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. 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.

  • George Will and Intellectual Honesty

    Matt's on the case:

    This started as a problem for Will, his direct supervisors, and the Post's ombudsman. But now that the Post as a paper is standing behind Will's deceptions, I think it's a problem for all the other people who work at the Post. Some of those people do bad work, which is too bad. And some of those people do good work. And unfortunately, that's worse. It means that when good work appears in the Post it bolsters the reputation of the Post as an institution. And the Post, as an institution, has taken a stand that says it's okay to claim that up is down. It's okay to claim that day is night. It's okay to claim that hot is cold. It's okay to claim that a consensus existed when it didn't. It's okay to claim that George Will is a better source of authority on interpreting the ACRC's scientific research than is the ACRC. Everyone who works at the Post, has, I think, a serious problem.

    This is true, in some sense, though I think too broad. A great story, broken by the Post, will still be a great story. Still, it's amazing that the Post is standing behind Will. One reason blogs are starting to eclipse edit pages is that there is an independent mechanism to hold bloggers accountable. I can say all the stupid things I want, but I know that there is an industry out there waiting to take me to the woodshed. This is a good thing.

    But more than that, as Matt points out, in any form of journalism, a writer arguing that he better understands the research than the actual experts who compiled the research, is suspect. Any editor worth his title would at least throw up a red flag. George Will isn't held to that standard because he's a brand unto himself. The temptation is to think he's gotten away with something. I'm not so sure. Will always enjoyed a veneer of indy respectability, someone who stood out amongst the babbling diarrhea merchants. With this piece, and with his inability to be forthright, Will simply takes another step toward good old fashion hackery.

  • Rachel Maddow On Michael Steele

    I mostly agree with her take--especially the point about no real black electoral representation. But I think it's worth noting that diversifying is a long term process. Michael Steele's awkward and comic attempts are exactly how these conversations start. Still, the real question is whether these guys can diversify their policies. Hiring a black guy won't make the Minutemen go away.

  • Even The Gospel Vote Is Leaving Burris...

    If you're the only black guy in the Senate and you can't hold on to the black church, you've got a problem:

    Many of the city's most influential black pastors supported Roland Burris' appointment to the U.S. Senate, even though his name had been put forward by then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Now that support may be waning.

    A faction of black ministers plans to ask for Burris' resignation following revelations that the senator tried to raise money for the disgraced governor who appointed him, one of the ministers told The Associated Press on Thursday, speaking on condition of anonymity because a meeting with Burris had not yet been scheduled.

    Clergy Speaks Interdenominational, an umbrella group that includes hundreds of Chicago's black churches, will meet Friday to discuss its support for Burris, spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin said. For now, the group still supports him and its leaders are unaware of discussions about asking him to resign, she said.


  • TNC's Gone Till November

    Or at least till tomorrow. Headed to Baltimore with Samori, to talk to some kids. I'll do my best to only use standard English. In the meantime, I leave my 80s people with a treat. Stand up ladies. Fellas too. You can't hate on Jerrica...

  • There's a sign at the door, "No Biting Allowed."

    I think Michael Steele's comments speak for themselves. Still, his bout of slanguage fail made me want to offer a hand. The GOP has a lot of work to do, if it's going to become "hip-hop." Can't just begin with Lil Wayne, you know? Anyway, the Juice Crew seems like an appropriate start.

    I take you over like a greedy executive...Coming back like I'm avenging my brother's death...Cause rocking a Party, yo it's a small thing...When it comes to money, Yo, Grant's my nigger...

  • GOP Suicide-Watch

    I'm not the Atlantic's resident political analyst, but this looks, well, politically stupid:

    A handful of Republican governors are considering turning down some money from the federal stimulus package, a move opponents say puts conservative ideology ahead of the needs of constituents struggling with record foreclosures and soaring unemployment.

    Though none has outright rejected the money available for education, health care and infrastructure, the governors of Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alaska, South Carolina and Idaho have all questioned whether the $787 billion bill signed into law this week will even help the economy.

    I don't see this happening. More likely, these guys are trying to save some face.


  • Eric Holder's Boring-Ass Speech On Race

    I'm sure the diarrhea merchants are having a field day with that "nation of cowards" line. I understand the desire amongst white folks to not be typecast as the scheming, sniveling villain. It's simplistic, and dehumanizing. It reduces individuals into an indistinguishable, robotic mass.

    That said, you could only be offended by that line if you think "the nation" only includes white people. For the record, given the behavior of a lot of "black leaders"--and black people--pre-Iowa,  cowardly ain't exactly wrong. Anyway, I really have no idea what Holder meant, beyond what he literally said. I found his speech unremarkable and vague. But I can only take that line as it was--a statement about the entire nation.

  • The Burden Of Ebonics

    I received the most fascinating note in the mail this morning:

    Dear Mr. Coates,

    Recently I heard you in an interview and finally found a comparison which explains to me why I object to your use of language. I come from a country where children speaking dialect have had a hard time in school, first because German orthography is pretty close to the spoken word and second for being discriminated against because they are considered to come from uneducated backgrounds

    Having said that even though I love dialects for their often much more colorful way of expressing things than would be impossible in High (sic) German (i.e. standard German) there are some heavily accented German speakers I object to and others I do not - I keep asking myself, where's the difference and differences keep popping into my mind all the time - basically it all comes to it somehow does not match or sounds rebellious in a counter-productive way - when I saw that video of that poor black kid from Selma? who blew something, I forgot what, I realized how detrimental it must be for people like him if that kind of language is promoted by role models, people like you who have made it to a decent way of life.

    It's funny, I never thought of my accent as particularly thick, but I get this quite a bit. I don't post this to take offense, but to highlight a point of view that's often shared with me. I don't get the notion that a kid listening to me talk about my book, would decide that the primary message is to never learn standard English. I've never met a kid that stupid. But I guess they're out there. Somewhere.

    Anyway, this idea that one should learn standard English in order to not be discriminated against is, from my perspective, poisonous. I think about my own kid, and I want him to learn standard English for the same reasons I'd want him to learn any language--because language is way of looking at the world, because it's a way of expressing yourself, because it builds bridges to people who aren't like you, and ultimately, because, put simply, it's good to be curious.

    Therein lies the irony--the desire to patrol someone else's accent strikes me as deeply incurious. It is intelligence as artifice, a knowledge garnered to, at best, kowtow to equally incurious people or, at worst, preen over others who aren't as fortunate. Hmm, maybe I do take offense. Not because of anything said about me, but because I deeply resent ignorance that dresses itself up as wisdom.

    My siblings, for the most part, came up like me. They mostly talk like me. But all of them also have--like a lot of black people--a kind of second voice, a rather nonthreatening, standardized style of speak. It's key to remove about a third of all bass. I don't dis that second voice--it is the language of their professional world and it should be recognized, and respected. The only reason I never developed one, was because my field never required it. In fact, in my work, it may good to be thought of as less intelligent. The proof, at the end of the day, is in the product.

  • Space Invaded: Video Game Developers Go Hollywood

    Slate tackles hard times in the video game biz:

    ...how can publishers lose money amid such incredible sales and record growth? The answer is simple: They're spending more than they're bringing in. Game development budgets have ballooned, and publishers are reeling because they can't keep the costs under control.

    Games weren't always expensive to make: In the early days, a boy with an Apple II could rule the world. While there are still scads of cheaply made games on the market, all of today's big publishers employ hundreds of professional developers per game. These projects take years to complete, as each new generation of hardware allows for unprecedented advances in graphics, sound, and everything else. The greater the complexity of the game, the larger the development team. The larger the development team, the bigger the budget.

    While industry leaders anticipated that budgets would creep higher, the shift to high-definition gaming with Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Sony's PlayStation 3 has proved to be more expensive than estimated. At a conference in the spring of 2006, then-Midway developer Cyrus Lum sounded the warning, telling his audience that game development budgets could rise as high as $15 million to $25 million for a single title--previously unheard-of averages. "We need to rethink how we're financing games," Lum concluded.

    One thing I wonder about, from a PC perspective at least, is whether there are diminishing returns for ramped-up graphics. Clearly they help, that's not in dispute--but some of my favorite old video games are still great and enjoyable, mostly because they're great games. Everyone knows WoW isn't exactly pushing the boundaries in terms of hardware. And my kid still enjoys Pac-Man...

  • Battlestar Blogging: I Nominated My Cell-Mate For President

    "The Farm" is, by far, the best episode I've seen. Pretty intense. The most captivating characters on display. The least compelling playing the back. No Baltar. No Six. No Ellen Tigh (Thank God). No weak-ass Callie (Sorry, she needs to take some tips from Wee-Bey on how to be calm when you bout to murk a fool.). Adama back at em. Starbuck in effect. The Prez blessing felons. Helo and Sharon doing the rescue thing. Pretty ass-kicking, I must say. Also the doc did a really cool acting job.

    It actually reminded of this great GI Joe episode, where Shipwreck is brainwashed by Cobra, and then given the life he always wanted. They even bring back one of his lost loves from another episode. Eventually he finds out it's all a fraud. Dark as hell, and arguably the only Joe episode (short of the great Serpentor movie) that stands up. Don't know why it made me think of that.

    Alright boys and girls, I'm rolling with you. If this ends badly. I know who to blame. Cobra-la-la-la-la!!!!111ONE


  • About that New York Post cartoon...

    Getting a lot of e-mails asking me what I think of the cartoon the Post ran. Meh. I think it is what is. A bad cartoon. And a bad joke. Here's Sharpton:

    The cartoon in today's New York Post is troubling at best given the historic racist attacks of African-Americans as being synonymous with monkeys. One has to question whether the cartoonist is making a less than casual reference to this when in the cartoon they have police saying after shooting a chimpanzee that "Now they will have to find someone else to write the stimulus bill.

    So say we all. Can we get back to grown folk business now?

  • Sometimes it feels like another country

    Andrew on Arkansas:

    The state still formally forbids non-believers from holding public office in its constitution, even though this is unconstitutional at a national level. An attempt to end that anomaly just failed. But it's not as if Arkansans can't move with the times: they did just pass a law to allow people to bring guns into church.

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