from a guy who throws cows through his legs?

    In all of this, I find myself unsatisfied by the critique. For me, the investigation always begins at home--Who are we? Why is there a market for foolishness? I don't know much about the financial world. I come to this equipped solely with the weaponry I was deeded by the streets of Baltimore, and in the home of Cheryl Waters and Paul Coates. The shield in that arsenal, is the intuitive sense that no one gives you a house for nothing, that you don't base your future on advice from the dude who cameos on Arrested Development. Nothing special there. I think we all have access to the shield of Street Knowledge, and yet in these times, we seem to have put our faith, not in our innate sense, but in the worst sort of clownery.

    I like Jon Stewart. I thought he did a good thing yesterday. But I left that interview unsatisfied. I left it wondering about the animal in us I know who Jim Cramer is. I know what wracks him. But what about us? Who are we in all this? Why are CNBC ratings still soaring? What madness has led us to hand off our shields and put our future in the hands of shaman and faith-healers?

  • The Base Ain't Racist Kid, They Only Hate You

    Anybody ready to start taking bets?

    On Thursday, several religious right officials and anti-abortion advocates criticized Steele for telling the magazine that he "absolutely" thought abortion was "an individual choice," to be decided at the state level.

    Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee: "Comments attributed to Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele are very troubling and despite his clarification today the party stands to lose many of its members and a great deal of its support in the trenches of grassroots politics."

    Roberta Combs, president of the Christian Coalition: "I'm a little surprised that Michael Steele, being the leader of the Republican Party, is at odds with the pro-life platform, the platform that conservative put in place... If this is his viewpoint, he has made it be known. I'm just surprised that the leader of the party is at odds with the pro-life platform."

    Evangelical leader Lou Engle: "Steele's argument that abortion is a matter of "individual choice" is extremely disappointing, especially in light of past statements in which he promised to protect and defend human life. "Steele's remarks to GQ indicate that he may be confused about "choice" and the "law." The law is supposed to protect human life, not permit the taking of it. And, it can never be a "choice" for an individual to take a life."

    Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council: "I read the article last night so I am familiar not only with his comments about the life issue but also about the efforts to redefine marriage and 'mucking' up the Constitution. I expressed my concerns to the chairman earlier this week about previous statements that were very similar in nature. He assured me as chairman his views did not matter and that he would be upholding and promoting the Party platform, which is very clear on these issues. It is very difficult to reconcile the GQ interview with the chairman's pledge."


  • Stewart vs. Cramer (pre-fight buzz)

    This is actually pretty interesting. One thing I've noticed, is from what I've seen, there are a some people (Scarborough) more pissed-off at Stewart, than Cramer is himself. I haven't watched his show enough to pass judgment. I have a visceral distrust of (borderline prejudice against) people who yell, and make a crazy show of themselves. I think people have a right to be wrong, but I generally dislike those who are wrong and take no responibility. I don't know where Cramer fits into that. I don't know if he's Santelli. I haven't watched enough of his show. I just think Jon Stewart is funny.

  • Virtual Weaksauce

    Some fool is claiming to hold a patent on all virtual gaming worlds:

    Worlds.com claims to hold a patent for the idea of virtual worlds that dates back to 1995 and that could quite literally apply to every 3-D online world currently in existence. In fact, Worlds.com has already taken one MMOG heavyweight to court: Korea-based NCsoft, the company behind games like Lineage and Guild Wars. And while legal expert Ben Buranske, contacted by Business Insider, says the wealth of "prior art" will make the case tough to prove, World.com's court of choice, the Eastern District of Texas, is notorious for handing heavy damage awards to plaintiffs in cases like this. Nintendo was recently ordered to pay $21 million in damages after a jury in the district found the company had violated 12 patents relating to its controllers held by a small Texas company called Anascape.

    "Being a foreign defendant in Texas is not a pleasant thing," a lawyer familiar with the NCsoft case said. "The juries are, many would say, biased towards American plaintiffs and have a propensity to offer high damages. Some defendants might view them as an unfriendly jury and it might make the defendant more likely to settle." That could be bad news for companies like Blizzard and Linden Lab, which Kidrin says he is "absolutely" going to sue if his suit against NCsoft is successful.

    Ugh. Talk about a hustle...

  • The End Of The Michael Steele Era

    Here's the chairmen on abortion:

    How much of your pro-life stance, for you, is informed not just by your Catholic faith but by the fact that you were adopted?
    Oh, a lot. Absolutely. I see the power of life in that--I mean, and the power of choice! The thing to keep in mind about it... Uh, you know, I think as a country we get off on these misguided conversations that throw around terms that really misrepresent truth.

    Explain that.
    The choice issue cuts two ways. You can choose life, or you can choose abortion. You know, my mother chose life. So, you know, I think the power of the argument of choice boils down to stating a case for one or the other.

    Are you saying you think women have the right to choose abortion?
    Yeah. I mean, again, I think that's an individual choice.

    You do?
    Yeah. Absolutely.

    Are you saying you don't want to overturn Roe v. Wade?
    I think Roe v. Wade--as a legal matter, Roe v. Wade was a wrongly decided matter.

    Okay, but if you overturn Roe v. Wade, how do women have the choice you just said they should have?
    The states should make that choice. That's what the choice is. The individual choice rests in the states. Let them decide.

    I think that about does it. I don't know when, but I can't see Republicans letting this sideshow continue. It's fascinating. I've been reading about Steele for years, but I still have no idea why he's a Republican. I've yet to get any sense of deep conviction from him. Colin Powell, I got. Condie Rice, I got. I even get Clarence Thomas. But what I get from Steele feels almost like a hustle.

  • Ross Douthat...

    ...is going to work for the New York Times as a columnist. Ross and I fight under different flags. But I expect he'll be at the Times, what he always was here--a swordsman of great caliber and greater honor. Here's to him. The roster won't be the same once he's gone.

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