Tag Archives: Ta-Nehisi Coates

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Quoted: Ta-Nehisi Coates on The History of Segregation in Chicago

Protest against discriminatory housing practices in Cicero, Illinois, 1966. Image via The Atlantic

In 1948, when the Supreme Court ruled that restrictive covenants, while permissible, were not enforceable by judicial action, Chicago had other weapons at the ready. The Illinois state legislature had already given Chicago’s city council the right to approve—and thus to veto—any public housing in the city’s wards. This came in handy in 1949, when a new federal housing act sent millions of tax dollars into Chicago and other cities around the country. Beginning in 1950, site selection for public housing proceeded entirely on the grounds of segregation. By the 1960s, the city had created with its vast housing projects what the historian Arnold R. Hirsch calls a “second ghetto,” one larger than the old Black Belt but just as impermeable. More than 98 percent of all the family public-housing units built in Chicago between 1950 and the mid‑1960s were built in all-black neighborhoods.

Governmental embrace of segregation was driven by the virulent racism of Chicago’s white citizens. White neighborhoods vulnerable to black encroachment formed block associations for the sole purpose of enforcing segregation. They lobbied fellow whites not to sell. They lobbied those blacks who did manage to buy to sell back. In 1949, a group of Englewood Catholics formed block associations intended to “keep up the neighborhood.” Translation: keep black people out. And when civic engagement was not enough, when government failed, when private banks could no longer hold the line, Chicago turned to an old tool in the American repertoire—racial violence. “The pattern of terrorism is easily discernible,” concluded a Chicago civic group in the 1940s. “It is at the seams of the black ghetto in all directions.” On July 1 and 2 of 1946, a mob of thousands assembled in Chicago’s Park Manor neighborhood, hoping to eject a black doctor who’d recently moved in. The mob pelted the house with rocks and set the garage on fire. The doctor moved away.

In 1947, after a few black veterans moved into the Fernwood section of Chicago, three nights of rioting broke out; gangs of whites yanked blacks off streetcars and beat them. Two years later, when a union meeting attended by blacks in Englewood triggered rumors that a home was being “sold to n*ggers,” blacks (and whites thought to be sympathetic to them) were beaten in the streets. In 1951, thousands of whites in Cicero, 20 minutes or so west of downtown Chicago, attacked an apartment building that housed a single black family, throwing bricks and firebombs through the windows and setting the apartment on fire. A Cook County grand jury declined to charge the rioters—and instead indicted the family’s NAACP attorney, the apartment’s white owner, and the owner’s attorney and rental agent, charging them with conspiring to lower property values. Two years after that, whites picketed and planted explosives in South Deering, about 30 minutes from downtown Chicago, to force blacks out.

– From “The Case For Reparations,” in The Atlantic

Keeping Tabs On The Social Justice Blogosphere In The Age Of Google Reader

By Guest Contributor David Zhou

Forgive me for anthropomorphizing a website.

The announcement that Google Reader would be shutting down hit me like the loss of an old friend with whom I had lately fallen out of touch–softly at first, then more powerfully. It’s easy to think as tech consumers that things die because of our neglect or disinterest. The biggest cliché that I acknowledge here is that Google Reader was more than a website, and whatever we neglected was more than a RSS aggregator. Still, Google Reader supported a blogging culture in which I have participated more infrequently over the years. Perhaps it’s worthwhile to take a wistful moment to reflect on how things have changed and what we do now.

I think I started using Reader in 2006 or 2007. I started by following some TV fan blogs that I wanted to keep up with. (I was really into Lost at the time.) When I got a handle of finding RSS feeds, I began to add everything. Blogs for cooking, news, tech, music, of college administrators and advisors, and even calendars and events. I must have cleared hundreds of items a day, reading post titles in fractions of a second. (The Trends feature in Google Reader tells me opaquely I have read 300,000+ items since 2009; apparently, it can’t fully count how many items I have read.)

In the summer of 2007, I started a blog with a close friend for our campus Asian American student organization. In the process of gathering things to write about in the world at large, I started a folder in Reader called “asian americana”, and then set out to find all the Asian American blogs there existed. There weren’t that many. Into “asian americana” went Angry Asian Man, of course. Hyphen magazine had a blog, too. Reappropriate was refreshing. Sepia Mutiny was still alive. Disgrasian was just a new upstart. If I missed any, my sincerest apologies; I read you all.

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Meanwhile On Tumblr: Ms. Afropolitan As Frida Kahlo And “The Good, Racist People”

By Andrea Plaid

In between the “are-they-or-aren’t-they-having-an-affair” gifs of Scandal’s Kerry Washington and Tony Goldwyn and the ongoing privilege-reading on Tumblr, Racializens loved a couple of gems from the past, like Minna Salami, a.k.a. Ms. Afropolitan, who joined our tweetversation about African feminisms a while ago, photographed as Frida Kahlo:

Photo credit: © Bumi Thomas Photography. Via Minna Salami's Facebook page.

Photo credit: © Bumi Thomas Photography. Via Minna Salami’s Facebook page.

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Video: Ta-Nehisi Coates Discusses Fear Of A Black President

Courtesy: The Atlantic.

By Arturo R. García

In “Fear of a Black President,” which appeared this past week in The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates takes on the entirety of President Barack Obama’s approach to racial matters during his tenure. Or, as Coates defines it, his lack of an approach.

Confronted by the thoroughly racialized backlash to Obama’s presidency, a stranger to American politics might conclude that Obama provoked the response by relentlessly pushing an agenda of radical racial reform. Hardly. Daniel Gillion, a political scientist at the University of Pennsylvania who studies race and politics, examined the Public Papers of the Presidents, a compilation of nearly all public presidential utterances—­proclamations, news-conference remarks, executive orders—and found that in his first two years as president, Obama talked less about race than any other Democratic president since 1961. Obama’s racial strategy has been, if anything, the opposite of radical: he declines to use his bully pulpit to address racism, using it instead to engage in the time-honored tradition of black self-hectoring, railing against the perceived failings of black culture.

His approach is not new. It is the approach of Booker T. Washington, who, amid a sea of white terrorists during the era of Jim Crow, endorsed segregation and proclaimed the South to be a land of black opportunity. It is the approach of L. Douglas Wilder, who, in 1986, not long before he became Virginia’s first black governor, kept his distance from Jesse Jackson and told an NAACP audience: “Yes, dear Brutus, the fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves … Some blacks don’t particularly care for me to say these things, to speak to values … Somebody’s got to. We’ve been too excusing.” It was even, at times, the approach of Jesse Jackson himself, who railed against “the rising use of drugs, and babies making babies, and violence … cutting away our opportunity.”

At the same time, though, he takes issue with Obama’s remarks following the killing of Trayvon Martin, saying his weighing in with empathy toward the Martin family and recognition that, if he had a son, he would look like Trayvon, took the case “out of its national-mourning phase and lapsed into something darker and more familiar—racialized political fodder. The illusion of consensus crumbled.”

As I’m still wading through the piece, I do feel the need to point out that, had Obama not said anything–or offered only encouragement that justice be served–that illusion would have crumbled anyway, from any direction. It’s not like Rush Limbaugh, The Daily Caller, or the conservative hate machine around them were waiting for that particular moment to bring out the torches; they would’ve just changed the vitriol to focus on some supposed callousness on his part.

“Trayvoning,” a meme too disgusting to dignify with a link, didn’t come about because of Obama’s remarks–it happened because there are thousands of people too insensitive and too emboldened by relative anonymity who can’t resist making jackasses of themselves online. No speech could have prevented it. As MacDaffy put it yesterday at The Daily Kos, “President Obama’s blackness does not ‘irradiate everything he touches.’ Racism does.”
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Quoted: Ta-Nehisi Coates on X-Men: First Class

“First Class” is set in 1962. That was the year South Carolina marked the Civil War centennial by returning the Confederate Flag to the State Capitol; the year the University of Mississippi greeted its first black student, James Meredith, with a lethal race riot; the year George Wallace was elected governor of Alabama.

That was the year a small crowd of Americans gathered at the Lincoln Memorial and commemorated the 100th birthday of the Emancipation Proclamation. Only a single African-American was asked to speak (Thurgood Marshall, added under threat of boycott). In “First Class,” 1962 finds our twin protagonists, Magneto and Professor X, also rallying before the Lincoln Memorial, not for protest or commemoration, but for a game of chess. “First Class” is not blind to societal evils, so much as it works to hold evil at an ocean’s length. The film is rooted in its opposition to the comfortably foreign abomination of Nazism.

This is all about knowing your audience.

I am reminded of the House Republicans, opening the 112th Congress by reciting the Constitution, minus the slavery parts. I am reminded of the English professor last year who, responding to Huckleberry Finn’s widespread banishment from public schools, was compelled to offer the Mark Twain classic, minus the nigger parts. I think of the Pentagon official, who this year justified the war in Afghanistan to soldiers by invoking the words of Dr. King, minus the “ultimate weakness of violence” parts. I am reminded of whole swaths of this country where historical fiction compels Americans to claim the Civil War was about states’ rights, minus the “right to own people” part.

This is all about a convenient suspension of disbelief.

- From The New York Times, June 8

Ta-Nehisi Coates asked ‘Is For Colored Girls a Classic’: My Response

By Guest Contributor Renina Jarmon, originally published at New Model Minority

In March, Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote a blog post titled, “The Debatable Legacy of For Colored Girls.” He writes,

“I haven’t read it in years, but even as a younger person I remember thinking it was somewhat over the top and heavy-handed. Hence when I heard that Perry was involved my thoughts were more along the lines of “Of course” or “Perfect.” I could be off on this and I’d like to hear some discussion around this.”

Nearly four years ago, I shouted out Ta-Nehisi Coates after reading an article of his in O magazine on his process of being a Black dad. I stated explicitly that publishers needed to give him a book deal. He responded to me a year later, and arranged to send me a galley of Beautiful Struggle, which I then reviewed on this blog. So i say this knowing that we have some limited history and I want to acknowledge that.

I have found Ta-Nehisi’s Black gender politics to be lacking on his blog and in some ways the questioning of whether or not For Colored Girls is classic symbolizes some of what troubles me about his Black gender politics.

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Connecting a Few More Dots.

by Guest Contributor Jamelle, originally published at PostBourgie

Ta-Nehisi Coates:

There’s a part in The Audacity Of Hope, where writing about race, Obama notes that, rightly or wrongly, a significant swath of white people are exhausted, and repeatedly scolding them (even if you’re right) is unlikely to alter the poverty stats. What we need, Obama argued, is a different strategy, one that connects our practical interests with the practical interests of the broader country–less energy on Don Imus and more on Harlem hospital. This sounds like a surrender, but it’s really a re-affirmation of strategy that goes back to Douglass. The point was never to wash white people, (an arrogant pursuit, at any rate) but to free ourselves. My interest in anti-racism is passing. My interest in black people is essential.

As much as I am sympathetic to Ta-Nehisi’s aversion to focusing on anti-racism, I think he is a little too quick to divorce anti-racism from the broader struggle for the practical interests of black people.  That is, if you were going to translate “practical interests of black people” into a legislative program, it would look pretty similar to the platform liberals have been pushing for the better part of a century: universal health care, robust public education, and generous income supports (EITC, unemployment benefits, welfare, etc.).  And so when Obama says that we should connect the practical issues of African-Americans to those of the country, what he means – really – is the opposite: the practical issues of the country are those of black people; and programs designed to benefit the country at large will also benefit (maybe even disproportionately) black people.

But here is where anti-racism and public policy is directly connected.   It’s not just that racial prejudice makes it incredibly difficult to pass legislation that directly addresses problems within minority communities – no, racial prejudice makes it incredibly difficult to pass legislation which directly benefits the majority of AmericansContinue reading