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.

  • The Other Dogwhistle

    Nia-Malika Henderson gets something that very few reporters caught during election season:

    On his pre-inaugural visit to Ben's Chili Bowl, a landmark for Washington's African-American community, President Barack Obama was asked by a cashier if he wanted his change back.

    "Nah, we straight," Obama replied.

    The phrase was so subtle some listeners missed it. The reporter on pool duty quoted Obama as saying, "No, we're straight."

    But many other listeners did not miss it. A video of the exchange became an Internet hit, and there was a clear moment of recognition among many blacks, who got a kick out of their Harvard-educated president sounding, as one commenter wrote on a hip-hop site, "mad cool." 

    On matters of racial identity, many observers in the African-American community say he benefits from what's known as "dog-whistle politics." His language, mannerisms and symbols resonate deeply with his black supporters, even as the references largely sail over the heads of white audiences.

    I remember watching Tim Russert try to tie Obama to Farrakhan, and thinking, "Don't they know this dude has been paraphrasing Malcolm X? Why aren't they asking him about that?" Not that I'm in favor of any of that, but I think this is what fueled so much of the "he's not really black talk"--most white reporters don't really know what black is. And so while they were waiting for Obama call for reparations or another Back To Africa movement, the missed the subtle things.

  • A Moment Of Sadness

    I don't usually go here, but this looks really tragic:

    One of four men missing at sea was found clinging to the group's capsized boat on Monday, more than a day after it flipped off Florida's Gulf Coast late Saturday night. Coast Guard officials said they were still searching for the other three men: the N.F.L. players Marquis Cooper and Corey Smith and the former South Florida football player Will Bleakley.

    Nick Schuyler, 24, was rescued from the 21-foot boat, which was anchored when it capsized about 35 miles from Clearwater, Fla. He told the rescuers that the four men clung to the boat together after it flipped but the other three slipped away at one point and he did not see what happened to them, Coast Guard Capt. Timothy M. Close told The Associated Press.
  • Your Daily Moment Of GOP Insanity

    Courtesy of Andrew:

    "Anonymous liberal commentators, the rabid pests of the new media, sought out the most popular conservative blogs to flood the zone with familiar Rush Limbaugh slanders. Their goal: To demoralize the right with layer upon layer of media domination. Only talk radio with its emphasis on Socratic debate over raw emotionalism and with Mr. Limbaugh in the driver's seat has escaped the left's clutches of pure media dominance,"

    Yeah talk radio will save "Socratic debate." That's what I always thought. Much like CNN will save the New Yorker.

  • Rush On Michael Steele: He's Alright, But He's Not Real...

    I've been pretty hard on Michael Steele for his abuse of Ebonics. But I think his most recent sonning courtesy of Rush Limbaugh needs to be put in perspective:

    "My intent was not to go after Rush - I have enormous respect for Rush Limbaugh," Mr. Steele told The Politico. "I was maybe a little bit inarticulate. There was no attempt on my part to diminish his voice or his leadership."

    I'm not offended that Steele is kow-towing to Rush. I'm offended that Steele would wrap himself in the garb on hip-hop, and then apologize to Rush.

    Man listen: The first rule for establishing "Off The Hook Urban-Suburban Hip-Hop Strategies" is if you gonna dis a mofo, then dis him. Don't come out the box quoting "How You Like Me Now," and then go and apologizes to the guy who you just dissed.

    Could you imagine Moe Dee apologizing to LL? Kris apologizing to Shan? Shante apologizing to the Real Roxanne? Hillary Duff apologizing Lindsay Lohan?

    Come on man. You ain't no wiling-out-for-the-night-fist-thrower:

    Mr. Steele called Mr. Limbaugh after the radio host belittled Mr. Steele on his show, questioning his authority and saying the new Republican leader was off "to a shaky start."

    "It's time, Mr. Steele, for you to go behind the scenes and start doing the work that you were elected to do instead of trying to be some talking head media star, which you're having a tough time pulling off," Mr. Limbaugh said, in a transcript of his remarks he posted on his Web site.

    "Mr. Steele: You are head of the R.N.C.," Mr. Limbaugh said. "You are not head of the Republican Party. Tens of millions of conservatives and Republicans have nothing to do with the R.N.C. and right now they want nothing to do with it."

    Shorter Rush Limbaugh--"Don't make me have to call your name out\Your crew is featherweight\My talk-show will make you levitate..."

    UPDATE: We'll re-open later. It's tough being popular. I like being the geek so much more.

  • More On Resident Evil And Racism

    Friend of the room, Evan Narcisse, talks to RE5 designer Jun Takeuchi. The whole thing is worth reading. Forgive the extensive block quote, this exchange is great:

    Narcisse: I had a strong reaction upon seeing the trailer. But, also I understand the series and I understand the fiction that it's building on. How do you feel about people having strong reactions about the game without prior knowledge of the series? There's potential for a large part of the audience playing the game to feel like a judgment is being made against them by virtue of their portrayal in the game.

    Jones: He's having a hard time shooting poor black people. That's the core of what he's trying to get at. He loves the series but he's having a difficult time getting involved...

    Narcisse: Maybe this is getting a little too personal, but I'm only a generation removed from that kind of experience.

    Chris Kramer: Was it easier for you to shoot poor brown people in Resident Evil 4?

    Jones: There were no brown people in Resident Evil 4.

    Narcisse: Spaniards, they're swarthy ... Because there was a certain aspect of normalization in that game -- in that the contrast [between Leon and the human enemies he was fighting] was not as stark -- I didn't have that kind of reaction.

    Kramer: Skin-color contrast or social contrast?

    Narcisse: Both. And because there's a history of demonization and subhuman portrayals with regard to people of African descent, there's a certain sensitivity around that. I understand that legacy for the most part is completely different in Japan. But that history of negative portrayals was what informed my reactions. I'm not judging the game. In seeking to portray a certain kind of terror, the game may make people of certain backgrounds feel like they're being portrayed as frightening or less than human. How do you feel about this unintended consequence? I just want to know Takeuchi-san's reaction to that.

    Takeuchi: You mentioned that you're one generation removed from those kinds of problems. If you look at us in Japan, one generation ago Japanese people who hadn't done anything wrong were being bombed in Tokyo and other places during the war. That doesn't mean that we think that Americans are all bad or that we think that Americans are bad at all. [These are] just things that have happened in our pasts. That's maybe not something that we should try to be too sensitive about, or not try to be too sensitive about, when we make these kinds of things... [telephone rings, startling us all] At the end of the day, we're making a piece of entertainment. We're not making anything that has a political message to it. And, I feel that if you start to decide who you can treat as enemies or who you can take on in a game...
  • Integrating The Burning House


    Jewel Woods is pissed that Venus and Serena Williams were left off the Australian Open's  official Most Beautiful Women at the Open list:

    As the husband of a woman who looks like Venus and Serena, it offends me that my standards of beauty are not recognized or validated in professional sports. And as the father of a 6-year-old black girl who loves to run, jump, sweat, grimace, grunt and do all the things that are necessary for her to excel as an athlete, it pains me to think of the choices that will be forced upon her as she gets older because of these standards.

    I have more sympathy for the latter than the former. I think, if I had a daughter, I'd spend a lot of time worrying about beauty standards. But here's the thing--if I were white I'd be doing the same thing. I guess I'd do more worrying as a black guy, but I've never been white, so I don't know.

    Leaving aside the weirdness of judging an athlete by her appearance, my big problem with this argument is its rather cloying, begging nature. This is the old Malcolmite in me--I think Serena Williams is gorgeous by the light's of my standards (and Brett Ratner's. Jews FTW. Again.). Fuck their standards. Why do we care? Seriously is this the argument now, "Our women deserve to be leered over and have their professional achievements ignored too!!" Meh. Our ice melts just like their ice--just like all ice.

  • Talking Free Agency

    I disagree with Don Banks that Ray Lewis lost a lot by trying to play free agency. Lewis built the Ravens, and they'll still love him when the season rolls around.

    Matt Cassell aside, this, as a Cowboy fan, is fascinating:

    Now that Chris Canty has signed a six-year, $42 million deal with the Giants, a contract that includes $17.25 million guaranteed in the first two years, here's something to keep in mind: The ex-Cowboys defensive lineman is now better paid than all three of New York's top three defensive ends, Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Mathias Kiwanuka.

    Hope he's worth it. Canty was always mediocre to me.

  • That's Socialism!

    When you don't have any ideas...

    It seems that "socialist" has supplanted "liberal" as the go-to slur among much of a conservative world confronting a one-two-three punch of bank bailouts, budget blowouts and stimulus bills. Right-leaning bloggers and talk radio hosts are wearing out the brickbat. Senate and House Republicans have been tripping over their podiums to invoke it. The S-bomb has become as surefire a red-meat line at conservative gatherings as "Clinton" was in the 1990s and "Pelosi" is today.

    "Earlier this week, we heard the world's best salesman of socialism address the nation," Senator Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina, said on Friday, referring, naturally, to a certain socialist in chief.

    Former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas decried the creation of "socialist republics" in the United States. "Lenin and Stalin would love this stuff," Mr. Huckabee said, speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference here over the weekend, a kind of Woodstock for young conservatives.

    "Socialism is something new for us to hit Obama over the head with," said Joshua Bolin of Augusta, Ga., who founded a Web site, "Reagan.org," which he calls a conservative analog to the liberal MoveOn.org.

    Right. Something new. Because no one called Obama a socialist during the general election. And had they, the GOP clearly would have won.

  • Life Is Like Tarzan, Swinging From A Thin Vine

    Regarding this post, commenter donovong writes:

    I'm rather late to the party, but I just want to correct one error on TNC's part - employees do NOT pay anything for unemployment insurance. The cost is borne entirely by the employer. It is not deducted by the employer from pay, and is actually not very expensive, either. It is actually a minor cost, when compared to such things as FICA and health insurance.

    I think donovong for the correction.  That said, this, as articulated by JonF, is more what I was thinking:

    Any money an employer pays for labor costs (including health premiums, the employers' share of FICA, unemployment insurance and workman's comp premiums) is ultimately coming out of employee compensation even if it is not itemized as such on the pay stubs.

    Above all, I wanted to point out the stupidity of punishing workers whose jobs have vanished. I don't want to take this too far, because I never bought the welfare-queen bit. But there were a lot of people, during the mid-90s, talking this "ethic of work" business. Part of working, is putting money aside so that, should something go wrong, you're covered. Unemployment Insurance is an effort to do just that, collectively. The feds, recognizing that we're living in extremely rough times, have extended the benefit. Denying that benefit to people who would work, who have worked in the recent past, just seems trivial and wantonly cruel.

    We talked earlier about black folks stepping over dollars to snatch up nickels. This is the dollar here--in both literal and figurative terms. I have no doubt that African-Americans, a disproportionately Southern community, will likely make up a disproportionate share of those affected by the grandstanding of Bobby Jindal and Mark Sanford. If you're really worried about the fate of black people in this country, and not narrowly focused on cleaning white people, then this should bug you more than any cartoon put together by some hack artist. Cartoons may hurt your feelings, but Jindal and Sanford are going to hurt your kids. This is not metaphorical or symbolic. This is actual money

    And the best part is that, like all our greatest fights, we are not alone. Tons of workers, of all colors, will be hurt by this. If you're wondering what "black issues" look like for liberals in the 21st century, in the Obama era, than this is it. There are several fights out there which cut across racial lines, but still disproportionately affect blacks. We're going to have to be smarter. Sanctimoniously shaming white people is a weapon of the stone age. Our foes have upgraded. We need to follow suit. I think Ghostface said it best, "They used guns, while we angrily shot arrows\You better keep your eye on the sparrow."


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