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robertogreco : ta-nehisicoates   54

So what if we’re doomed? (Down the Dark Mountain) — High Country News
" Kingsnorth embraced Jeffers’ inhumanism, and Tompkins his ideas on beauty. But the immensity of the ecocide demands more. Our grief comes from the takers and their modern machine, which is one of violence and injury. If our sanity is to survive the ecocide, we must address these two pains in tandem: grief for the loss of things to come and the injustices that surround us.

We can do this through beauty and justice, which are closer together than they first appear."



"However, he is also arguing for integrity, which is close to Jeffers’ ideal of beauty: “However ugly the parts appear the whole remains beautiful. A severed hand / Is an ugly thing, and man dissevered from the earth and stars and his history ... for contemplation or in fact ... / Often appears atrociously ugly. Integrity is wholeness, the greatest beauty is / Organic wholeness, the wholeness of life and things, the divine beauty of the universe.”

Perhaps, then, the way through the ecocide is through the pursuit of integrity, a duty toward rebalancing the whole, toward fairness, in both senses of the word."



"This is no cause for despair; it is a reminder to be meaningful, to be makers instead of takers, to be of service to something — beauty, justice, loved ones, strangers, lilacs, worms."
apocalypse  climatechange  ecology  anthropocene  additivism  2017  briancalvert  paulkingsnorth  environment  environmentalism  california  poetry  justive  beauty  via:kissane  balance  earth  wholeness  integrity  robinsonjeffers  darkmountain  multispecies  posthumanism  morethanhuman  josephcampbell  ecocide  edricketts  davidbrower  sierraclub  johnstainbeck  anseladmas  outdoors  nature  humanity  humanism  edwardabbey  hawks  animals  wildlife  interconnected  inhumanism  elainescarry  community  communities  socialjustice  culture  chile  forests  refugees  violence  douglastompkins  nickbowers  shaunamurray  ta-nehisicoates  humanrights  qigong  interconnectivity 
february 2018 by robertogreco
Coates and West in Jackson | Boston Review
"For my part, I see value in putting Coates’s and West’s perspectives in dialogue. To be clear, I am not interested in repeating or endorsing West’s critique here, and Coates needs no one to defend him, certainly not me. Readers of Boston Review know that I have taken issue with parts of his Between the World and Me (2015)—yet, even when I disagree, I find Coates’s writing generative, thoughtful, and startlingly honest, and he pushes me to think harder and deeper about the depth of racism in both the public and inner life of black America. Rather, I want to offer brief reflections on what I find valuable in both Coates’s recent book, We Were Eight Years in Power (2017), and in West’s insistence on the transformative power of social movements. I believe that the reconciliation of their respective insights might open new directions. My mother raised my siblings and me to be Hegelians (even if his 1807 The Phenomenology of Spirit is not exactly bedtime reading), and that means the purpose of critique is dialectical, to reach a higher synthesis, which in turn reveals new contradictions demanding new critique.

****

West’s position should not surprise anyone, nor should his ideas be reduced to a couple of interviews and a short piece in the Guardian. He has always combined the black prophetic tradition of speaking truth to power with what he identifies as the anti-foundationalism of young Marx—a critical observation central to West’s book, The Ethical Dimensions of Marxist Thought (1991). West’s Black Prophetic Fire (with Christa Buschendorf, 2014) consists of dialogues that consider the lives and work of black prophetic figures, including Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Ida B. Wells, and Ella Baker. His insights into these figures are acute and often original, and he refrains from hagiography. For example, he is sharply critical of Douglass, whom he castigates for his relative silence on Jim Crow once he became a fully enfranchised and powerful voice in the Republican Party. The book also contains a subtle indictment of President Barack Obama, implying that his two terms as president, and the emergence of a black neoliberal political class, represent a betrayal of the principles basic to the black prophetic tradition. His criticisms of President Obama are not personal but directed at policies that reflected both the neoliberal turn and the persistence of U.S. imperialism.

Coates found his calling during a particularly combative period for black intellectuals. In March of 1995, West was the target of a scurrilous attack by New Republic editor Leon Wieseltier, an essay promoted on the issue’s cover with the headline “The Decline of the Black Intellectual.” A month later Adolph Reed, Jr. followed with a piece in the Village Voice titled, “What Are the Drums Saying, Booker?: The Curious Role of the Black Public Intellectual” which names West, Michael Eric Dyson, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., bell hooks, and yours truly. In the essay, Reed characterizes us as modern-day minstrels and attacks us for being “translators” of black culture to white folks, and thus palatable to fawning white liberals. Reed’s piece left a deep impression on Coates. As he recalls in We Were Eight Years in Power, “I was determined to never be an interpreter. It did not occur to me that writing is always some form of interpretation, some form of translating the specificity of one’s roots or expertise or even one’s own mind into language that can be absorbed and assimilated into the consciousness of a broader audience. Almost any black writer publishing in the mainstream press would necessarily be read by whites. Reed was not exempt. He was not holding forth from The Chicago Defender but from The Village Voice, interpreting black intellectuals for that audience, most of whom were white.”

Those “feuds” of twenty-two years ago also generated an important Boston Review forum that centered on a provocative essay by Reverend Eugene F. Rivers III, “Beyond the Nationalism of Fools: Toward an Agenda for Black Intellectuals” (1995)"



"Importantly, Coates’s title is a reference not to Obama’s administration, as many seem to suppose, but rather to Reconstruction and the white backlash that followed its tragic overthrow. Coates quotes Du Bois’s Black Reconstruction (1935): “If there was one thing that South Carolina feared more than bad Negro government, it was good Negro government.” Du Bois’s insight is key here; he recognizes that it was the success of Reconstruction in creating arguably the world’s first social democracy that posed the greatest threat to white supremacy. History has a long life: the ways in which formerly enslaved people not only helped overthrow the Confederacy but immediately went to work building a new society—armed, organized, and fighting back—is the story that haunts and illuminates Obama’s presidency.

Coates is certainly attentive to the forces arrayed against the Obama administration, and to the extraordinary hope black people had invested in him, but he is no apologist for Obama."



"So what are the substantive differences between West and Coates?

At the end of his Guardian essay, West writes that we cannot afford “to disconnect white supremacy from the realities of class, empire, and other forms of domination—be it ecological, sexual, or others.” Coates would agree. He treats these forms of domination as deeply intertwined but not synonymous: “I have never seen a contradiction between calling for reparations and calling for a living wage, on calling for legitimate law enforcement and single-payer health care. They are related—but cannot stand in for one another. I see the fight against sexism, racism, poverty, and even war finding their union not in synonymity but in their ultimate goal—a world more humane.” He may not map out what that “fight” for a more humane world might look like, but I don’t think his perspective can be reduced, as West does, to “narrow racial tribalism and myopic political neoliberalism.”"



"This is where West and Coates part ways. It is not so much their understanding of history, though. West understands that U.S. “democracy” was built on slavery, capitalism, and settler colonialism. But he also recognizes its fragility or malleability in the face of a radical democratic tradition.

This radical democratic tradition cannot be traced to the founding fathers or the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence. Instead, it is manifest in the struggles of the dispossessed to overturn the Eurocentric, elitist, patriarchal, and dehumanizing structures of racial capitalism and its liberal underpinnings. It is manifest in the struggle to restore the “commons” to the commonwealth, which has been at the heart of radical abolitionism—or what Du Bois called the Abolition Democracy. West knows that social movements, or what he calls “our fightback,” have and will alter history. West believes that we can win. While I wouldn’t call Coates’s vision fatalistic, it is deeply pessimistic because his focus is on structures of race and class oppression, and the policies and ideologies that shore up these structures. He is concerned that we survive."



"So I propose that we turn away from the latest celebrity death match, turn our attention to Jackson, Mississippi. Read Jackson Rising: The Struggle for Economic Democracy and Black Self-Determination in Jackson, Mississippi (2017), edited by Kali Akuno and Ajamu Nangwaya, And revisit the work of West and Coates and others wrestling with the critical issues of our times. I stand with West and his unwavering commitment to the power of collective resistance, his optimism of the will. And I stand with Coates and his insistence on a particular kind of pessimism of the intellect that questions everything, stays curious, and is not afraid of self-reflection, uncomfortable questions, or where the evidence takes him.

And above all, I stand with the people of Jackson, who have built the country’s most radical movement, mobilized new forms of political participation, and elected a people’s government committed to building a socialist commonwealth. Free the Land!"
ta-nehisicoates  cornelwest  2017  robinkelley  jackson  mississippi  kaliakuno  ajamunangwaya  chokewlumumba  chokweantarlumumba  activism  democracy  capitalism  cedricrobinson  edmundmorgan  barbarafields  davidroediger  brackobama  imperialism  reconstruction  webdubois  slavey  reparations  patriarchy  eurocentrism  oppression  race  class  politics  abolitionism  history  karlmarx  jeremiahwright  shirleysherrod  empire  us  martinlutherkingjr  malcolmx  frederickdouglass  idabwells  ellabaker  penieljoseph  eugenerivers  adolphreedjr  michaelericdyson  henrylouisgatesjr  neoliberalism  mlk  chokwelumumba 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Forget Coates vs. West — We All Have a Duty to Confront the Full Reach of U.S. Empire
"What are the duties of radicals and progressives inside relatively wealthy countries to the world beyond our national borders?"



" Is it even possible to be a voice for transformational change without a clear position on the brutal wars and occupations waged with U.S. weapons?"



"Our movements simply cannot afford to stick to our various comfort zones or offload internationalism as someone else’s responsibility.

The unending misery in Haiti may be the most vivid illustration of how today’s crises are all interrelated. On the island, serial natural disasters, some linked to climate change, are being layered on top of illegitimate foreign debts and coupled with gross negligence by the international aid industry, as well as acute U.S.-lead efforts to destabilize and under-develop the country. These compounding forces have led tens of thousands of Haitians to migrate to the United States in recent years, where they come face-to-face with Trump’s anti-Black, anti-immigrant agenda. Many are now fleeing to Canada, where hundreds if not thousands could face deportation. We can’t pry these various cross-border crises apart, nor should we.

IN SHORT, THERE is no radicalism — Black or otherwise — that ends at the national boundaries of our countries, especially the wealthiest and most heavily armed nation on earth. From the worldwide reach of the financial sector to the rapidly expanding battlefield of U.S. Special Operations to the fact that carbon pollution respects no borders, the forces we are all up against are global. So, too, are the crises we face, from the rise of white supremacy, ethno-chauvinism, and authoritarian strongmen to the fact that more people are being forced from their homes than at any point since World War II. If our movements are to succeed, we will need both analysis and strategies that reflect these truths about our world.

Some argue for staying in our lane, and undoubtedly there is a place for deep expertise. The political reality, however, is that the U.S. government doesn’t stay in its lane and never has — it spends public dollars using its military and economic might to turn the world into a battlefield, and it does so in the name of all of U.S. citizens.

As a result, our movements simply cannot afford to stick to our various comfort zones or offload internationalism as someone else’s responsibility. To do so would be grossly negligent of our geopolitical power, our own agency, as well as our very real connections to people and places throughout the world. So when we build cross-sector alliances and cross-issue solidarity, those relationships cannot be confined to our own nations or even our own hemisphere — not in a world as interconnected as ours. We have to strive for them to be as global as the forces we are up against.

We know this can seem overwhelming at a time when so many domestic crises are coming to a head and so many of us are being pushed beyond the breaking point. But it is worth remembering that our movement ancestors formed international alliances and placed their struggles within a global narrative not out of a sense of guilt or obligation, but because they understood that it made them stronger and more likely to win at home — and that strength terrified their enemies.

Besides, the benefit of building a broad-based, multiracial social movement — which should surely be the end goal of all serious organizers and radical intellectuals — is that movements can have a division of labor, with different specialists focusing on different areas, united by broad agreement about overall vision and goals. That’s what a real movement looks like.

The good news is that grassroots internationalism has never been easier. From cellphones to social media, we have opportunities to speak with one another across borders that our predecessors couldn’t have dreamed of. Similarly, tools that allow migrant families to stay connected with loved ones in different countries can also become conduits for social movements to hear news that the corporate media ignores. We are able, for instance, to learn about the pro-democracy movements growing in strength across the continent of Africa, as well as efforts to stop extrajudicial killings in countries like Brazil. Many would not have known that Black African migrants are being enslaved in Libya if it had not been for these same tools. And had they not known they wouldn’t have been able to engage in acts of necessary solidarity.

So let’s leave narrow, nostalgic nationalism to Donald Trump and his delusional #MAGA supporters. The forces waging war on bodies and the planet are irreversibly global, and we are vastly stronger when we build global movements capable of confronting them at every turn."
cornelwest  ta-nehisicoates  2017  us  politics  global  international  jelanicobb  barackobama  imperialism  africa  malcolmx  haiti  naomiklein  opaltometi  climatechange  colonialism  immigration  refugees  activism  outrage  crises  donaldtrump  fascism  military  borders  naturaldisasters  isolationism  debt  finance  destabilization 
december 2017 by robertogreco
The Atlantic Interview - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (featuring Ta-Nehisi Coates) | Listen via Stitcher Radio On Demand
"In the inaugural episode of The Atlantic Interview, The Atlantic's editor in chief Jeffrey Goldberg talks with the novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie about race, identity, what she does when people call her "Chimichanga" by mistake. Atlantic correspondent Ta-Nehisi Coates makes a cameo."

[See also: https://www.theatlantic.com/podcasts/the-atlantic-interview/
https://www.citylab.com/equity/2017/10/we-have-to-be-careful-not-to-romanticize-cities/543789/ ]
chimamandangoziadichie  ta-nehisicoates  2017  race  racism  paris  us  london  identity  donaldtrump  notknowing  innocence  ignorance  feminism  liberalism  daveeggers 
november 2017 by robertogreco
On Making Black Lives Matter: The Way Forward from Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and Alva Braziel
"Last week, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were killed by police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and St. Paul, Minnesota. Five police officers were killed in Dallas, Texas and seven others were injured. And then, on Saturday, Alva Braziel was shot and killed by police in Houston, Texas. To bear witness to so much senseless violence, so much senseless death, is unbearable.

On social media, people are grieving and hurting and raging. On the streets of cities across America, people are protesting. They're saying, "Enough." In Baton Rouge, the police force has become a small army, replete with SWAT teams and officers in full riot gear. There is a new iconic image reflecting these turbulent times: Ieshia Evans, a young black woman in a flowing summer dress facing a militant line of Baton Rouge police officers.

Against the backdrop of a contentious election cycle, it is easy to feel like the world is coming apart, like the world is coming to an end. It is easy to feel unsafe, helpless, hopeless. I am feeling all of these things while also trying to resist such defeat. I am trying to recognize that the world is not coming to an end, the world is changing.

I was talking to my mom on Friday, when things seemed especially hopeless. She asked, "Why should I have to wake up every day and address God about the safety of my life?" She told me about how she and my dad had talked to my brothers, my nephew, reminding them, reminding all of us to be careful when we're out in the world. She told my nephew to keep his wallet out, in the center console, so it is visible and easily reached if he's pulled over by the police. As we spoke, I thought about my own obsessive ritual when I get in my car—making sure I have my license, registration, current proof of insurance—because if pulled over for Driving While Black, I cannot afford any missteps. They might cost me my life.

This is no way to live, this is not freedom, always holding your breath, always feeling like a target, always worrying about the men and women you love, hoping they won't run into a police officer who cannot control his fear.

As is often the case during times of social upheaval, most of us are wondering how we can productively contribute to positive change when change feels impossible. There are no easy answers. For white people, being an ally to the black community is often framed as a way forward. Allyship is a nice idea, certainly. It's a way for people to say and demonstrate that they care and (want to) help even if they cannot fully understand the lived experiences of marginalized people.

But in the wake of last week's violence and unrest, I've seen what often happens during difficult times—people who consider themselves allies, well-meaning people, to be clear, ask what they can do to help. They ask for guidance, as if black people, in this instance, have the solution to the ongoing problem of systemic racism, as if we have access to a secret trove of wisdom for overcoming oppression.

I've seen allies share their laments in a way that focuses on their emotional needs. I've seen them demanding the emotional labor of people who have nothing left to give.

The problem with allyship is that good intentions are not enough. Allyship offers a safe haven from harsh realities and the dirty work of creating change. It offers a comfortable distance that can be terribly unproductive.

I am reminded of a conversation I had with Ta-Nehisi Coates in 2015, upon the release of his book Between the World and Me. When I asked him about allies, he said, "I think one has to even abandon the phrase 'ally' and understand that you are not helping someone in a particular struggle; the fight is yours." I mulled his words over for weeks because they were so pointed and powerful. Those words began to inform the ways in which I try to support other marginalized people—making their fights my own because that's the only way forward.

Black people do not need allies. We need people to stand up and take on the problems borne of oppression as their own, without remove or distance. We need people to do this even if they cannot fully understand what it's like to be oppressed for their race or ethnicity, gender, sexuality, ability, class, religion, or other marker of identity. We need people to use common sense to figure out how to participate in social justice.

Don't tell us about your racist uncle or grandfather or sister or cousin. Don't try to unburden yourself of guilt that isn't yours to carry. Actively listen when marginalized people tell you about their oppression—don't offer your pity (which only helps you) and don't apologize. Listen and do your best to understand what it feels like to live with oppression as a constant. Speak up when you hear people making racist jokes. Speak up when you see injustice in action. Inform yourself about your local law enforcement and how they treat people of color. Vote. Take a stand instead of waiting for absolution from people of color. We don't have that kind of time. We're fighting for our lives."
roxanegy  2016  race  racism  allies  allyship  blacklivesmatter  ta-nehisicoates  oppression 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Against Endorsements - The Atlantic
"My answer has been characterized, in various places, as an “endorsement,” a characterization that I’d object to. Despite my very obvious political biases, I’ve never felt it was really my job to get people to agree with me. My first duty, as a writer, is to myself. In that sense I simply hope to ask all the questions that keep me up at night. My second duty is to my readers. In that sense, I hope to make readers understand why those questions are critical. I don’t so much hope that any reader “agrees” with me, as I hope to haunt them, to trouble their sense of how things actually are."
ta-nehisicoates  2016  politics  writing  criticism  berniesanders  whywewrite  elections 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Is Violence a Function of our Culture? (Full Session) - YouTube
"Homicide remains an endemic, seemingly unsolvable problem in America. And violent crime afflicts African-American communities to a much greater degree than it does others, as does mass incarceration — and as does police violence. What is the cause of this crisis? What role does racism play? What is the role of culture? Are there any solutions to be had? The mayor of New Orleans, Mitch Landrieu, has been confronting this crisis head-on, and Atlantic Magazine National Correspondent Ta-Nehisi Coates has written widely on matters of race, policing and American history."

[At many points during this conversation, it feels like Ta-Nehisi Coates has to nearly beg for a chance to speak or finish speaking.]
ta-nehisicoates  mitchlandrieu  neworleans  race  violence  us  cities  crime  police  lawenforcement  crisis  2015  nola 
july 2015 by robertogreco
As Riots Follow Freddie Gray's Death in Baltimore, Calls for Calm Ring Hollow - The Atlantic
"Now, tonight, I turn on the news and I see politicians calling for young people in Baltimore to remain peaceful and "nonviolent." These well-intended pleas strike me as the right answer to the wrong question. To understand the question, it's worth remembering what, specifically, happened to Freddie Gray. An officer made eye contact with Gray. Gray, for unknown reasons, ran. The officer and his colleagues then detained Gray. They found him in possession of a switchblade. They arrested him while he yelled in pain. And then, within an hour, his spine was mostly severed. A week later, he was dead. What specifically was the crime here? What particular threat did Freddie Gray pose? Why is mere eye contact and then running worthy of detention at the hands of the state? Why is Freddie Gray dead?

The people now calling for nonviolence are not prepared to answer these questions. Many of them are charged with enforcing the very policies that led to Gray's death, and yet they can offer no rational justification for Gray's death and so they appeal for calm. But there was no official appeal for calm when Gray was being arrested. There was no appeal for calm when Jerriel Lyles was assaulted. (“The blow was so heavy. My eyes swelled up. Blood was dripping down my nose and out my eye.”) There was no claim for nonviolence on behalf of Venus Green. (“Bitch, you ain’t no better than any of the other old black bitches I have locked up.”) There was no plea for peace on behalf of Starr Brown. (“They slammed me down on my face,” Brown added, her voice cracking. “The skin was gone on my face.")

When nonviolence is preached as an attempt to evade the repercussions of political brutality, it betrays itself. When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse. When nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con. And none of this can mean that rioting or violence is "correct" or "wise," any more than a forest fire can be "correct" or "wise." Wisdom isn't the point tonight. Disrespect is. In this case, disrespect for the hollow law and failed order that so regularly disrespects the community."
ta-nehisicoates  nonviolence  violence  freddiegray  2015  protest  power  riots  control  policestate  compliance 
april 2015 by robertogreco
The Ferguson Report - The Atlantic
"The residents of Ferguson do not have a police problem. They have a gang problem. That the gang operates under legal sanction makes no difference. It is a gang nonetheless, and there is no other word to describe an armed band of collection agents."



"What are the tools in Ferguson to address the robber that so regularly breaks into my house? One necessary tool is suspicion and skepticism—the denial of the sort of the credit one generally grants officers of the state. When Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown there was little reason to credit his account, and several reasons to disbelieve it. The reason is not related to whether Michael Brown was "an angel" or not. The reasons are contained in a report rendered by the highest offices of the American government. Crediting the accounts of Ferguson's officers is a good way to enroll yourself in your own plunder and destruction.

Government, if its name means anything, must rise above those suspicions and that skepticism and seek out justice. And if it seeks to improve its name it must do much more—it must seek out the roots of the skepticism. The lack of faith among black people in Ferguson's governance, or in America's governance, is not something that should be bragged about. One cannot feel good about living under gangsters, and that is the reality of Ferguson right now.

The innocence of Darren Wilson does not change this fundamental fact. Indeed the focus on the deeds of alleged individual perpetrators, on perceived bad actors, obscures the broad systemic corruption which is really at the root. Darren Wilson is not the first gang member to be publicly accused of a crime he did not commit. But Darren Wilson was given the kind of due process that those of us who are often presumed to be gang members rarely enjoy. I do not favor lowering the standard of justice offered Officer Wilson. I favor raising the standard of justice offered to the rest of us."
2015  ta-nehisicoates  ferguson  race  racism  whitesupremacy  police  government  lawenforcement  corruption  oppression  injustice  darrenwilson  dueprocess  justice 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Press Play — Press Play: Making and distributing content in the present future we are living through. — Medium
"This thing of ours:

This course, Press Play, aspires to be a place where you make things. Good things. Smart things. Cool things. And then share those things with other people. The idea of Press Play is that after we make things we are happy with, that we push a button and unleash it on the world. Much of it will be text, but if you want to make magic with a camera, your phone, or with a digital recorder, knock yourself out. But it will all be displayed and edited on Medium because there will be a strong emphasis on working with others in this course, and Medium is collaborative.

While writing, shooting, and editing are often solitary activities, great work emerges in the spaces between people. We will be working in groups with peer and teacher edits. There will be a number of smaller assignments, but the goal is that you will leave here with a single piece of work that reflects your capabilities as a maker of media.But remember, evaluations will be based not just on your efforts, but on your ability to bring excellence out of the people around you. Medium has a remarkable “notes” function where the reader/editor can highlight a specific word, phrase or paragraph and comment, suggest a tweak or give an attaboy. This is counter-intuitive, but you will be judged as much by what you put in the margins of others work as you are for your own. (You should sign on to Medium as soon as you can. You can log in with Facebook or Twitter credentials. Pithy instructions on writing and collaborating on Medium: here, here, here, and, yes, here.)To begin with, we will look at the current media ecosystem: how content is conceived, made, made better, distributed, and paid for. We will discuss finding a story, research and reporting, content management systems, voice, multimedia packaging, along with distribution and marketing of work. If that sounds ambitious, keep in mind that in addition to picking this professor and grad assistant, we picked you. We already know you are smart, and we just want you to demonstrate that on the (web) page.

What we‘ll create:

Together, we will make a collection of stories on Medium around a specific organizing principle — it could be a genre, topic, reading time, or event — which we’ll decide on in collaboration as well. And once we get stories up and running, we will work on ways of getting them out there into the bloodstream of the web.

In order to have a chance of making great work, you have to consume remarkable work. Fair warning: There will be a lot of weekly reading assignments. I’m not sliming you with a bunch of textbooks, so please know I am dead serious about these readings. Skip or skim at your peril.

I will be bringing in a number of guest speakers. They will be talented, accomplished people giving their own time. Please respond with your fullest attention.

So, to summarize: We will make things — in class, in groups, by our lonely selves — we will work to make those things better, and, if we are lucky, we will figure out how to beckon the lightning of excellence along the way."
davidcarr  2014  web  online  internet  syllabus  education  journalism  writing  howwewrite  ta-nehisicoates  teaching  mooc  moocs  lesliejamison  clayshirky  alexismadrigal  jessicatesta  nrkleinfield  sarahkoenig  davidfosterwallace  elizabethroyte  zachseward  joshuadavis  shanesnow  brianlam  kevinkelly  luciamoses  storytelling  vincentmorisset  emilygibson  caityeaver  mischaberlinski  triciaromano  hamiltonnolan  camilledodero  erinleecarr  mariakonikkova  tonyhaile  ralphabellino  mashacharnay  santiagostelly  timstelloh  jayrosen  felixsalmon  multimedia  socialmedia  canon  engagement  media  distribution  voice  syllabi 
february 2015 by robertogreco
King David - The Atlantic
"Carr loved the technology of storytelling and those who wielded it. He was the only person I could sit with and hash over the technical wizardry of This American Life. If you mentioned a great narrative writer in their element—say Gary Smith profiling Pat Summitt—his eyes would perk up like he’d just seen Carl Lewis mid-sprint and he would say, “Oh, he can go.” He once saw an article on how one might incorporate the tools of poetry into nonfiction. He tore out the article and left it on my desk with a note saying something like, “Still waiting to see some of this in your writing.” Another time he left a copy of The New Yorker on my desk—knowing my interest in hip-hop—with instructions for me to read a deeply reported feature on Tupac’s death. He would bring in writers from Vanity Fair and enlist them to break-down our own stories and explain where we were going wrong and how we could make it right. David wanted us always moving faster, always getting stronger, always reaching higher.

Virtually the entire staff at Washington City Paper was liberal. That included David, but he was deeply skeptical of lefty activism concealed as journalism. David had no interest in objectivity, but he always believed that the truest arguments were reported and best bounded by narrative. Narrative was the elegant Trojan horse out of which the most daring and radical ideas could explode and storm a great city. An 800-word column demanding or rejecting reparations is easily repelled. Clyde Ross isn’t."



"David Carr convinced me that, through the constant and forceful application of principle, a young hopper, a fuck-up, a knucklehead, could bring the heavens, the vast heavens, to their knees. The principle was violent and incessant curiosity represented in the craft of narrative argument. That was the principle and craft I employed in writing The Case for Reparations. That is part of the reason why The George Polk Award, the one with my name on it, belongs to David. But that is not the most significant reason.

It has been said, repeatedly, that David was tireless advocate of writers of color, of writers who were women, and of young writers of all tribes. This is highly unusual. Journalism eats its young. Editors tell young writers that they aren’t good enough to cover their declared interest. Editors introduce errors into the copy of young writers and force them to take the fall. Editors pin young writers under other editors whom they know to be bad at their job. Editors order young writers to cover beats and then shop their jobs behind their backs. Editors decide to fire young writers, and lacking the moral courage to do the deed themselves, send in their underlings. Editors reject pitches from young writers by telling them that they like the idea, but don’t think their byline is famous enough. Editors allow older black editors to tell young black writers that they are not writing black enough. Some of these editors end up working in public relations. Some of them become voting-rights activists. Some of them are hired by universities to have their tenured years subsidized by aspiring young writers.

All of that happened to me. And I know that I am not alone, that I am just the tip of what happens to young writers out there. And I know that even I, who am no longer a young writer, do not always wear my best face for young writers. And among the many things I am taking from David’s death is to be better with young writers, and young people in general. Because every single time some editor shoved me down, David picked me back up. It was David who I called at his home out in Montclair, in 2007, with a story to pitch to this magazine. And I asked him who he knew. And he knew James Bennet. And this is my life. It was David I called after an editor-in-chief called me into his office to tell me I did not have “the fire” to cover housing policy and development, and instead ordered me to write a weekly column on “black men.” It was David who told me that the editor did not know what he was talking about, and it was David who confronted the editor directly.

The Case for Reparations is, before it is anything, a reported story about housing policy and development. It is the story that David was urging me to write 19 years ago. The award belongs to him because I would not be a journalist were it not for him. The award belongs to him because I would not be at The Atlantic if not for him. The award belongs to him because he urged me on for nearly my entire adult life—faster, stronger, higher—and his memory will urge me on for the rest of my natural life."
ta-nehisicoates  davidcarr  2015  storytelling  narrative  journalism  writing  mentoring  transformation  life  living  work  howwewrite  mentorship  relationships 
february 2015 by robertogreco
The American Justice System Is Not Broken
"In July, New York police officer Daniel Pantaleo choked unarmed black man Eric Garner to death, in broad daylight, while a bystander caught it on video. That is what American police do. Yesterday, despite the video, despite an NYPD prohibition of exactly the sort of chokehold Pantaleo used, and despite the New York City medical examiner ruling the death a homicide, a Staten Island grand jury declined even to indict Pantaleo. That is what American grand juries do.

In August, Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson shot unarmed black teenager Michael Brown to death in broad daylight. That is what American police do. Ten days ago, despite multiple eyewitness accounts and his own face contradicting Wilson's narrative of events, a grand jury declined to indict Wilson. That is what American grand juries do.

In November 2006, a group of five New York police officers shot unarmed black man Sean Bell to death in the early morning hours of his wedding day. That is what American police do. In April 2008, despite multiple eyewitness accounts contradicting the officers' accounts of the incident, Justice Arthur J. Cooperman acquitted the officers of all charges, including reckless endangerment. That is what American judges do.

In February of 1999, four plainclothes New York police officers shot unarmed black man Amadou Diallo to death outside of his home. That is what American police do. A year later, an Albany jury acquitted the officers of all charges, including reckless endangerment. That is what American juries do.

In November of 1951, Willis McCall, the sheriff of Lake County, Fla., shot and killed Sam Shepherd, an unarmed and handcuffed black man in his custody. That is what American police do. Despite both a living witness and forensic evidence which contradicted his version of events, a coroner's inquest ruled that McCall had acted within the line of duty, and Judge Thomas Futch declined to convene a grand jury at all.

The American justice system is not broken. This is what the American justice system does. This is what America does.

The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates has written damningly of the American preference for viewing our society's crimes as aberrations—betrayals of some deeper, truer virtue, or departures from some righteous intended path. This is a convenient mythology. If the institutions of white American power taking black lives and then exonerating themselves for it is understood as a failure to live out some more authentic American idea, rather than as the expression of that American idea, then your and my and our lives and lifestyles are distinct from those failures. We can stand over here, and shake our heads at the failures over there, and then return to the familiar business, and everything is OK. Likewise, if the individual police officers who take black lives are just some bad cops doing policework badly, and not good cops doing precisely what America has hired and trained them to do, then white Americans may continue calling the police when black people frighten us, free from moral responsibility for the whole range of possible outcomes.

The murders of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, Sam Shepherd, and countless thousands of others at the hands of American law enforcement are not aberrations, or betrayals, or departures. The acquittals of their killers are not mistakes. There is no virtuous innermost America, sullied or besmirched or shaded by these murders. This is America. It is not broken. It is doing what it does.

America is a serial brutalizer of black and brown people. Brutalizing them is what it does. It does other things, too, yes, but brutalizing black and brown people is what it has done the most, and with the most zeal, and for the longest. The best argument you can make on behalf of the various systems and infrastructures the country uses against its black and brown citizens—the physical design of its cities, the methods it uses to allocate placement in elite institutions, the way it trains its police to treat citizens like enemy soldiers—might actually just be that they're more restrained than those used against black and brown people abroad. America employs the enforcers of its power to beat, kill, and terrorize, deploys its judiciary to say that that's OK, and has done this more times than anyone can hope to count. This is not a flaw in the design; this is the design.

Policing in America is not broken. The judicial system is not broken. American society is not broken. All are functioning perfectly, doing exactly what they have done since before some of this nation's most prosperous slave-murdering robber-barons came together to consecrate into statehood the mechanisms of their barbarism. Democracy functions. Politicians, deriving their legitimacy from the public, have discerned the will of the people and used it to design and enact policies that carry it out, among them those that govern the allowable levels of violence which state can visit upon citizen. Taken together with the myriad other indignities, thefts, and cruelties it visits upon black and brown people, and the work common white Americans do on its behalf by telling themselves bald fictions of some deep and true America of apple pies, Jesus, and people being neighborly to each other and betrayed by those few and nonrepresentative bad apples with their isolated acts of meanness, the public will demands and enables a whirring and efficient machine that does what it does for the benefit of those who own it. It processes black and brown bodies into white power.

That is what America does. It is not broken. That is exactly what is wrong with it."
us  justice  law  legal  racism  2014  ferguson  michaelbrown  darrenwilson  nyc  nypd  danielpantaleo  ericgarner  ta-nehisicoates  institutionalracism  race  history  amadoudiallo  samshepherd  police  lawenforcement  politics  policy  power  whitepower 
december 2014 by robertogreco
No, college isn’t the answer. Reparations are. - The Washington Post
"I am mostly uninterested in political rhetoric about education being the “new” civil rights movement. The old civil rights movement waged a battle for citizenship through school legislation because that was the nearest available political tool. The landmark civil rights case, Brown versus the Board of Education, was initially conceived as a means for justice, not its end. I also think that narrowly focusing on college completion is not a good thing. The job market is volatile for African Americans in the best of times and these are not the best of times. During difficult economic cycles, black workers and students should benefit from the flexibility of moving in and out of college as their life circumstances allow. Without that flexibility, every educational moment becomes a zero sum decision: “If I leave school this semester to take that job or care for a family member, I probably will never be able to return.” We’re poorer as individuals and groups when people least likely to get a call back because of a “black” name or negative credit check or criminal conviction have to make a decision to take a job or opt out of college forever. In short, I’m a heretic about almost every fundamental populist education belief we’ve got.

As the world was waiting for Coates’ case for reparations, Janelle Jones and John Schmitt at the Center for Economic Policy Research were releasing a policy paper on black college graduates and the labor market. In “A College Degree is No Guarantee”, Jones and Schmitt examine the labor market conditions for black college degree holders pre and post Great Recession.

Their findings are only a surprise to those who ain’t living it."



"How can I revere education as I do and refuse to accept it as the gospel that will save us from persistent, intractable inequality?Actually, it is precisely because I revere education—formal and informal—that I refuse to sell it as a cure for all that ails us.Degrees cannot fix the cumulative effect of structural racism. In fact, over five decades of social science research shows that education reproduces inequality. At every level of schooling, classrooms, schools, and districts reward wealth and privilege. That does not end at college admissions, which is when all that cumulative disadvantage may be its most acute. Going to college not only requires know how that changes from institution to institution and year to year, but it also requires capital. There’s the money to take standardized tests and mail applications and make tuition deposits. But there’s also the money that levels differences in individual ability. An unimpressive wealthy student can pay for test prep, admissions coaches, and campus visits that increases one’s shot at going to the most selective college possible. If education reinforces the salience of money to opportunity, it is money and only money that can make educational “opportunity” a vehicle for justice.

Reparations can do what education cannot do.

When we allow education to be sold as a fix for wealth inequality, we set a public good up to fail and black folks who do everything “right” to take the blame when it goes “wrong.”

Coates has a written a thing about reparations. Ostensibly, it is about the pattern of systematic extraction of black labor, wealth and income to the benefit of institutions that operate to their exclusion. It is a story with a history but one that is not a relic of history. Conservatives may be guilty of rejecting outright their basic faith in fair pay for labor when the issue is labor done by brown people. But white liberals are just as disingenuous when they rhetorically move reparations back in time as redress for slavery when there are countless modern cases of state-sanctioned racist oppression to make the case for reparations.

Like housing and banking, education is a modern debate that sounds like it is a 19th century one. Reparations are about slavery but also about Jim Crow and white violence’s effect on intellectual property and islands of segregated want in a land of plenty. There remains an entire generation of African Americans alive and well who were legally consigned to segregated schools, neighborhoods, and occupations. The black college graduates with weaker starting positions in the labor market are the children and grandchildren of that generation. No matter how much we might believe in the great gospel of education, it is an opportunity vehicle that works best when coupled with justice and not confused for justice."
tressiemcmillancottom  2014  race  inequality  education  class  justice  reparations  ta-nehisicoates  us  jimcrow  segregation  civilrights  socialjustice  lanor  work  unemployment 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Michael Brown's Unremarkable Humanity - The Atlantic
"The New York Times has a feature today looking at the brief life of Michael Brown, informing us that he was "no angel." The reasons for this are many. Brown smoked marijuana. He lived in a community that "had rough patches." He wrote rap songs that were "by turns contemplative and vulgar." He shoplifted and pushed a store clerk who tried to stop him. These details certainly paint a portrait of a young man who failed to be angelic. That is because no person is angelic—least of all teenagers—and there is very little in this piece that distinguishes Brown from any other kid his age.

What horrifies a lot of us beholding the spectacle of Ferguson, beholding the spectacle of Sanford, of Jacksonville, is how easily we could see ourselves in these kids. I shudder to think of my reaction, at 17, to some strange dude following me through my own housing development. I shudder to think of my reaction, at 17, to some other strange dude pulling up next to me and telling me to turn down my music.

And if Michael Brown was not angelic, I was practically demonic. I had my first drink when I was 11. I once brawled in the cafeteria after getting hit in the head with a steel trash can. In my junior year I failed five out of seven classes. By the time I graduated from high school, I had been arrested for assaulting a teacher and been kicked out of school (twice.) And yet no one who knew me thought I had the least bit of thug in me. That is because I also read a lot of books, loved my Commodore 64, and ghostwrote love notes for my friends. In other words, I was a human being. A large number of American teenagers live exactly like Michael Brown. Very few of them are shot in the head and left to bake on the pavement.

The "angelic" standard was not one created by the reporter. It was created by a society that cannot face itself, and thus must employ a dubious "morality" to hide its sins. It is reinforced by people who have embraced the notion of "twice as good" while avoiding the circumstances which gave that notion birth. Consider how easily living in a community "with rough patches" becomes part of a list of ostensible sins. Consider how easily "black-on-black crime" becomes not a marker of a shameful legacy of segregation but a moral failing.

We've been through this before. We will almost certainly go through it again."
ta-nehisicoates  michaelbrown  2014  language  children  teens  youth  demonization  nytimes  race  ferguson 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Black Pathology Crowdsourced - Ta-Nehisi Coates - The Atlantic
"The point is that the same sets of cultural characteristics operate very differently in different circumstances. And to focus on the culture—rather than the circumstances—seems obtuse." —Yoni Appelbaum

[Something of a corollary to Ta-Nehisi Coates here http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/07/there-are-no-fat-people-in-paris/278162/ :]

"The thing you find so valuable may well be related to something else which you find utterly objectionable."

[BUT rephrased as "The thing you find to be a flaw in one circumstance may well be an admirable trait in another."]
history  culture  circumstance  context  ta-nehisicoates  2014  values  characteristics  behavior  complexity  commentary  race  ethnicity 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Other People's Pathologies - Ta-Nehisi Coates - The Atlantic
"What's missed here is that the very culture Chait derides might well be the reason why I am sitting here debating him in the first place. That culture contained a variety of values and practices. "I ain't no punk" was one of them. "Know your history" was another. "Words are beautiful" was another still. The key is cultural dexterity—understanding when to emphasize which values, and when to employ which practices."



"No, they need to be taught that all norms are not transferable into all worlds. In my case, physical assertiveness might save you on the street but not beyond it. At the same time, other values are transferrable and highly useful. The "cultural norms" of my community also asserted that much of what my country believes about itself is a lie. In the spirit of Frederick Douglass, Ida B. Wells, and Malcolm X, it was my responsibility to live, prosper, and attack the lie. Those values saved me on the street, and they sustain me in this present moment.

People who take a strict binary view of culture ("culture of privilege = awesome; culture of poverty = fail") are afflicted by the provincialism of privilege and thus vastly underestimate the dynamism of the greater world. They extoll "middle-class values" to the ignorance and exclusion of all others. To understand, you must imagine what it means to confront algebra in the morning and "Shorty, can I see your bike?" in the afternoon. It's very nice to talk about "middle-class values" when that describes your small, limited world. But when your grandmother lives in one hood and your coworkers live another, you generally need something more than "middle-class values." You need to be bilingual."



"Chait's jaunty and uplifting narrative flattens out the chaos of history under the cheerful rubric of American progress. The actual events are more complicated. It's true, for instance, that slavery was legal in the United States in 1860 and five years later it was not. That is because a clique of slaveholders greatly overestimated its own power and decided to go to war with its country. Had the Union soundly and quickly defeated the Confederacy, it's very likely that slavery would have remained. Instead the war dragged on, and the Union was forced to employ blacks in its ranks. The end result—total emancipation—was more a matter of military necessity than moral progress."



"Ames was totally accurate. For the next century, the United States legitimized the overthrow of legal governments, the reduction of black people to forced laborers, and the complete alienation—at gunpoint—of black people in the South from the sphere of politics.

Chait's citation of the end of lynching as evidence of America serving as an "ally" is especially bizarre. The United States never passed anti-lynching legislation, a disgrace so great that it compelled the Senate to apologize—in 2005.

"There may be no other injustice in American history," said Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu, "for which the Senate so uniquely bears responsibility." Even then, a half century after Emmett Till's murder, the sitting senators from Mississippi—the state with the most lynchings—declined to endorse the apology.

"You don't stick a knife in a man's back nine inches," said Malcolm X, "and then pull it out six inches and say you're making progress."

The notion that black America's long bloody journey was accomplished through frequent alliance with the United States is an assailant's-eye view of history. It takes no note of the fact that in 1860, most of this country's exports were derived from the forced labor of the people it was "allied" with. It takes no note of this country electing senators who, on the Senate floor, openly advocated domestic terrorism. It takes no note of what it means for a country to tolerate the majority of the people living in a state like Mississippi being denied the right to vote. It takes no note of what it means to exclude black people from the housing programs, from the GI Bills, that built the American middle class. Effectively it takes no serious note of African-American history, and thus no serious note of American history.

You see this in Chait's belief that he lives in a country "whose soaring ideals sat uncomfortably aside an often cruel reality." No. Those soaring ideals don't sit uncomfortably aside the reality but comfortably on top of it. The "cruel reality" made the "soaring ideals" possible."



"James Baldwin was not being cute here. If you can not bring yourself to grapple with that which literally built your capitol, then you are not truly grappling with your country. And if you are not truly grappling with your country, then your beliefs in its role in the greater world (exporter of democracy, for instance) are built on sand. Confronting the black experience means confronting the limits of America, and perhaps, humanity itself. That is the confrontation that graduates us out of the ranks of national cheerleading and into the school of hard students.

Chait thinks this view is "fatalistic." I think God is fatalistic. In the end, we all die. As do most societies. As do most states. As do most planets. If America is fatally flawed, if white supremacy does truly dog us until we are no more, all that means is that we were unexceptional, that we were not favored by God, that we were flawed—as are all things conceived by mortal man.

I find great peace in that. And I find great meaning in this struggle that was gifted to me by my people, that was gifted to me by culture."
ta-nehisicoates  2014  jonathanchait  us  history  slavery  whitesupremacy  democracy  greatmess  pathology  culture  fatalism  cultureofpoverty  poverty  jamesbaldwin  progress  values  race 
april 2014 by robertogreco
The Champion Barack Obama - Ta-Nehisi Coates - The Atlantic
"When W.E.B. Du Bois, in 1897, claimed that the "first and greatest" step toward addressing "the Negro Problem," lay in correcting the "immorality, crime and laziness among the Negroes themselves" he was wrong. No amount of morality could have prevented the overthrow of Wilmington by white supremacists—the only coup in American history—a year later. When Booker T. Washington urged blacks to use "every iota of influence that we possess" to "get rid of the criminal and loafing element of our people," he was wrong. When Marcus Garvey claimed that "the greatest stumbling block in the way of progress in the race has invariably come from within the race itself," he was dead wrong. When Malcolm X claimed that "the white man is too intelligent to let someone else come and gain control of the economy of his community,” and asserted that black people "will let anybody come in and take control of the economy of your community," he was wrong. He knew the game was rigged. He did not know how much.

An appeal to authority—even the authority of our dead—doesn't make Barack Obama any more right. On the contrary, it shows how wrong he is. I can't think of a single credible historian of our 500-year tenure here who has concluded that our problem was a lack of "personal responsibility." The analysis is as old as it is flawed, and that is because it isn't analysis at all but something altogether different. No black people boo when the president talks about personal responsibility. On the contrary, it's often the highlight of his speeches on race. If you've ever lived in a black community, you might understand why. I can assemble all kinds of stats, graphs, and histories to explain black America's ills to you. But none of that can salve the wound of leaving for work at 7 a.m., seeing young men on the stoop blowing trees, and coming home and seeing the same niggers—because this is what we say to ourselves—sitting in the same place. It is frustrating to feel yourself at war with these white folks—because that too is what we say—and see people standing on your corner who you believe to have given up the fight.

"I am not raising 'nothing niggers,'" my mother used to tell me. "I am not raising niggers to stand on the corner." My mother did not know her father. In my life, I've loved four women. One of them did not know her father and two, very often, wished they didn't. It's not very hard to look at that, and seethe. It's not very hard to look at that and see a surrender, while you are out here at war, and seethe. It's not hard to look around at your community and feel that you are afflicted by quitters, that your family—in particular—is afflicted by a weakness. And so great is this weakness that the experience of black fatherlessness can connect Barack Obama in Hawaii to young black boys on the South Side, and that fact—whatever the charts, graphs, and histories may show—is bracing. When Barack Obama steps into a room and attacks people for presumably using poverty or bigotry as an excuse to not parent, he is channeling a feeling deep in the heart of all black people, a frustration, a rage at ourselves for letting this happen, for allowing our community to descend into the basement of America, and dwell there seemingly forever.

My mother's admonishings had their place. God forbid I ever embarrass her. God forbid I be like my grandfather, like the fathers of my friends and girlfriends and wife. God forbid I ever stand in front of these white folks and embarrass my ancestors, my people, my dead. And God forbid I ever confuse that creed, which I took from my mother, which I pass on to my son, with a wise and intelligent analysis of my community. My religion can never be science. This is the difference between navigating the world and explaining it.

In his book The Condemnation of Blackness, the historian Khalil Gibran Muhammad notes that a few years after Du Bois made his proclamations he was shocked to find himself cited by unreformed white supremacists. And this is not even the past. New York's civil-rights leadership and the racists of our time are united in their belief in the myth of a Knockout Game, which is to say they are united in a belief in our oldest and most fallacious narratives, which have not died.

"Catharsis is not policy. Catharsis is not leadership. And shame is not wisdom. And applause can never make a man right. And there are many kinds of personal responsibility. The young black man, coming out of storied Morehouse, should be personally responsible for the foiling of this new wave of poll taxing. He should be personally responsible for ensuring that the Medicaid expansion comes to Mississippi. He should be personally responsible for the end of this era of mass incarceration. He should be personally responsible for the destruction of the great enemy of his people—white supremacy. It is so very hard to say this, to urge people on in a long war. We keep asking the same question, but the answer has not changed.

And I struggle to get my head around all of this. There are moments when I hear the president speak and I am awed. No other resident of the White House, could have better explained to America what the George Zimmerman verdict meant. And I think history will remember that, and remember him for it. But I think history will also remember his unquestioning embrace of "twice as good" in a country that has always given black people, even under his watch, half as much."
barackobama  2014  ta-nehisicoates  blame  shame  race  us  history  struggle  responsibility 
february 2014 by robertogreco
Yeah, Alec Baldwin Really Is a Bigot - Ta-Nehisi Coates - The Atlantic
"Being confronted by actual humans is a dangerous business. It leaves you with questions, and things that you think are natural—homophobia for instance—you discover to be less natural than you presumed. I say this because I know it: You can be repulsed by gay sex one day, and then repulsed by the fact that you were ever so low as to be repulsed in the first place. You can discover that your repulsion is actually built on a series of unstated beliefs—what you think about the world, what you think about women, and ultimately, what you think about yourself. "
ta-nehisicoates  gender  homophobia  ethics  culture  bigotry  alecbaldwin  2013  humans  change 
december 2013 by robertogreco
How I Met Your Mother - Ta-Nehisi Coates - The Atlantic
"What I am telling you is that you do not need to know to love, and it is right that you feel it all in any moment. And it is right that you see it through--that you are amazed, then curious, then belligerent, then heartbroken, then numb. You have the right to all of it. You must want to own all of it. We will try to ward you away. We will try to explain to you that we have already walked that path. We will try to tell you that we have made your mistakes. We will claim that we are trying to spare you. But you will see our greed and self-service hiding behind our words. You will see us ward you away with one hand, while the other still shakes at the memories. Here is the thing--you have the right to every end of your exploration and no motherfucker anywhere can tell you otherwise.

The culture of our world, right now, is crafted by little boys who only recall being stood up on their first date, and nothing they got after. They don't remember the sand they kicked in other people's eyes, only their own injuries. Our art is cynical and bad-ass and made by people who will not be happy until you join them in the church of "everything is fucked up, so throw up your hands." This is art as anesthesia.

Our art is made in cities like New York by people who are running from other places. They feel themselves as misfits who were trapped in dead-end suburbs. They hated high school. Their parents did not understand. They are seeking a better world. And when they realize that the world is wholly a problem, that the whole problem is in them, they make television for other people who are also running, who take voyage in search of a perfect world, then rage at the price of the ticket."

[Full set of dispatches from Paris here: http://www.theatlantic.com/international/category/paris ]
paris  writing  ta-nehisicoates  love  parenting  2013  culture  art  growingup  children  findingoneself  identity  memory  memories  maturation  life  living  choice  mistakes  canon 
august 2013 by robertogreco
Privilege Is Like Money: Reflections From France - Ta-Nehisi Coates - The Atlantic
"Privilege is like money--when you have none it is impossible to get and when you have more people offer it to you at every turn. Last week, in short order, I treated with Tim Pawlenty, met Annie Lennox, and greeted Elena Kagan on my way out of town. And then I flew to Chicago and watched everyday people lose their lives. What haunted was the barrier of tissue paper I felt between the cold world and me. I saw families living in disorder and squalor, living in fire-traps built by men who should be prosecuted by the city."



"But the game is rigged. Let me tell you how I came here. I write for a major magazine and this is a privilege. I would say that it is earned, except that many people earn many things which they never receive. So I shall say that it was earned and I was lucky. I shall also say that my whole aim when I write is to blow a hole in that great forever, to make you feel the particular fire that burns in me."

[Full set of dispatches from Paris here: http://www.theatlantic.com/international/category/paris ]
ta-nehisicoates  2013  privilege  luck  psychology  work  hardwork  economics  perspective  france  paris  wealth  success 
august 2013 by robertogreco
How Can We Toughen Our Children Without Frightening Them? - Ta-Nehisi Coates - The Atlantic
"First you leave your block. Then you leave your neighborhood. Then you leave your high school. The your city, your college and, finally, your country. At every step you are leaving another world, and at every step you feel a warm gravity, a large love, pulling you back home. And you feel crazy for leaving. And you feel that it is preposterous to do this to yourself. And you wonder who would do this to a child."

[Full set of dispatches from Paris here: http://www.theatlantic.com/international/category/paris ]
learning  parenting  psychology  maturation  exploringtheworld  howwelearn  2013  edges  concentriccircles  risk  risktaking  growingup  ta-nehisicoates 
august 2013 by robertogreco
On Food Poisoning and Rousseau - Ta-Nehisi Coates - The Atlantic
"[T]here is always the danger in falling in for a distant lover who seems magically free of all the complications back home. I was raised by a generation that--to varying degrees--found this out. My friend Brendan Koerner just published a book which is getting raves everywhere--The Skies Belong To Us. The most bracing portion, to me, is Brendan's hard look at the New Left. I got my first lessons in skepticism and counter-intuitiveness from a lot of these guys. But it's worth remembering that there was when they sung the praises of Kim il Sung. 

I don't want to take this too far. If America has the right to be wrong, then so do its reformers. It mirrors our discussion here where we find people attacking other countries for not being "democratic" without understanding our own long, ugly and sometimes dishonorable path. More, I would say that because of my particular background, my canon was a little different than most, and whatever differences you might find in my voice are attributable to that."

[Full set of dispatches from Paris here: http://www.theatlantic.com/international/category/paris ]
ta-nehisicoates  2013  paris  skepticism  conterintuition  rousseau  us  reform  democracy  temptation  blurredvision  complexity  travel 
august 2013 by robertogreco
'There Are No Fat People in Paris' - Ta-Nehisi Coates - The Atlantic
"We talk about culture as a way of establishing hierarchies -- as though a hammer could, somehow, be innately better than a hacksaw. I believe that cultures take shape for actual reasons, responding to real environments. If Americans love choice, if we love our air-conditioning, and our ice, if we love our comforts, and our elevators, the question should not be, "How do we change?" for that too is a kind of colonization. Better to ask "Why do we love those things? How do they profit us? What we do we stand to lose should we abandon them?" 

I love the tradition of low architecture here. But I also wonder how that tradition affects the cost of living for actual people. And so this is the other thing about culture. It tends to be an interlocking network, a machine of related gears, pulleys and levers. The thing you find so valuable may well be related to something else which you find utterly objectionable. I suspect that the instinct toward ensuring an abundance of fresh, high-quality food is not so distant from the instinct to ban the <strike>hijab</strike> burka.

There is surely some knowledge to be taken back home. But in thinking about myself and my country, and "cultural" change, I find that I am more reformist than revolutionary. We are who we are. Our unchanging acre is forever our own."

[Full set of dispatches from Paris here: http://www.theatlantic.com/international/category/paris ]

[Update: see notes about http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/04/black-pathology-crowdsourced/360190/ here: https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:268809a6129c ]
ta-nehisicoates  culture  complexity  behavior  france  food  identity  difference  cherrypicking  colonization  choice  change  agency  comfort  comforts  2013  paris  hierarchy 
august 2013 by robertogreco
Stand together or fall apart » No measure of health
"But I still have a lot of time for the gradualists, too. For one thing, a lot of fiery radicals miss opportunities to make real improvements in our lives within existing systems. Legalising same-sex marriage neither ended homophobia nor helped anyone who doesn’t fit a fairly traditional domestic template, but how many deportations has it forestalled? Obamacare is gravely compromised—a shadow of the reform it should have been—but how many bankruptcies will it prevent? Just because these are partial, provisional victories doesn’t mean they weren’t worth fighting for, and won’t stop me from cheering for them.

Just as importantly, I still share the gradualists’ fear. A while back, I tweeted something to the effect of “How can we have the Revolution without La Terreur?” and no-one answered. That’s not exactly a scientific measure, but I still don’t have an answer, still haven’t heard a good one from anyone else, and fear that the trauma that is Egypt today proves the point. Without such an answer, the thought of a true rupture still gives me sickening vertigo.

So what can we do? I like to look for middle ways, but I don’t see an adequate one here. I still write to electeds, and I will vote when I’m finally allowed, but I’m consciously minimising the time I spend on this kind of politics, because the potential wins are so dispiritingly far short of the change we need. The best I have is doing what I can to build and support human scale alternatives to the intermediated, dehumanising political economy we have as a default. In my more idealistic moments, I think we can just slowly render the old, ossified systems irrelevant and watch them fade away. Usually I see it as prototyping."
timmaly  quinnorton  ta-nehisicoates  2013  eldangoldenberg  tejucole  politics  policy  gradualists  democracy  middlegrounds  canon  action  activism  beginners  welcome  makerspaces  community  libraries  tools  toollibraries  communitiesofpractice  cynicism  compassion  conviviality  cooperation  coops  despair  work  decentralization  ecosystems  interdependence  lcproject  openstudioproject 
august 2013 by robertogreco
If I Were a Black Kid... - Ta-Nehisi Coates - The Atlantic
"I try to get them to think of education not as something that pleases their teachers, but as a ticket out into a world so grand and stunning that it defies their imagination. My belief is that, if I can get them to understand the "why?" of education, then the effort and hard work and long study hours will come after. I don't know how true that is in practice, but given that I am asked to speak from my own experience, that is the lesson I have drawn."



"What I have come to believe is that children are more than what their circumstance put upon them. So my goal is to get kids to own their education. I don't think I can hector them into doing this. I don't think I can shame them into doing it. I do think that might be able to affect some sort of internal motivation. So I try to get them to see that every subject they study has the potential to open up a universe. I really mean this."



"So when I talk to young black kids, I try to talk about the "why?" as much as the "what?" And, for the record, I do the same thing at MIT. I start my class explaining that learning to write is their moral duty. I told them they had access to more information that 99 percent of all humans who have ever lived. It is a moral duty to learn how to communicate that information, clearly and compellingly. I think everyone should own their education.

I don't know if any of that works. But I am convinced that my problem was not mere laziness nor a lack of work ethic. Work ethics don't magically appear. Mine is most evidenced when I understand why I am working and when I find that "Why" compelling. I never really had that as a student. "Try harder" has to have some actual meaning beyond sloganeering."



"One other thing I try to do is avoid talking about education in the negative. So I rarely talk to kids about what they "shouldn't be doing" or what they "can't do. I prefer to talk about what they can and should do."



"So my argument to black twelve year-old boy isn't that he should stop dreaming of being a rapper or a ball player, but that he should understand that that isn't the end of their possibilities. And one way to see more of what it is possible is education.

I would not urge you simply to get off the PlayStation. I would urge you to understand who made the game. I would not urge you to take down your King James poster. I would urge you to think about the business that makes him possible. Perhaps you'd like to be part of that business some day. I would urge you think about what Kendrick is doing in his lyrics, to think about music. Do you know how to read music? Have you learned an instrument? Would that interest you? How about poetry? Have you ever read any? Would you consider trying to write some of your own?

I think we all get frustrated with the state of our community. I think it is easy to turn that frustration into a kind of catharsis by denigrating the dreams of children. I believe in taking the dreams of children seriously, and then challenging them to take their own dreams seriously. Again--ownership."
ta-nehisicoates  education  ownership  thewhy  learning  motivation  intrinsicmotivation  agency  epowerment  2013  cv  howweteah  howwelearn  encouragement  inspiration 
june 2013 by robertogreco
Departures, Cont. - Ta-Nehisi Coates - The Atlantic
"I felt myself as horrifyingly singular there. A language is more than grammar and words, is the movement of The People, their sense of appropriate laughter, their very conception of space. In Paris the public space was a backyard for The People and The People's language was not mine. Even if I learned the grammar and vocab so part of it must be off-limits to me. it could never really be "mine." I had a native language of my own. I felt like a distant friend crashing a family reunion. Except the family was this entire sector of the city. I could feel their nameless, invisible bonds all around me, tripping my every step."



"I got my ticket, boarded the train. and descended further into the European continent.

The loneliness was intense. I knew at a least few people in Paris. But this train winding through high and gorgeous country, leaving behind small Hallmark towns, was truly taking me into foreign depths. For most of the ride there were English translations. But when I transferred at Lausanne, the pretensions dropped away and there was only French. I have spent almost as much time away from my family in the past year as I've spent with them. Is this how it's supposed to be? Is learning forever winding through these strange and foreign places? Is study the opposite of home?

In Vevey, I was met at the station by a mother and her daughter. They gave me the layout of the town. They showed me how to catch the train to school. They told me how to lock up their house. They poured me red wine, served bread and cheese. This was immersion. I was given a room. I called my wife then went to bed. That night everyone in my dreams spoke French.  I could not understand a word they said."
paris  switzerland  language  learning  ta-nehisicoates  2013  dreams  dreaming  french  france  languagelearning  languageacquisition  solitude  cultureclash  loneliness  belonging  safety  risk 
march 2013 by robertogreco
Departures - Ta-Nehisi Coates - The Atlantic
"I have not had any problems. At 8:45 I will board a ship. It will punch through the sky. At some point, God willing, that ship will emerge over airspace far from the beloved West Baltimore of my youth. Something is happening in this world. I think of my grandfather, lecturing from the daily newspaper, drowning in alcohol, addicted to violence. I think of my father, working all summer as a child, saving his funds for a collection of recordings that promised to teach him French. He didn't learn French, but he learned to compel his son to want to learn French. I think of my grandmother pushing up from the Eastern Shore of Maryland raising three daughters in the projects, somehow sending them all to college. 

I think of what these folks might have been had they not lived in world intolerant of black ambition. The world has changed. It has not changed totally, but it has changed significantly. When I fell out on the train, everyone on the car was white. So were all the paramedics and all the doctors and nurses. The challenge for someone trying to assess America, at this moment, is properly calibrating how far we've gone with how far we have to go. Too much optimism renders you naive; too much pessimism makes you cynical."
ta-nehisicoates  2013  progress  health  us  optimism  pessimism  naïvité  cynicism  race 
march 2013 by robertogreco
The Mellow Sounds and Romantic Mood of the French Subjunctive - Ta-Nehisi Coates - The Atlantic
"As someone who began his career in poetry, and is constantly telling his kids that language must carry both emotional and literal information, I love the subjunctive. It's like this dark, mysterious, achingly beautiful stranger. Which is different from saying I've mastered or I totally understand it. Mastery isn't the point. This is language study and study--in and of itself--is rewarding.

Part of the problem is that we think of foreign language as something to be conquered, or completed . We grade people in foreign language classes. The net is filled with sites that make claims like "Speak Fluent In French In Three Months!!!!" Everyone--including me--wants to know how long it will take to be fluent. But yesterday my French instructor told me there is no fluency, even she isn't "fluent." This is a person who speaks beautiful, beautiful French. Her point isn't that there is no literal "fluency" but that this isn't the best way to think about language study.'
poetry  language  fluency  2013  ta-nehisicoates  learning  thelearningmind  howwelearn  mood  subjunctive  french  emotion  communication  studying  writing  howwewrite  mastery  subtlety  conveyance 
march 2013 by robertogreco
'You Know Nothing of My Work' - Ta-Nehisi Coates - The Atlantic
"I think this is argument for "diversity" at our education institutions. Humanism in theory isn't enough. You need to be confronted with actual humans to really feel it. It has become increasingly clear to me that I am not a member of any "black race." That there is no such thing. I am, very much, a black person. This describes my history, my culture, my dialect, my community, my family, my collective experience with America. But there is nothing in my bones that makes me more like other "black persons" than like anyone else."
ta-nehisicoates  diversity  race  2013  humanism  theory  praxis  practice  people  humans  stereotypes  generalizations  culture 
march 2013 by robertogreco
France, J'ai Vous Peur - Ta-Nehisi Coates - The Atlantic
"What happens over there? Can I jog in the streets? Will people ask if I know Kobe Bryant? If I forget my place and say "tu" instead of "vous" will they cane me? And if I say "vous" instead of "tu" will they think I am being sarcastic? Who goes to another country and stays with people they don't know?

I don't know. I don't know anything. This is truly frightening--and exhilarating--part of language study. It's total submission. All around you will be people who know much more than you about everything. And the only way to learn is to accept this. You can't know what's coming next. You can't think about false goals like fluency. You just have to accept your own horribleness, your own ignorance and believe--almost on faith--that someday you will be less horrible and less ignorant. 

I've come to the point where I can accept that I am afraid and keep going. This is not courage, so much as understanding there's no other way. People who read this blog now send me notes in French. At speeches Haitian students approach me, and they speak French. My kid is starting to believe that learning a language is cool. I'm hemmed in by all of this, by ma grande bouche. 

And now there's no other way. Ces choses doit être fait."

[In a comment he left: http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/03/france-jai-vous-peur/274132/#comment-833933574 ]

"It's funny because my first impulse was to have all of this read by my French tutor.

Two things stopped me.

1.) I wanted to communicate who I was to the family. Part of who I am is someone working out my French. It seemed important for them to know this.

2.) I really look forward to reading back over this entire series in five years.

With that said, correct away. Public correction is part of this."
ta-nehisicoates  language  languageacquisition  2013  french  ignorance  horribleness  learning  vulnerability  cv  canon  life  risk  honesty  identity  presentationofself  notknowing  uncertainty  certainty  thelearningmind  howwelearn  risktaking  culture 
march 2013 by robertogreco
How the Quiet Car Explains the World - Ta-Nehisi Coates - The Atlantic
"I think what we have here is a working definition of an asshole -- a person who demands that all social interaction happen on their terms. Assholes fill our various worlds. But the banhammer only works in one of them."
ta-nehisicoates  assholes  social  society  quietcar  commenters  commenting  violence 
march 2013 by robertogreco
We Are All Welfare Queens Now - Ta-Nehisi Coates - The Atlantic
"You can paint a similar history of the welfare state, which was first secured by assuring racist white Democrats that the pariah of black America would be cut out of it. When such machinations became untenable, the strategy became to claim the welfare state mainly benefited blacks. And as that has become untenable, the strategy has become to target the welfare state itself, with no obvious mention of color. At each interval the ostensible pariah grows, until one in two Americans are members of the pariah class.

In all this you can see the insidious and lovely foresight of integration which, at its root, posits an end to whiteness as any kind of organizing political force. I would not say we are there. But when the party of white populism finds itself writing off half the country, we are really close."
history  us  class  ta-nehisicoates  whitepopulism  populism  welfare  romney  romneyryan  mittromney  2012  racism  race  politics 
september 2012 by robertogreco
Junior Seau Is Dead, Cont. - Ta-Nehisi Coates - The Atlantic
"I can't really over-emphasize how much this is a personal decision, and not—as one commenter put it—a "personal boycott."

I have no real designs to keep grown men from playing football. I don't really have designs on anything. I think as progressives we sometimes get trapped into discussing morality strictly in the paradigm of "affecting change."

But I think morality in the Emersonian paradigm—that "nothing is at last sacred, but the integrity of your own mind," that religion is what you do when no one's looking—is just as important. The Montgomery Boycott is not "only" important because of its results. You don't just protest segregation as a demonstration to other people, you also do so as a demonstration to self.

In football, as in so many other things, each of has to decide where that demonstration to self must be made. Personal morality is rarely improved in a crowd.

More later."
morality  healthcare  self  religion  spectators  personalmorality  crowds  professionalsports  ethics  headinjuries  americanfootball  sports  juniorseau  ta-nehisicoates  2012 
july 2012 by robertogreco
Junior Seau Is Dead - Ta-Nehisi Coates - The Atlantic
"Perhaps it's too much to expect them too. Malcolm Gladwell puts the responsibility right where it belongs:

"Slate: Should the NFL be banned too?"

"Gladwell: As long as the risks are explicit, the players warned, and those injured properly compensated, then I'm not sure we can stop people from playing. A better question is whether it is ethical to WATCH football. That's a harder question."

I'm not so sure that it's hard at all. The answer, at least for those displeased with pro football's response, seems pretty clear. Doing the damn thing is the hard part.

I now know that I have to go. I have known it for a while now. But I have yet to walk away. For me, the hardest portion is living apart--destroying something that binds me to friends and family. With people whom I would not pass another words, I can debate the greatest running back of all time. It's like losing a language."
morality  headinjuries  americanfootball  2012  juniorseau  nfl  healthcare  professionalsports  ethics  sports  ta-nehisicoates 
july 2012 by robertogreco
School as Wonder, or Way Out - NYTimes.com
"I can tell you everything that was wrong with my education — how cold pedagogy reduced the poetry of Macbeth to a wan hunt for hamartia, how the beautiful French language broke under rote vocabulary. But more than that, I can tell you what happens when education is decoupled from curiosity, and becomes little more than an insurance policy."

“There but for the grace of hard parents go I” was the lesson of my life. The lesson was unintentional and ironic. I acquired it in the midst of failure in the very environs that I now deem unfit. And so you must forgive my overthinking. I am watching my child grow in a new world of comparable bounty and privilege and I can’t help but wonder, and worry, at what unintentional lessons I am now imparting."
2012  parenting  experience  schooling  schools  wonder  unschooling  unintendedconsequences  memory  education  ta-nehisicoates 
july 2012 by robertogreco
On Making Yourself Right - Ta-Nehisi Coates - National - The Atlantic
"Publicly, he lived to make himself right -- a tradition that is fully empowered in our politics. Breitbart didn't invent the art of making yourself right. But he embraced it, and then advanced it.

That is what took me to sadness. I have experienced curiosity as a primarily selfish endeavor. It originates in the understanding of the brevity of life, and the desire to see as much of it as possible, from as many angles as possible without doing too much damage to my morality. The opposite of that -- incuriosity, dishonesty, the opportunistic deployment of information -- is darkness. Breitbart died, like all of us will, in darkness. But as a media persona he chose to also live there, and in the process has impelled countless others to throttle themselves into the abyss…

It is wholly appropriate to be sorry that Andrew Breitbart died. But in the relevant business, it is right to be sorry for how he lived."
history  journalism  us  race  politics  society  mediapersona  persona  media  lies  lying  naacp  acorn  death  life  ethics  morality  values  charlessherrod  shirleysherrod  truth  wrong  right  2012  andrewbreitbart  ta-nehisicoates 
march 2012 by robertogreco
Mark Twain And Grant's Memoirs - Ta-Nehisi Coates - National - The Atlantic
"…beautiful thing about writing is it has no real respect for credentialism. You can get various degrees in writing. (…my initial plan was to get MFA.) But a degree can't make you a writer in the way that JD can make you a lawyer.

Great writing comes from all classes people…all kinds of experience. Edith Wharton was raised rich. EL Doctorow was not. 

When I visit schools around country I consistently repeat this—not because I think school is worthless, but b/c, very often, there are kids in audience who are lost, just as I once was. I don't come there to contravene their education…to tell them to drop out. On the contrary, I try to reinforce the ethic of hard work. But they need to know that a grade in a class, is not who they are—and I would say that whether the grade is an A or F. I failed English in HS…then failed British Literature in college. For whatever reason, it simply wasn't my time. But had I taken those grades as an eternal mark, I doubt I would be talking to you now."
ulyssessgrant  frederickdouglass  civilwar  abrahamlincoln  eldoctorow  marktwain  learning  readiness  grading  grades  deschooling  unschooling  education  credentialism  credentialing  credentials  writing  ta-nehisicoates 
february 2012 by robertogreco
The Time Machine - Ta-Nehisi Coates - Personal - The Atlantic
"The train, in all aspects, was a superior experience. The first thing was the feeling of everything melting away, of someone else taking control. When flying there are generally so many rules to be obeyed, and times when specific things can happen that I generally feel like, as a passenger, I'm actually a co-pilot. Lights tell you when you can and can't move. Announcements indicate (because I use a lap-top and iPad) when it's safe to read, write or listen to your music. Food and drink are administered at precise times. All of this within a confined space.

But there was a freedom on the train that you may need to be taller than six feet to really understand. You could walk as you needed to. You could sit in the cafe car and watch the scenery. You could fall into your book. Or you could just sleep, something I can't really do on airplanes. 

Finally there is the fact that, as much as possible, I should avoid supporting airline travel in its current American iteration…"

[See also: http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/09/when-you-buy-a-plane-ticket-the-terrorists-win/245009/ ]
ta-nehisicoates  flight  us  tsa  trains  amtrak  privacy  comfort  stress  2011  travel  policy  convenience 
november 2011 by robertogreco
Diversity Lecture: Ta-Nehisi Coates - YouTube
"As part of our Bob and Aliecia Woodrick Diversity Learning Center Diversity Lecture Series, Grand Rapids Community College presents Ta-Nehisi Coates speaking on "A Deeper Black: The Meaning of Race in the Age of Obama.""
ta-nehisicoates  civilwar  2011  martinlutherkingjr  race  barackobama  identity  dropouts  learning  education  observation  obsession  blackhistory  us  abrahamlincoln  slavery  history  africanamerican  truth  hemingway  huckleberryfinn  marktwain  malcolmx  acceptance  understanding  safety  incarceration  society  bodyscanners  airports  convenience  inconvenience  comfort  self-esteem  justice  challenge  segregation  success  progress  policy  politics  desegregation  parenting  books  homeenvironment  reading  curiosity  exposure  youth  adolescence  teens  adults  moralauthority  wisdom  mlk 
november 2011 by robertogreco
Ta-Nehisi Coates - YouTube
"Being black: handicap, blessing or neither? The Atlantic's contributing editor Ta-Nehisi Coates on Obama and a 'deeper' black identity."
ta-nehisicoates  manhood  parenting  youth  experience  blackculture  culture  2009  writing  identity  maculinity 
november 2011 by robertogreco
Diversity Conversation: Ta-Nehisi Coates - YouTube
"GRCC English professor Mursalata Muhummad interviews journalist and author Ta-Nehisi Coates. Presentend by the Bob and Aliecia Woodrick Diversity Learning Center at Grand Rapids Community College."
ta-nehisicoates  experience  writing  2011  journalism  storytelling  education  parenting  mentorship  learning  voice  audience  self  identity  influence  dungeonsanddragons  childhood  adolescence  geekdom  fiction  history  dropouts  boys 
november 2011 by robertogreco
Deconstructing Political Activism | Ta-Nehisi Coates | Big Think
"But all the great works of art that I’ve ever seen that had any sort of political import were always great stories first. They were great stories before anything. I think ideology kills art. I think it kills writing all the time. It completely, completely destroy it.

So I’ve really had to make a choice and my choice was to tell stories. And once I decided it out that was what I was going to do, the whole idea of being an activist was pretty much shunted aside. Anything, like, that that was going to happen was going to be because somebody was inspired by something…

“Their Eyes Were Watching God,” I’ve read that and I thought, wow, this is beautiful writings…want to do something like this. I’m not particularly interested; pardon my rudeness here. I just was not interested in changing minds…I just wanted to write a beautiful story. And I thought the truth will emerge, the universal values will emerge from telling the story."
ta-nehisicoates  writing  storytelling  2009  politics  activism  zoranealehurston  richardwright 
november 2011 by robertogreco
To End All Evil - Ta-Nehisi Coates - National - The Atlantic
"Leaving the analysis aside, I'm always amazed that people are surprised by a not guilty verdict. For all of my railing against prosecutorial misconduct, the job of a prosecutor strikes me as really, really, really difficult. This is rather obvious, but the fact of the thing is that the burden of proof is on the state, not the accused. The American justice system, by its very nature, guarantees that people who perpetuate horrendous evil will, with some regularity, go free.

I'm totally fine with that. It's always struck me as clear-eyed, realistic and deeply moral. Human justice has limits. It can not purge the world of evil."
ta-nehisicoates  us  justice  evil  humanjustice  acquittal  2011  civics  tradeoffs 
july 2011 by robertogreco
Southwest by South - Ta-Nehisi Coates - Personal - The Atlantic
"My friend schooled me on the best running path. And we talked about architecture, Austin, and the horror and beauty of the South. (Everything is a problem.) In large measure, I'm missing out on the whole festival. I did a panel on distraction and the internet. I went to a party where Diplodocus was spinning (I decline to abbreviate, because "Diplodocus" is too awesome of a word. I insist on taking every opportunity to employ it.) But there's a gang-bang element here, one you tend to find at all festivals, but one I generally dislike all the same. So I revel in the small moments, margherita pizza and red wine. A chance to greet a fellow Commie."
introverts  ta-nehisicoates  sxsw  texas  slavery  2011  austin  janeausten  diplodocus  parenthood  distraction  attention  relationships 
march 2011 by robertogreco
Blocked - Ta-Nehisi Coates - Culture - The Atlantic
"The panel I was on at SXSW dealt a lot with the distractions that seduce content-makers, particularly on the web. For a long time, I considered myself ADD & dreamed of a pill that could make it alright. But the longer I write, the more I think my problems have less to do w/ ADD, & more to do with my desire to avoid pain.

It's painful to write. It's painful to take a clear look at your finances, at your health, at your relationships. At least it's painful when you have no confidence that you can actually improve in those areas. I would not speak for anyone else, but most of my distractions are traceable to a deep-seated fear that I may not ultimately prevail.

I guess I could have taken a pill to ease that anxiety, and I would not disparage those who do. But there's something powerful…in knowing that the anxiety is not mystical. Surely, I still often procrastinate. But conceptualizing it as fear has really helped. I don't want to be a chump. I refuse to punked by the work."
ta-nehisicoates  writing  add  pain  anxiety  howwework  fear  risk  risktaking  2011  sxsw  work  cv  procrastination  distraction  web  online  internet 
march 2011 by robertogreco
The Racism of Frame - Ta-Nehisi Coates - National - The Atlantic
"On Friday I joked on twitter, the other day, that biggest problem with attempting to write smart is that you end up attracting people who really are smart. And sometimes they write in to tell you you're wrong. And sometimes, In such cases, your forced to acknowledge their point.

At the end of this post I said of Huck's ridiculous Obama/Kenya comparison, "This is not skin-color prejudice." Numerous people have noted that, well, it kinda is. A sample or three."
ta-nehisicoates  super-comments  blogs  humility  conversation  learning  correction 
march 2011 by robertogreco
Awesome Oatmeal - Ta-Nehisi Coates - Personal - The Atlantic
"I often hear this complaint from people who cook directed at people who don't. The notion basically holds that cooking isn't as inconvenient as people make it out to be. I don't know…

The bigger thing here is understanding why people go to McDonald's in the first place. I strongly suspect that the entire experience is comforting. In a day of constant work, pushes and pulls, you have this one clean place, which is the same everywhere, dispensing joyful shots of sugar and salt. That's just me thinking about how I've eaten the past--and also how I eat when my brain is crowded with everything besides what I'm eating.

I think what Bittman urges in his writing is is consciousness. He wants people to think hard about what they're eating. I strongly suspect that people go to McDonald's for the exact opposite reason--to get unconscious. Understanding why that it is, goes beyond our food. It's about how we live."
ta-nehisicoates  oatmeal  cooking  time  work  unconsciousness  mcdonalds  markbittman  understanding  empathy  perspective  food 
february 2011 by robertogreco
Crisis Of The Public Intellectual - Ta-Nehisi Coates - National - The Atlantic
"Much of what we're discussing is how academia has, to some extent by its own actions, been cleaved away from public life. I hesitate to speak on television about the Civil War, because there are people who've made this the work of their life--actual experts--who should be speaking. But I also recoil at the notion of a host looking at me and saying, "John Brown--good guy or bad, guy? Go." I imagine those experts feel the same way.

As in all things, I don't write this to offer a definitive answer. My sense is that the reluctance among people like me--and people smarter than me--to engage, is as problematic as the form itself."
academia  ta-nehisicoates  intellectualism  intellectualpursuit  elitism  snobbery  ivorytower  public  media  conversation  2010  television  tv 
december 2010 by robertogreco
'He Wears the Mask Just to Cover the Raw Flesh' - Ta-Nehisi Coates - Culture - The Atlantic
"Comics are so often seen as the province of white geeky nerds. But, more broadly, comics are the literature of outcasts, of pariahs, of Jews, of gays, of blacks. It’s really no mistake that we saw ourselves in Doom, Magneto or Rogue."
culture  comics  ta-nehisicoates  outcasts  pariahs 
december 2010 by robertogreco
Right on Cue - Culture - The Atlantic
"What I do know is that, like Rooney, I couldn't name a Lady Gaga song if I heard one right now. But I also know that my son knows more of my music than I know of his. He can recognize Nas, but I can't recognize, say, Drake. In other words, you'd do a lot better banking on my ignorance than his.

Age, like all power constructs, (race, gender, class) encourages it's own ignorance. To not know is a luxury of power. You don't have to know Their Eyes Were Watching God. But I damn sure better know The Scarlet Letter. (It's bad enough I'm slipping on Twain.) Age turns ignorance into a luxury, and worse, if you don't recognize it as a luxury you start to think everyone is as clueless as you. And of course you're clueless that any of this is even going on. It's just a bad look all around."

[via: http://kottke.org/10/08/digging-in-the-crates-or-why-my-generation-is-into-history ]
ta-nehisicoates  age  aging  media  music  ignorance  andyrooney  knowledge  awareness  generations  wisdom 
august 2010 by robertogreco
How Does It Feel To Be A Problem? - Culture - The Atlantic
"Man listen--Negroes like Atlanta. Negroes like Chicago. Negroes like Houston. Negroes like Raleigh-Durham (another area that doesn't make the cut, for some reason.) Negroes like Oakland. Negroes have the right to like where they live, independent of Massa, for their own particular, native, independent reasons (family? great barbecue? housing stock?) Just like Jewish-Americans have the right to like New York--or not. Just like Japanese-Americans have the right to like Cali--or not.

This particular Negro loves Denver--and Chicago too. But the notion that black people are pawns on a chess-board, which conservatives and liberals move around in order to one-up each each other, has got to go. Sometimes--just sometimes--a black dude isn't a problem. He's just a dude trying to marry a beautiful woman, raise a decent kid, retire to an tropical island, smoke some good herb, and drink some good rum.

Let Portland be Portland. And let black folks be themselves. We're getting along fine."
cities  race  ta-nehisicoates  portland  atlanta  nyc  houston  dallas  progressive  urban  diversity  chicago  seattle  austin  minneapolis  denver  oregon  losangeles  raleigh  2009  gentrification  politics  policy 
may 2010 by robertogreco
The Tea Party's Rank Amateurism - Politics - The Atlantic
"I hear GOP folks and Tea Partiers bemoaning the fact that media and Democrats are using the extremes of their movement for ratings and to score points. This is like Drew Brees complaining that Dwight Freeney keeps trying to sack him. If that were Martin Luther King's response to media coverage, the South might still be segregated. I exaggerate, but my point is that the whining reflects a basic misunderstanding of the rules of protest. When you lead a protest you lead it, you own it, and your opponents, and the media, will hold you responsible for whatever happens in the course of that protest. This isn't left-wing bias, it's the nature of the threat."
ta-nehisicoates  civilrights  conservatism  teaparty  us  gop  healthcare  politics  protest  racism  race  media  teabaggers 
march 2010 by robertogreco

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