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.
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.
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.
Fifty years ago, the civil-rights movement understood that nonviolence
can be an effective weapon even if--or especially if--the other side
refuses to follow suit. Obama has a similarly tough-minded
understanding of the political uses of bipartisanship, which, even if
it fails as a tactic for compromise, can succeed as a tonal strategy:
once the other side makes itself appear intransigently, destructively
partisan, the game is half won. Obama is learning to throw the ball
harder. But it's not Rovian hardball he's playing. More like Gandhian
I greatly enjoyed my stint at TIME magazine. Met some good people, did some so-so stories, and, for the first time in my life, made a salary that I could support a family on. Good memories. So, with that in mind, I hope no one takes this the wrong. It's probably a bad idea for any magazine--but especially TIME--to make a list of the Five Most Overrated Blogs.
Lots of people pointed out that I kinda dissed Jimmy, by selecting a bad version of "What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted" yesterday. I went back and listened to the original. It is, of course, fraking great. The weird thing is I'd forgotten how much I loved the harmony and back-up singing. Jimmy's bad, no question, but whoever is singing back-up is murdering. And yeah, murdering is good in this case. The thing about the Joan Osborne version, as much as I like it, is that she completely overpowers everything. Jimmy isn't weaker, but he just melds in to the song.
Barack Obama has been getting hit for not diversifying the White House enough. From Roland Martin:
But while we hold the media accountable for the need to diversify
their ranks, it's quite telling to see the lack of diversity in the
White House's press office.
I got an e-mail Tuesday listing all
of the various press folks and contact information, and hardly any
African-Americans or Hispanics were listed. Granted, the deputy press
secretary is African-American and the director of broadcast media is
Hispanic. That's not sufficient.
Unfortunately, this shouldn't
come as a shock, because the campaign press staff of then-Sen. Barack
Obama was just as weak on diversity.
Still, if you were expecting Obama to be a shining beacon of diversity
in the upper tiers of the government's elite, you are bound to be
disappointed. This goes back to the age old "chicken and egg" diversity
problem. The most common response to complaints about lack of diversity
is that there just aren't
women and minorities that would be considered qualified for such
leadership positions. But how are we supposed to increase diversity if
we never give anyone but an old, white man the opportunity to lead
Thirty-eight of the 56 appointees (68 percent) are men. (But white men,
representing 46 percent of all picks, fall short of a majority. Nearly 70 percent of these appointees are white, 7 percent are of
Asian or Pacific island descent, 16 percent are African American, and 7
percent are Latino.
I think it's good policy--and good politics--for the White House to hold diversity as a goal. It sends a message of inclusiveness to the country at large, and really to the world. But I'm mixed on this criticism. Leaving aside the fact, that Obama's picks actually have been more diverse then his predecessors, my trouble is that when I think about race and even gender, I mostly think about people who won't ever have chance to serve in a presidential cabinet. What's important to me is that an Obama's administration empower these folks to compete in ways that they haven't been empowered in decades.
I understand that this isn't an either/or--as in either diversity, or good policy. I also agree with Matt--there's reason for concern, given the demographics of the Democratic party and the country, about why there aren't more women in leadership positions. But for my part, I just can't muster much anger over there not being enough black people in the White House to take press calls. Especially given that blacks are overrepresented in the Obama administration. Especially when the cat gave his first post-election interview to Ebony, and his wife gave the first photo shoot to Essence.
The United States Senate Ethics Committee and a local Illinois prosecutor began investigations on Tuesday into the recently appointed junior senator for Illinois, Roland W. Burris, over Mr. Burris's shifting, inconsistent descriptions of how he came to be named to the seat vacated by the election of President Obama.
Mr. Burris, a onetime state attorney general chosen to fill Mr. Obama's Senate seat by Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich
in the final weeks of Mr. Blagojevich's beleaguered administration,
said he had done nothing wrong and welcomed all investigations.
"I will answer any and all questions to get that point across and
restore faith with the citizens of Illinois," he said in a statement
Tuesday afternoon before reporters in Peoria, Ill., where a planned
question-and-answer session was canceled.
Only a night earlier,
Mr. Burris, a Democrat, had provided yet another new, jolting
disclosure about his ties to Mr. Blagojevich's closest allies: In the
month or two before Mr. Blagojevich appointed him, Mr. Burris, 71,
tried, without success, to raise money for the governor, he
acknowledged, at the request of the governor's brother.
How long will it take for the "one black senator" card to played? There's something poetic in all of this. It's not that Burris is dirty--plenty of politicos are dirty. It's that he was amateurish enough to think that, with all the attention paid to this case, he was slick enough to pass. I doubt they'll throw him out. But he'll spend most of his term defending himself, and then in 2010 the Dems will bounce his ass. But hey, he'll always have the honor of being the, uhm, third black senator from Illinois.
Turn on the radio folks. Gonna be talking about the book. For those who take the recent convo as evidence of my lack of my belief in the two-parent household, I invite you to check out the book. It's mostly about parenting--and what happens when fathers are, and aren't, around.
Jimmy Ruffin vs. Joan Osborne. Jimmy is the original and smooth as hell. But I think I'm partial to Joan's rough-hewn growl. Meh, when in doubt go with the white girl. Sorry, brothers. And sisters. I guess.
A majority of African-Americans surveyed in a nationwide poll this week
reported feeling "deeply disturbed" and "more than a little weirded
out" by all the white people now smiling at them.
First witnessed shortly after President Obama's historic victory,
the open and cheerful smiling has only continued in recent months,
leaving members of the black community completely unnerved.
"On behalf of black people across this nation, I would like to say
to our white brethren, 'Please stop looking at us like that,'" said
Brown University psychology professor Dr. Stanley Carsons. "We're
excited Barack is president, too, and we're glad you're happy for us.
But giving us the thumbs up for no reason, or saying hello whenever we
walk by, is really starting to freak us out."
Added Carsons, "We just want to be able to stand in line at Home Depot without getting patted on the back."
Yes it's true. I'm the only geek in the world who's never read it. Please feel free to inveigh against me. The situation will be remedied in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, dig on the trailer. I doubt I'll be seeing the movie. But I'm very interested in the graphic novel.
Here is Bristol Palin, daughter of proud social conservative, Sarah Palin:
Bristol Palin said she is getting help from many members of her family
with raising the infant while continuing her studies. She told Van
Susteren she has no immediate plans to marry Levi Johnson, who she
described as a 'hands on Dad." Last year, there were reports that the
couple would marry in the coming year.
In a statement released hours before the convention opened, Palin and
her husband, Todd, did not say when their daughter Bristol, 17, told
them of her pregnancy. Bristol intends to marry the father, the
statement said -- a move that drew widespread praise from religious
leaders and convention delegates.
Where are those sanctimonious fucks, now? Where is the stigmatizing of Bristol Palin? Where is all their self-righteous howling? These people are not simply proud of being ignorant. They are proud of their arrogance. They are proud of their lack of self-awareness. They're proud of their fraudulence. This is real talk, for real families out there on the frontlines, doing the real hard work of child-rearing. These people want to balance your books, but they're steady bouncing checks the whole way.
UPDATE: Yeah, Frak just doesn't capture the insanity of all of this. Meanwhile commenter Buster offers a more useful frame:
I just wonder if it's not more helpful to frame it this way: Why don't these frauds extend the same decency to everyone that they are to Bristol Palin? Why are some people deserving of respect and others not? Who are those others?
The trouble is that I don't know that they've extended her any decency, as much as they know it isn't in their interest to stigmatize her. I don't think that have any more respect for her than anyone else. She's a prop to them.
Following up on Greg's post below, National Public Radio's ombudsman has penned a column addressing listener complaints about her network's most controversial personality: Left-leaning analyst fire-breathing rightwinger, Juan Williams.
And you will know them by their strawmen. For the record Williams called Michelle Obama "Stokely Carmichael in a dress" and then said she tended to "blame America first." Saying that that's the same as calling Michelle Obama "a political liability," is like calling a woman a bitch, and then later claiming you simply meant she had anger issues. Anyway, The Corner is pissed that Williams now can't ID himself as an NPR guy on Fox. Goldfarb, of closet orcs and elves fame, sees the wicked hand of lefty censorship:
Williams appears frequently on Fox News and is typically identified as
"NPR News Political Analyst," which is precisely what his job title at
NPR is. Williams is not on staff at NPR, rather he is an independent
contractor -- and thus presumably free to sell his services wherever
else he pleases. Which raises the question: does NPR even have the
right, as a government-funded network, to publicly condemn an
independent contractor for the manner in which he describes the First
Lady while on his own time?
Meh, I read the column. Neither Goldfarb nor Teh Corner quote a single graph of condemnation or wrist-slapping. Goldfarb actually quotes Juan Williams talking in the piece--not the writer. Man, with foes like these...
But the truly lamest defense of Williams--arguably the laziest defense I've heard of any public official in months, goes to Robin Givhan:
The vitriol has flown at those, such as journalist Juan Williams, who
have suggested that she can be too aggressive or dour in some of her
speeches. And the poor woman who wished in Women's Wear Daily that
Obama had worn an ensemble by a black designer during the inauguration
was verbally pummeled . . . by black designers. She and Williams may
have been wrong. But still, theirs were just opinions.
OK, stop laughing. Let me get this straight--the defense of Juan Williams is that it's "just opinions." Right. The attacks on Williams, also, were "just opinions." So what the frack is your point? Meanwhile, in the real world, opinions should be informed by something--like, you know, facts.
One way to know that these guys are bullshitting you is that not one of them has actually defended what Williams actually said. Indeed, the actual quote doesn't appear in any of these pieces. If you read them you'd be left with the impression that Williams merely suggested that Obama was a bad political surrogate. What I'm waiting on, is for of these cats to actually defend what Williams said--not what they wish he'd said. For your edification, it's linked below.
Sorry to go here again guys, but this subject keeps cropping up and is totally misunderstood. In the vein a commenter Stonetools writes:
TNC and others disputed that 7O percent of black children are born out of wedlock. Here is one source that supports that figure.
Government statistics reveal that the percentage of all babies born to unwed mothers nationally rose to 32 percent in 1997 from only 5.3 percent in 1960. Among blacks nationally, 69 percent of births were to unwed mothers.
the scholars are united that most black children are in fact born out of wedlock.
In fact, I dispute no such thing. Here is what the commenter is referring to:
The basic conclusion is that the birth rate for unmarried black women is--and has been--declining. In 1970 the birth rate for unmarried black women was 96 per 1,000. In 1980, it was 87.9. In 2005 it was 60.6. There is a huge spike in the late 1980s, but the overal trend is clear--the birth rate for unmarried black women has been declining for almost 40 years.
Something else that should add some context to that 70 percent figure which we all love. The birth rate for married black women has declined way more for married black women than it has for married white women. Also, the birth rate for unmarried women overall is on the increase, but that seems to be being driven by an increase among white and Hispanic women. It's also worth noting that the rate for unmarried black women is still waaayyyy higher than the rate for white women, while lower than the rate for Hispanic women.
I was not a statistics major in college. If anyone wants to debunk these or add context, I'm totally open.
The data to support this can be found here and here. In other words, no one disputes that 70 percent of black babies are born out of wedlock--or maybe they do, I never have. What we dispute are the reasons why. One notion that's gained quite a bit of currency is that over the last 40 years, black mothers have, for whatever reason, decided that they'd much rather be single mothers. But the facts don't back this up. As the data shows unmarried black women are having less, not more, kids then they were having 40 years ago. Furthermore, the number of unmarried black women having kids is declining, while the number of unmarried women--overall--having babies is increasing. From the report:
In 1970 the rate for unmarried black women, 96 per 1,000, was nearly 7 times the rate for unmarried white women, 14. By 1998 this differential was just under 2; the rate for black women fell to 73 whereas the rate for white women rose to 38 per l,000.
The rate for unmarried white women more than doubled from 18 per 1,000 in 1980 to 38 in 1994, and has since changed little (38 in 1998). (The rate for non-Hispanic white women has also changed little since 1994; it was 28 in 1998.) In contrast, the rate for unmarried black women increased about 12 percent from 81 in 1980 to 91 in 1989, and has declined steadily since, by 19 percent, to 73 per 1,000 in 1998 (figure 8 and table 3).
Rates for unmarried Hispanic women are available only since1990. The rate was highest in 1994, at 101 per 1,000, and has dropped11 percent since (figure 8, table 3). The birth rate for unmarried Hispanic women is the highest of any race or ethnicity group; this is consistent with the overall fertility patterns for Hispanic women (2, 4).
Now, you can argue, that double is still too high. What you can't argue is for any sort of "moral decline."
This is a one-man show. Sometimes I forget to put in links, misspell a word or whatever. I've said this before but it bears repeating--if you see an error send an e-mail, please. There is a big-ass "EMAIL TA-NEHISI" button off to your right. Please use it. Correcting in comments doesn't help because sometimes, I don't see the comments until hours, or days, later.
Most Americans have a healthy respect for religious teaching but in
their lives give greater preference to common sense and practical
experience. That includes almost all religious groups as well -
Catholics, in particular, show conservative tendencies. The exceptions?
Evangelicals and Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses - who are trained to
forego practical reasoning for abstract truths based on unquestionable
authority. Evangelical Christians are much less conservative than
American Muslims, for example.
The Republican party is not, at this point in time, a conservative
party, as Burke would understand it. It's a fundamentalist religious
party. Until the influence of evangelicals and Mormons is reduced, it
will find these tendencies reinforce each other.
I've turned this notion over in my head a lot lately. I think there's great value on pointing out the changes in ideology. But ideologies change, no? Moreover, in the case of politics, they change to attract votes. I like Andrew's conservatism--privileging what works over abstractions figures very well into the family debate we've been having, here. But his Pew polling aside, I just wonder whether it could get any votes.