In the September 2012 issue, Ta-Nehisi Coates explored the irony of the racial dynamics of Obama’s presidency. “Obama governs a nation enlightened enough to send an African American to the White House,” he observed, “but not enlightened enough to accept a black man as its president.”
Atlantic writers have since reported in-depth on the entrenched racial disparities in homicide rates, debt burdens, incarceration, and overall mortality in America. And the magazine has detailed the ascent of individual white supremacists—as well as a broader ethno-nationalist coalition that helped bring Donald Trump, in all his overt bigotry, to power in 2016.
What to read:
“Segregation Now,” by Nikole Hannah-Jones (May 2014 issue)
“Black children in the South now attend majority-black schools at levels not seen in four decades,” Hannah-Jones reported.
“The Case for Reparations,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates (June 2014 issue)
“An America that asks what it owes its most vulnerable citizens is improved and humane,” Coates wrote. “An America that looks away is ignoring not just the sins of the past but the sins of the present and the certain sins of the future.”
“Being Black in America Can Be Hazardous to Your Health,” by Olga Khazan (July/August 2018 issue)
“Although the racial disparity in early death has narrowed in recent decades, black people have the life expectancy, nationwide, that white people had in the 1980s,” Khazan reported.
“The Nationalist’s Delusion,” by Adam Serwer (November 20, 2017)
“Americans act with the understanding that Trump’s nationalism promises to restore traditional boundaries of race, gender, and sexuality,” Serwer argued. “The nature of that same nationalism is to deny its essence, the better to salve the conscience and spare the soul.”
The impact of climate change has become widely evident—and prompted collective action.
Since 2010, as Atlantic writers have detailed, climate change has given rise to the hottest years on record; to record drought; to more extreme hurricanes, wildfires, and flooding; to melting glaciers and ice sheets; and, maybe, to the reanimation of some zombie diseases. It’s also already claimed countless lives, taking a particular toll on poor communities and countries. These years have also given rise to international diplomacy (including, most important, the Paris Climate Agreement), dedicated activists such as Greta Thunberg, mass protests for further action, and greater collective belief in climate change and support for radical policies that could help combat it.
Trump has repeatedly called climate change a “hoax,” and he has withdrawn the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement—but as Robinson Meyer wrote this month, dozens of states, in addition to almost every country in the world, still hope to meet their goals.
What to read:
“How to Talk About Climate Change So People Will Listen,” by Charles C. Mann (September 2014 issue)
“On the one hand, the transformation of the Antarctic seems like an unfathomable disaster. On the other hand, the disaster will never affect me or anyone I know; nor, very probably, will it trouble my grandchildren,” Mann wrote. “How can we worry about such distant, hypothetical beings?”
“Welcome to Pleistocene Park,” by Ross Andersen (April 2017 issue)
“It will be cute to have mammoths running around here, but I’m not doing this for them,” Andersen was told by the director of a Russian reserve where scientists hope to resurrect an Ice Age biome. “I am trying to solve the larger problem of climate change.”
“The Zombie Diseases of Climate Change,” by Robinson Meyer (November 6, 2017)
“Climate change,” Meyer explained, “could awaken Earth’s forgotten pathogens. It is one of the most bizarre symptoms of global warming. And it has already begun to happen.”
“Climate Change Is Already Damaging American Democracy,” by Vann R. Newkirk II (October 24, 2018)
“As Hurricane Sandy illustrated—like Katrina had years before—disasters and hostile climate conditions don’t create inequalities; they exacerbate them,” Newkirk observed. “If American society is already trending toward greater inequality, this all means that climate change will accelerate that trend.”
The United States has experienced horrific mass shootings over and over and over again.
They felt, in the early 2010s, like a series of isolated shocks: Representative Gabrielle Giffords and 17 others were shot at an Arizona Safeway in January 2011; a shooter killed 12 moviegoers and injured 70 more at a screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado, in July 2012; 20 children and six adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012.