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.

  • Michael Steele's Unwarranted, Unprovoked Attack On Ebonics

    You'd think I of, all people, would be sympathetic to Michael Steele's effort to bring some slanguage to the GOP. You know how I do--if at least a third of my readers, at any given time, aren't headed to google then I'm doing something wrong. I've got no problem with speaking in native tongues to foreigners. My beef is simple--From citing ancient rappers, to shouting out "urban-suburban hip-hop settings," Michael Steele is abusing the language I love. The last straw is below where Steele tells Neil Cavuto, "I'm always open for everything, baby."

    Dear Michael. For the black in all of us. Please stop now. Talk like a regular human being and stop trying to teach the dun language. You are not prepared.

  • I Keep Seeing These Obama vs. The CBC Stories

    But there's never any real meat to them:

    Yet Obama maintained a distant relationship with the caucus when he was its only Senate member from 2004-08. That dynamic was on display early in the Democratic presidential primary, when many senior caucus members initially backed Hillary Rodham Clinton even as Obama quickly became viable as a candidate.

    Really? CBC members actually acting like politicians is evidence of "distance?" A quick note of recall:

    As America prepares for a string of primaries and caucuses to determine who will be its next Democratic and Republican nominees for president, the majority of the 42-member Congressional Black Caucus who have chosen to endorse in the race is split 15-15 between CBC member Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton.

    I can't see why that would have been shocking. Put differently, how many members of the CBC would have supported Jesse Jackson Jr. or Harold Ford, had they been running against Clinton? What is the specific evidence of this distance between Obama and the CBC? Look I have my issues with the Caucus (especially over backing Bobby Rush in the Burris flap), but where is the story here? Where is the actual beef?

  • Red Eyed

    Not a particularly smart idea to fly into L.A. and then back out on the same day. I feel like I'm walking in mud. Anyway, some good entertainment for a fraked up day. Sorry we're getting started so late boys and girls. Will try got keep it moving.

  • A journey back in time

    With great respect for Megan, and much love, I think it's worth revisiting our debate from a few months back. You can read our banter, here, here and here. I stand by this essential argument:

    You don't say. Obama was the next Kennedy. Then he became the next McGovern. Or was that the next Stevenson? Now he's the next FDR. And Jindal is the next him--because he's, you know, swarthy. The thing about Obama that people, apparently, still don't get is that thus far he has proved himself a damn good politician. He is not simply the eloquent black dude who won--although he's that too. He's the dude who reinvented campaign fundraising, who pioneered the use of social networking, who won Virginia and North Carolina, who ended 50 plus 1.

    Put simply: Hazy appeals to precedent are teh lamesauce. Jindal may well recover, and may well ultimately be the man. But it won't be because he was the next anything. It'll be because he's found what works for Bobby.

  • That Exe File

    The tech guys are on it. More info as soon as I get something definite. Avoid that 3rd Bass video, for now.

  • California Knows How To Party

    Folks blogging will be light today as I'm headed West. We'll resume Thursday--assuming I've recovered from what I expect to be a punishing Red Eye back. Talk amongst yourself. Let's hear about that State Of The Union. Heh, and Jindal's "response." Yes I know, liberal haughtiness. Har, har, har! Alright, gotta catch a flight folks.

  • Durbin Tells Burris To Bounce

    This is just sad. Sometimes ambition is blinding.

  • Can It Be That It Was All So Simple Then...

    MF Doom, Pete Nice, and MC Serch--the dancing-est white boy you've ever seen. Is it a mistake that he's Jewish? OK, that was ignorant. No, here's ignorant--All the white kids at our school who hung out with black people were simply called 3rd Bass. I don't know if that's an insult or not.

    Anyway, "Gasface" is great, and from a time when it was cool to smile. Makes me think of that great Rae line? "Could it be, and would it be, that we was babies\Catchin, rabies, niggers seem to act crazy..."

  • And yet...


    I can't stop watching Mary McDonnell. What an infuriating show. Never has heavy-handism been so hard to turn away from.

  • Some Random Thoughts On The Limits Of Umbrage

    I spent Sunday at Abyssinia Baptist Church. It may have been the most "African-American" service I'd ever seen--emphasis on both halves of the hyphen. The service began with the choir singing "Lift Every Voice" and ended with them singing "We Shall Overcome." There was this weird inversion of the past--plenty of whites in attendance, and some Asian cats also. But virtually all of them were seated up top in the balcony, and I was left thinking about the days when blacks had to sit in the balcony for movies and plays. This wasn't intentional, but the the bottom rows filled up fairly quick with regulars, and the top was all that was left.

    There was the most beautiful choral music, I mean the sort of choral music that made me wish Primo or Rza were sitting next to me digging for samples. Forgive my fumbling here, I did not come up in the church so words may fail here. What I want to say is the music sounded very Westernized, the sort an ignoramus, like me, would expect to see white folks singing. But it was beautiful, and in fact had been authored by a black woman, "Non Nobis Domine" was the piece, I think.

    Butts ripped shop of course. He's an awesome preacher. Maybe there's hope for a heathen like me, yet. But much of the sermon was fixated on Rupert Murdoch and last week's cartoon. And then yesterday, I was in D.C. for a panel at the Aspen Institute, and many of the questions revolved around the Post cartoon, the New Yorker cartoon, and Eric Holder's "nation of cowards" quote. The questions in the air seemed to be, who should be offended and how much? I, mostly, defended the New Yorker, saying I thought the cover was pretty bad, but evidence of a plot was wanting. I didn't really defend the Post, so much as I couldn't find my way into the offensive.

    Perhaps I shouldn't address this--for whatever reason bad cartoons just don't boil the blood around these parts. Still, I kept thinking about it, and it hit me when I saw this video below. John McCain tries to knife Obama at yesterday's event. It's not that raising the cost of the helicopter is illegitimate. But that stupid, passive-aggressive grin comes over him just as he delivers the line. We've all seen that grin before--it's usually paired with a "my friends." But later for that, watch Obama's response. Classy. Cool. And funny. He's not concerned with whether McCain is trying to knife him or not. He's beyond it. I think there is a serious lesson for black folks in the manner in which Obama handles opposition--the legitimate opposition, but especially the illegitimate opposition.

    More than any black public figure in recent memory, Obama understands the problems with a strategy premised on taking offense. It's not that Obama never takes umbrage, it's that he's careful about what and when he takes umbrage. I don't really know what the line is. But I know taking offense at calling the stimulus bill a spending bill hits people in a way that, say, taking offense at Michael Steele wouldn't.

    There a certain sect of the American commentariat which believes black people complain about the country too much. Usually this same sect spends their time complaining about the country even more. I'm not down with that. But I think all of us should think hard about what we take offense, why, and what good ultimately comes of it. Apologies, I guess. I'm not sure that cartoons are worth our time. But governors denying unemployment benefits to tax-payers, in order to build some political cred, certainly is.

  • The Other Black (And Biracial) President

    Adam Serwer on Ben Jealous, the new head of the NAACP:

    The board's marathon eight-hour debate session lasted until 2 A.M., when Jealous was finally selected by a vote of 34-21. Grumpy board members shuffled out of the meeting to air their objections to the press -- a marked contrast from just two years prior, when the newly elected Gordon strolled triumphantly into a room full of reporters. Many of the board members' complaints -- that Jealous was inexperienced, dismissive of established leaders like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, or simply not an active enough member of the NAACP -- were published by NNPA columnist George Curry who, despite being Jealous' longtime friend and colleague, disagreed with the board's decision. In a column he wrote about the increasing number of biracial blacks in leadership positions, Curry obliquely referenced Jealous' light skin tone, recalling a time when access to social gatherings of the black elite was often dependent on whether or not one was "light, bright, and damn near white."

    Bond says that the issue also came up in private. During a closed-door meeting of the presidential search committee, one member questioned whether the light-skinned Jealous was a good choice for the voice of the NAACP. Bond was incensed. ("It would be beneath us to consider it," he says.) The next meeting, he brought in a copy of Time magazine from 1938 featuring famed NAACP leader Walter White, who was light enough to pass as white. The subject was never brought up again.

    Still the old, stupid demons haunt us--or maybe haunt just them.

  • Tell your man you'll be home real late, and sing the break...

    Matt points us to Jessica's awesome post on "hook-up culture." Never has a phrase more deserved air quotes. I'll leave the gender politicking to my betters. Here's what I know--Every five years, or so, newspapers discover some cultural trend like this, seemingly expressly concocted to scare the crap out of people. Of course said cultural trend is usually just humans being humans, but rebranded.

    The idea that twenty years ago, people weren't having one night stands, or that young people today simply never go out on dates, again, simply doesn't smell right. It amazes me that people buy this claptrap. I deeply suspect that at the bottom of it all lay the sexual insecurities of people who wish they'd been a little more carefree in college. I strongly suspect that they don't resent hook-up culture--they resent that they didn't get hooked-up. Wouldn't be the first time. Hell if I knew in college, what I know about the opposite sex now, I'd have been Denzeling fools. Alright probably not. Wait, what was I saying?


Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.


What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.


Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.


Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.


Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.


The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air



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