Speaking of White Privilege

Go read Ta-Nehisi Coates. I’m only halfway through, but it is kind of fun reading something and knowing a Pulitzer was just won a year before the awards are announce.

Goodness, can that man write.


27 replies
  1. 1
    guachi says:

    It isn’t just that he’s great with a turn of phrase, it’s that he bludgeons you with his facts and rhetoric over and over until you are (often) forced accept his position.

    I don’t mean that as a bad thing. Rather, that you feel you’ve read a very well constructed argument and you clearly haven’t wasted your time reading him. In addition, Mr. Coates isn’t always correct, but the quality of his writing forces you to bring your A-game if you want to argue with him.

  2. 2
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    Seriously, just give him the fucking Pulitzer right now.

    I’ve always said — to Americans and people from Yurp alike — that if you want to understand modern America’s economic fault lines, then you have to appreciate that throughout the 20th century, there were massive redistributions of wealth to turn poorer white families into property owners, turn their kids into college graduates, and turn their grandkids into people who honestly believe that the government never gave them a penny. The FHA, the GI Bill, the creation of the suburbs, all excluding (whether by legislation or implementation) the economic advancement of African-Americans.

    Next time you encounter a “self-made” Republican, see how many generations you need to go back before you find a mortgage or a college education subsidized and underwritten by government.

  3. 3
    guachi says:

    Here’s a good TL;DR read summary of his long and awesome article Quote is about 3/4 of the way through:

    The message the young black boy receives from his country, Billy Brooks says, is “ ‘You ain’t shit. You not no good. The only thing you are worth is working for us. You will never own anything. You not going to get an education. We are sending your ass to the penitentiary.’ They’re telling you no matter how hard you struggle, no matter what you put down, you ain’t shit. ‘We’re going to take what you got. You will never own anything, nigger.’ ”

  4. 4
    TheMightyTrowel says:

    @pseudonymous in nc: It’s the most excruciating part of every conversation I have ever had with non-Americans about American politics, frankly. They always get a pained and puzzled look on their faces and say something like, “but surely it can’t still be all about slavery?” In europe, that’s when I usually said something about (depending on the nationality of the person I was talking to) (a) the christian Reconquista in Spain, (b) the protestant revolution or (c) the various expansions and deflations of the Ottoman empire. Down here in oz, I just point to the Tent Embassy.

    It’s ugly and it’s history, but it’s not that different from anywhere else. We are all living in societies made up of the sum of our ancestor’s dreams and prejudices. It’s why history – even ancient history and prehistory – matters so much. [/archaeologist rant]

  5. 5
    El Caganer says:

    I just finished reading it, and I can’t think of anybody who shouldn’t. Will be staying off the blogs for the next few days – the wingnut responses would just make me sick.

  6. 6
    lamh36 says:

    @El Caganer: Agreed. I’m feeling like I should sleep on it and conserve my strength for the incoming stupidity onslaught to come. I”ve already seen a few stupid RT so far.

  7. 7
    Comrade Mary says:

    I’m jumping up and down on Twitter and alerting everyone I know to this. Stunning.

  8. 8
    Comrade Mary says:

    For all of The Atlantic’s many flaws, their decision to hire and feature Coates was bang-on. It just may make me subscribe again.

  9. 9
    RobertDSC-Power Mac G5 Dual says:

    As great as this article is, I can’t think of a worse idea. Considering African-Americans have no protection from the police and the court system today even with the strides that have been made, granting reparations of any kind would lead to open season on them. I don’t want that to happen.

  10. 10
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    Coates can write. Damn.

  11. 11
    BubbaDave says:

    @RobertDSC-Power Mac G5 Dual:

    No problem. $500 per person of reparations will be awarded in kind, specifically an AR-15. Bam! Suddenly we’ve got the NRA backing reparations AND white supremacists walking softly…

  12. 12
    Laertes says:

    The understated delivery was a good choice. It puts the horrifying facts squarely in the spotlight in the center of an otherwise dark and silent stage. There’s nowhere else to look.

    Good God that man can write.

    People my age and hue like to dismiss the idea of reparations with a wave of the hand and “it’s ancient history.” There’s a photo near the bottom, of the police and the evicted homeowners. I was a toddler at the time, living a few miles to the west. I might have been playing on the front steps of our little townhouse in our white neighborhood.

    More than anything I’ve ever read, this piece connects the awful history to my life. I can’t imagine how my parents could have put me and my siblings through school if they’d had one of those contracts instead of a real mortgage. Somewhere just out of frame, I expect, is a kid about my age being robbed of his future.

  13. 13
    BubbaDave says:

    I forgot that wordpress would eat my closing
    [/modestproposal] tag when I made it with angle brackets.

  14. 14
    Betty Cracker says:

    Years ago, another writer (whose name escapes me at the moment) made a less elegant but similarly convincing case for reparations, and, from a justice standpoint, I’ve been convinced it’s the right thing to do ever since I read that. But politically, it’s a toxic proposal, and I’d put the chances of it ever happening between never and no fucking way.

  15. 15
    PaulW says:

    It’s a great article, isn’t it? Well researched by the looks of it (would love to see the bibliography), and yet primal with its emotional content and call to action.

    As a regular contributor to the Horde, I just wanna ask if any of you want to join the fanclub? Membership fees are cheap (be civil on the open threads) and we might even invite you onto the Facebook group…

    only trick is to keep an eye out for the next Open Thread at Noon (OTAN). If TNC keeps the comments thread closed on this article (likely, as the hate-trolls are chomping at the bit to jump into it with their ill-informed BS), he may have an Open Thread on his Atlantic column to compensate. When that happens, stop by, post a comment, above all be civil, no curse words like “semprini” or anything.

  16. 16
    PaulW says:

    @Betty Cracker:

    Years ago, another writer (whose name escapes me at the moment) made a less elegant but similarly convincing case for reparations, and, from a justice standpoint, I’ve been convinced it’s the right thing to do ever since I read that. But politically, it’s a toxic proposal, and I’d put the chances of it ever happening between never and no fucking way.

    It could happen, but it would have to involve a Serious White Person with a lot of political pull to make the public effort. And it may have to involve a national tragedy of some sort, something like Katrina but not an Act of Nature/God rather something done by the hand of Man, to get the majority of White Americans to wake up… much like the police brutality in the major southern cities during the early 1960s. It’s a terrible way to get action, but we tend to react to tragedies more than actively going out of our way to stop tragedies from ever happening… :/

  17. 17
    PaulW says:

    @El Caganer:

    I just finished reading it, and I can’t think of anybody who shouldn’t. Will be staying off the blogs for the next few days – the wingnut responses would just make me sick.

    Hate to say this, but you shouldn’t disengage. The wingnuts take “silence” for acquiescence and surrender. You just need to post to their BS by saying one simple thing:

    “You haters are wrong.”

    ‘Cause they are.

  18. 18
    LC says:

    Just an FYI, it’s not a newspaper, so this won’t win a Pulitzer. But it’s a good bet for a National Magazine Award.

  19. 19
    jpe says:

    It couldn’t happen without a constitutional amendment: it’d be a law based on race without a permissible compelling purpose (we know from prior cases that reparative action isn’t constitutionally permissible).

  20. 20
    Betty Cracker says:

    @PaulW: I’m trying to imagine such a scenario…and coming up empty. We as a country have countenanced so many acts of white supremacy-inspired brutality and terror that it’s difficult to imagine what sort of event would wake people up.

    The thing is, most reachable people already understand that racism is wrong. What they can’t fully grasp is how strongly it permeates our society to this very day, even though we elected a black dude president!

  21. 21
    Biscuits says:

    When Steve Gillard passed, I was lost until I found Coates and Cole. You both write beautifully. Especially when you’re angry. Thank you!

  22. 22
    Ben Cisco says:

    It was an absolutely devastating read.

    Every single myth ever perpetrated against Black America was DESTROYED outright.

    The lies used against us TO THIS DAY.

    Even the tried and true tactic of using us against ourselves was laid bare.

    NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING escaped his notice or mention.

    Thanks for pointing us to this, Cole.

  23. 23
    metricpenny says:

    @Comrade Mary:

    It did make me subscribe. My first issue arrived yesterday. It was this one. Sure to be a collector’s item.

  24. 24
    metricpenny says:

    @RobertDSC-Power Mac G5 Dual:

    Don’t vote for Obama. He’ll only be assassinated.

    Please don’t concern yourself with the aftermath of blacks receiving reparations. We’ll handle what comes just as we always have.

  25. 25
    Caravelle says:

    @RobertDSC-Power Mac G5 Dual: I think you’re missing the point of the article. I’m pretty sure Coates himself realizes that the government giving free cash to all African-Americans 1) cannot fly in the country’s political climate and 2) would induce a fantastic anti-anti-racist backlash (but doesn’t everything).

    The most interesting bit to me was that he points out we don’t even ask the question. Why do we often assume the reparations would be in the form of direct money to private individuals ? Should the reparations be in that form ? Would it be practical ? How much should we be talking about anyway ? And what about Native Americans ? Would reparations make things worse ? All these questions, that are often asked in an attempt to shut down discussion, are actually very good questions and maybe we should try and find the answers to them before we decide the whole concept is impossible/impractical/immoral.

  26. 26
    Caravelle says:

    @Betty Cracker: While actually doing it might be politically toxic, I think passing a bill such as the one Coates mentions in his article just to study the question would be an excellent thing. For one thing, actually having an organ of the government lay out 1) what the systematic wrongs that might need reparations sum up to, and 2) potential options for redress and what the outcomes of those might be, would give something for advocates to work from, and would define a position in the political landscape that people can refer to. Also, it might put some actual evidence behind the “it would have catastrophic consequence X” assertions.

  27. 27
    Caravelle says:

    @jpe: How so ? Is there an actual reparations law in the works you’re referring to that you know is based on race and thus requires a constitutional amendment ? Do you know that’s the specific law Coates is lobbying for in his article ? Because he sure doesn’t mention one in there.

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