Re: BTWAM, Part II, Section I


Great write-up, Minivet.

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-31-15 9:15 AM
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A couple links:

Something else TNC of course elides in his quest for sight is proposals for concrete action. Some context from his Twitter feed a month ago.

Here is a response to the book which touches on that question.

But on this day, my dad answered differently. Maybe his characteristic optimism had been dealt its own blow when Rodney King's attackers were exonerated. Maybe he sensed that my despair called for deeper wisdom. But whatever the reason, he decided to talk about the permanence of injustice. He said that none of his fights were ones that he thought he would win in his lifetime. Or even mine. He was fighting, he said, "for 10,000 years from tomorrow." And he turned my story on its head: He said that the fact that the L.A. police were still abusing black people, the fact that I could draw a line from him to Rodney King, was precisely why we had to keep fighting.

a recent defense of Joe Biden I saw pointed out that the Congressional Black Caucus on balance supported war-on-crime bills like his 1994 one

I thought Kevin Drum had good things to say on that topic.

There's an important point here, one that I became more deeply aware of when I wrote about childhood lead poisoning and violent crime a couple of years ago. Here it is: There really was a huge crime wave in the '70s and '80s. And it wasn't uncommon for liberals to downplay this at the time, something that turned out to be a political disaster for liberalism. That's because the crime wave wasn't a myth, and it wasn't made up. Rape, assault, and murder skyrocketed far above their previous highs, and inner-city neighborhoods were especially hard hit. This is the reason that so many black leaders supported tough-on-crime bills of various sorts.

And while Lind is right that violent crime had peaked and was starting a long descent by 1994, no one knew it at the time. The peak had only happened a couple of years before, and there was no reason to think a small drop in a single year or two was significant. So it's not right to say that the people being put in prison in 1994 had "long since" stopped posing a threat. They posed a plenty big threat, and literally everyone who studied crime at the time thought they'd continue to do so for years. At the time, there was simply no reason to think violent crime was about to plummet.

Also, for myself, here's a link to my lengthy comment in the previous thread which is actually in response to both sections 1 and 2.

Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-31-15 9:26 AM
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I don't like the "they posed a plenty big threat". Yes, piling on the incarceration was more understandable as a policy response in that context. Doesn't mean it was right or necessary.

Interesting exchange on the 1994 bill - someone calling out Kweisi Mfume for his recounting of how the voting went, and Mfume apparently showing up in the comments to rebut (including saying that it was a tradeoff for getting VAWA and other important programs).

Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 08-31-15 10:33 AM
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I very much like his avoidance of solutionism. Obviously, you've got to get to solutions somehow, sometimes. But rejecting analysis because it doesn't obviously lead to solutions invites oversimplifying hard problems -- sometimes you really just need to see the problem in front of you as it is, and put in a lot of effort thinking about it generally, before you have a hope of getting to anything that could be called a useful solution.

Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-31-15 10:43 AM
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Or just to avoid making things worse.

Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-31-15 10:49 AM
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Interesting exchange on the 1994 bill

Thanks, that is interesting.

Also, I had meant to thank you for the twitter links in your summary. I looked at about half of those conversations and they were worth reading.

Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-31-15 10:52 AM
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4: He may have too many arguments against solutionism

a) the argument in 4 -- important to truly understand problems first

b) I'm an artist, not an activist.

c) Solution? Who said there was a solution? Most likely we're doomed.

Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 08-31-15 11:07 AM
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Most likely we're doomed.

It's all Minivet's ancestor's fault.

Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-31-15 11:09 AM
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Very nice write up, Minivet. I'm picking up The Beautiful Struggle this week and looking forward to reading BTWAM when I get it.

Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 08-31-15 12:14 PM
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I had an idea which I'm super excited about - there's a structure at Heebie U where instructors can host extracurriculars (for mild chump change). I used to do these current events discussions and I loathed them because it was a large group of students and they were all over the spectrum. BUT, hosting an extracurricular where you read BTWAM would be vastly different, because it would only appeal to the 3-5 kids who actually want to read and discuss the book. I would very much enjoy a small reading group where I could hear what a few black college students thought as they were reading it.

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-31-15 12:18 PM
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I am completely pleased -- Sally was reading over my shoulder when I wrote up my post last week, and ended up walking off with my copy of the book because she wanted to read it, and had a friend who she figured would also want it. I like that it's getting passed around at least one NYC high school.

Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-31-15 12:25 PM
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4, 7: The arguments in favor of doing nothing rather than something are always already overdetermined.

Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-31-15 12:27 PM
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12: But Ta-Nehisi is not in favor of doing nothing. He is very definitely pro-struggle.

T]he struggle, in and of itself, has meaning" (69).

"Perhaps struggle is all we have because the god of history is an atheist, and nothing about this world is meant to be" (71).

"You are called to struggle, not because it assures you victory but because it assures you an honorable and sane life" (97).

"The struggle is all I have for you because it is the only portion of this world under your control"

Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 08-31-15 12:39 PM
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12 was a really stupid attempt at a "joke" only loosely linked to anything Coates actually wrote. 13 exposes and highlights the inherent stupidity that I often struggle with.

Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-31-15 12:57 PM
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The struggle sessions will continue until self-image improves.

Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-31-15 1:10 PM
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That's on the wall at my gym.

Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-31-15 1:18 PM
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Every man is the desecrater of a temple called his body

Posted by: Thoreau's Evil Twin | Link to this comment | 08-31-15 2:16 PM
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Putting in a comment to note that Roberto's response to the book has been added to the OP.

I also thought about the relationship between race and class when I was reading the book, and I think I mostly agree with RT, but I need to mull it over. I also hope his comments provide some fodder for argument.

Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-31-15 3:08 PM
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I'm not sure I agree that for TNC "it is not about money" - how do you square that with "The Case for Reparations"?

I don't have the book in front of me, but I'm also thinking of the bits where he sees the partiers of affluent New York as like a cascade of money, and talks about the vises of low-wage work and redlining and (recently) foreclosure.

Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 08-31-15 3:23 PM
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I haven't yet read the book, and therefore don't feel entitled to participate in the discussion, but: just wanted to note that these are really good summaries/responses. Make me want to read Coates.

Posted by: Just Plain Jane | Link to this comment | 08-31-15 3:25 PM
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Second 20. And do wonder about the money thing; does he not go into the reparations stuff at all? I guess I should RTFB.

Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-31-15 3:31 PM
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19 -- the short, and probably sufficient, answer, is that I haven't read his essay on reparations.

The longer answer is that I think he absolutely recognizes that (one of) the consequences of slavery is that black people are poorer. But he doesn't link that up, in any way that I can see in this book, to any broader critique of capitalism, or any notion that people who are not black might also be oppressed by the economy, in ways that are structural, but are not particularly linked to the fact of chattel slavery.

Part of it is his historical vision. He sees slavery as fundamental to the founding of America and a source of enormous wealth to white people (he's right about this). Then it gets abolished in the Civil War, but reconstruction fails and black people are still oppressed (he's also right about this). But the entire rest of the story of capitalism in the nineteenth and most of the twentieth century, of the transformation of the Republican party from an anti-slavery party to Gilded Age capitalists and industrialists, just gets forgotten and ignored. I think if he incorporated that into his narrative, he'd end up with both a broader sense of the roots of oppression and a broader sense of what can be done about it.

Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 08-31-15 3:33 PM
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I think if he incorporated that into his narrative, he'd end up with both a broader sense of the roots of oppression and a broader sense of what can be done about it.

One of the thing that was talked about in the previous thread is that the book leaves out all sorts of things.
It is very intentionally not comprehensive. It isn't just, "here are things I have learned in my 39 years of being a black man in America" it is mostly limited to, "here are things I have learned about being a black man in my 39 years . . ."

So I genuinely don't know whether I think the book would benefit from a greater consideration of class (or of the ways in which racism affects minorities other than African Americans) or whether that gets left out because he has intentionally and for good reasons chosen a narrow focus for the essay.

Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-31-15 3:48 PM
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Sure. No book can do everything, and this is a very good book. And it's not even really a political argument; as I tried to say it's mostly a book about the lived experience of racial structure. But I think an author with a more acute sense of economic exploitation not directly tied to chattel slavery would have written at least a somewhat different book. I noticed it myself mostly in the tone shift between talking about career-related matters and talking about race.

Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 08-31-15 3:54 PM
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I noticed it myself mostly in the tone shift between talking about career-related matters and talking about race.

I do think there's a tone-shift, though I had a different reaction to it.

I don't know if you read my comment from the other thread, but one of the emotions that I read into his talking about his career (and about his experience at Howard) is pride -- a not excessive but read pride at the work he has done and the man he has become. He doesn't address it explicitly (though there is one passage in which he talks about how his younger self would look at him currently -- which I should look up when I get home), but I read that as a significant element in the book.

Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-31-15 4:08 PM
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There's a very tiresome online thing -- one person yells "race!" and another person yells "but what about class!?!!" Or vice-versa.

You anticipated me here, but I'm going to go ahead anyway and shout, "Race!"

Sure, there are intersectionalities, as the academics might say, but Coates is absolutely right to ignore class issues in his discussion. He's right that white supremacy exists separately from the oligarchy.

The problem of elderly poverty was substantially mitigated by Social Security; the problem of black elderly poverty was mitigated when issues surrounding white supremacy were dealt with*.

*That's my not terribly well-informed understanding of the evolution of Social Security, which I understand to have been originally designed to exclude as many black folks as possible. Anyway, the "Class!" folks tend to ignore the fact that a rising tide doesn't lift all boats equally.

Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-31-15 5:11 PM
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I'm only partway through the book, but in grand blog tradition I'm commenting anyway. Thanks, Minivet! Thanks, RT! Now I'm going to argue with you.

It is definitely true that TNC is arguing from what you might very loosely call Afro-Pessimism.* His work thus stands in some contrast to Afro-Futurism, in which writers imagine their way into speculative worlds that may never have existed, as a way of inviting the reader to share in the imagining and perhaps in the making.

Pessimism in general has long and proud tradition, and I'm not here to say he should or should not embrace it. I do note that many of the voices I've heard about in Afro-Futurism (not being much of a reader of speculative fiction myself) are women.

And I think that matters. I think there is a way in which TNC's gender may actually hamstring his ability to imagine his way out of (the completely real and historically-based!) world he/we currently inhabit.

[N.b. I am not saying that all futurists are women or that women can't be pessimistic or anything absolutist like that. FWIW I think I am fundamentally closer to the pessimist side of the spectrum myself, although with a very large helping of the pragmatic, solutions-focused piece that TNC efficiently eviscerates in the linked tweets (thanks again for those).]

At this point in my reading, the book is strongest when it is most literal. TNC is making a visceral argument (or telling a visceral story, at least) and it is his uncompromising ability to bring that home to the reader that makes this more than a history book or policy argument.

*There are several quite distinct definitions of the term floating around out there; I hope it's clear which one I'm using.

Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 08-31-15 6:07 PM
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RT writes:

By comparison, he is not concerned at all with structures of economic exploitation....And, ultimately, for me, the only conceivable way out of the cycle that dominates West Baltimore or other core sites of black oppression is to make its residents more wealthy--along with many other poor or middle-class Americans who are not black. As many other racially or socially excluded Americans have learned, it's a lot easier to break down walls of social exclusion once you have wealth. But Coates seems largely blind to both (a) an absence of wealth as the core problem for black Americans and (b) the provision of wealth as a solution to the problems of black America. It's just not on his radar as an important concern.

I think it's not on his radar as an important concern because omnipresent in his reading of history are the stories of Tulsa, and Rosewood, and Phillips County, AR, and the numerous lynchings that disproportionately targeted black people of economic means. In this view, wealth has not led to protection for black Americans; quite the opposite. Prince Jones is thus an affirmation of the continued cycle, not an aberration.

Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 08-31-15 6:45 PM
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But black communities are also horrifically under-policed.

I was going to say "I think TNC would say" but then I realized I would be putting words into his mouth. What I would say is that the over-policing and under-policing are two sides of the same coin, in that they are both a reflection of institutional racism and white supremacy.

At least in the neighborhoods I'm familiar with, under-policing is often about disrespect and distrust. Police can't investigate crimes because "no one" will speak up; police anticipate that no one will speak up, and thus don't investigate thoroughly; community members see investigations carried out halfheartedly or not at all and lose faith; police don't respect or value the victims* on behalf they are supposedly working, and that disrespect is communicated to their families and communities; etc etc.

*To give one example from my experience, conducting a death notification of a teenage boy, over the phone, to a family member who could not understand the message.

I could fill an essay, and I have friends who could fill books, with examples of toxic underpolicing. But the fundamental message would be the same: It isn't the amount of resources being poured in; it isn't even necessarily the people serving in law enforcement or how they are trained (although these of course are factors); it's the structural reality in which the work is done that determines the outcome.

Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 08-31-15 7:01 PM
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I'm done serial commenting now, if anyone was wondering.

Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 08-31-15 7:06 PM
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28 -- I agree with you that this kind of thing is probably what's on Coates' mind. My own view is that, at a deep level, it's an incorrect analysis. To be clear, it's not wrong that black Americans of means have and will suffer disabilities that non-black Americans of similar means face. He's absolutely right about that. (Confidential to politicalfootball -- that part of the tiresome race v. class argument is cheerfully conceded, though your specific Social Security example is off a bit).

But ultimately wealth means power, and the ability to better fight against those disabilities, and this means (in my view) that black Americans are well served by making common cause with other poorer Americans to take a (relatively) greater share of the pie from the rich. It was the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom -- he's not fond of that entire side of the civil rights movement, but MLL was right that "jobs" and "freedom" are deeply connected, and he's wrong (to the extent he does so) to write that off. Prince Jones was rich and was killed, yes. But ultimately many fewer Prince Joneses will be killed (and will have better lives in many other ways) when more black Americans can live like Prince Jones.

Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 08-31-15 7:07 PM
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MLK. MLL is ... someone else.

Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 08-31-15 7:08 PM
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31: Maaaybe? I mean, if the wealth happens as a result of reduced inequality, I think your future has a better chance of being reality. But if it's "just"* a decent job and an absolute (NOT relative) improvement in standard of living, I'm skeptical. To say the least.

*I'm not underestimating the importance of the "just" in alleviating other suffering, btw.

Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 08-31-15 7:13 PM
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there is one passage in which he talks about how his younger self would look at him currently

. . . his ability to imagine his way out of (the completely real and historically-based!) world he/we currently inhabit.

I found the passage that I was thinking of and it leads directly into a paragraph which speaks to Witt's comment as well.

Here is how I take the measure of my progress in life; I imagine myself as I was, back there in West Baltimore, dodging North and Pulaski, ducking Murphy Homes, fearful of the schools and the streets, and I imagine showing that lost boy a portrait of my present life and asking him what he would make of it. Only once -- in the two years after your birth, in the first two rounds of the fight of my life -- have I believed he would have been disappointed. I write to you on the precipice of my fortieth year, having come to a point in my life -- not of great prominence -- but far beyond anything that boy could have even imagined. I did not master the streets, because I could not read the body language quick enough. I did not master the schools, because I could not see where any of it could possibly lead. But I did not fall. I have my family. I have my work. I no longer feel it necessary to hang my head at parties and tell people that I am, "trying to be a writer." And godless though I am, the fact of being human, the fact of possessing the gift of study, and thus being remarkable among all the matter floating through the cosmos, still awes me.


But oh, my eyes. When I was a boy no portion of my body suffered more than my eyes. If I have done well by the measures of childhood, it must be added that those measures themselves are hampered by how little a boy of my captive class had seen. The Dream seemed to be the pinnacle, then -- to grow rich and live in one of those disconnected houses out in the country, in one of the small communities, one of those cul-de-sacs with its gently curving ways, where they staged teen movies and children built treehouses, and in that last lost year before college, teenagers made love in cars parked at the lake. The Dream seemed to be the end of the world for me, the height of American ambition. What more could possibly exist beyond the dispatches, beyond the suburbs?

Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-31-15 7:15 PM
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Yeah, I think we're on close to the same page. I think relative (economic) equality is the key, not just an absolute rise in the standard of living.

Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 08-31-15 7:16 PM
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35 to 33.

Posted by: RT | Link to this comment | 08-31-15 7:17 PM
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he's not fond of that entire side of the civil rights movement

Spoiler alert: he does change his tone slightly at the end of the book.

I thought back on the sit-ins, the protesters with their stoic faces, the ones I'd once scorned for hurling their bodies at the worst things in life. Perhaps they had known something terrible about the world. Perhaps they so willingly parted with the security and sanctity of the black body because neither security or sanctity existed in the first place. And all those photographs from the 1960s, all those films I beheld of black people prostrate before clubs and dogs, were not simply shameful, indeed were not shameful at all -- they were just true.We are captured, brother, surrounded by the majoritarian bandits of America.

That isn't an embrace of that face of the civil rights movement, and he's still in opposition to the shared narrative, but it's sympathetic.

Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-31-15 7:22 PM
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37 is a good point. I wasn't totally sure what to make of that passage. I think it's still in line with his general rejection of the principle of nonviolence, though, and his view of (what I'll shorthand as) the mainstream black church-civil rights movement as fundamentally passive and accepting of suffering.

Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 08-31-15 7:25 PM
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Thanks, NickS!

RT, you're no fun. Now we're just agreeing.

Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 08-31-15 7:42 PM
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I wasn't totally sure what to make of that passage.

My best guess (and it's just a guess) would be based on the line in the passage I quoted about Malcolm X, "all the angst I felt before the heroes of February" (Black History Month). I suspect that he feels some reservations about nonviolence and some respect as well but strongly objects to the way in which it has been culturally sanctified.

On that note, I read this article which talks about the ways in which the received images of the civil rights movement have been used to criticize Black Lives Matter activists:

Most recently, Barbara Reynolds, a prominent black journalist, civil rights movement activist, and biographer of Jesse Jackson Sr., wrote in the Washington Post about the elements of BLM that she believes are unbecoming of a proper movement. In her essay, Reynolds takes the BLM movement to task for a litany of sins against the legacy of civil rights, from rejecting many of her generation's protest strategies to refusing to dress in church clothes like Dr. King did. She blasts BLM for sometimes using rage instead of respectability, for wearing sagging pants, even for cursing at rallies.

. . . What Reynolds seems to miss is that while the DNA of the Black Lives Matter movement may not come directly from the SCLC or from Dr. King's philosophies, it still comes from her era and movement. It comes from groups like SNCC that eschewed quiet boycotts, tweed suits, and charismatic speeches; that found success in decentralized leadership, direct action, and, sometimes, naked anger.

The Black Lives Matter movement inhabits many of these spaces first carved out by the groups Reynolds wants to forget. BLM is decentralized, like SNCC. It has courted media, and like many, including the Panthers, it has created its own media, a feat made possible in the present day by the internet. It is animated by grief and rage as much as by concrete policy. Many activists wear the clothes they have always worn as black middle- and lower-class youth. They sag. They wear hoodies. They do it because they understand innately that suits do not indicate who is "evil" and who is "good," who ought to be respected.

Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-31-15 8:46 PM
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I wonder if you looked back at the protests of the 60s with an eye for what class signals meant to people in the 60s, how many of those protestors actually didn't present as respectable to their contemporaries but it's not so apparent now that ideas of respectable dress have shifted.

Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 08-31-15 9:38 PM
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Are you conflating class-status with respectability? I mean, suits, or dresses and hats and white gloves now look like an affluent person's outfit, and I think you're right that it was less so then -- that even someone fairly poor might have formal clothes for, e.g., church going, so formal clothes didn't mean you weren't fairly poor. But still, dressing formally conveyed something about respectability, even if not affluence.

Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 1-15 4:42 AM
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38: I've wondered how separable that is from some of the ways he overlooks (perhaps intentionally) women's spheres and experience. The black church is very female, even more than white Christianity, although the leadership still skews male in many places. I also think it's noteworthy that he's rejected violence as discipline for his own son (it seems) but he separates that from non-violent resistance, which is not a distinction I personally make.

Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 09- 1-15 5:26 AM
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41. They definitely looked "respectable," and presented as "good negroes." That also led to the narrative that the scruffy, unkempt SNCC types were "bad," and the scruffy, unkempt (and often Jewish) white people who came to help them were "outside agitators" just stirring up trouble. MLK was of course a "communist" even if he looked "respectable."

The whole class vs. race thing could be tested by a simple experiment: make black people richer and see if racism diminishes. If it doesn't, then "the problem is racism" is proved true. We know from many studies that the best way to get people out of poverty is to give them more money, after all.

I don't know if TNC is 100% serious about "reparations" as money. ISTR that what he really wants is a serious and heartfelt apology, maybe a Truth Commission. My guess is giving reparations as money would be easier. Not that either idea is likely to happen.

Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 09- 1-15 5:38 AM
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Unless I missed it (I found it much harder to focus while reading this section than the first one), it was really weird to me the way he failed to connect his foreign travel epiphanies with Malcolm X's very similar experience. Perhaps it's the atheism again, since Malcolm's trip was the Hajj.

Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 09- 1-15 6:20 AM
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It's probably not the same thing, but if PTA-type stuff has taught me anything, it's that just giving money is always easier.

Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 1-15 6:20 AM
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45: I thought the more obvious analogy was James Baldwin. However, Ta-Nehisi continues to insist that his love of France and the French language has nothing to do with his admiration for Baldwin.

Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 09- 1-15 7:29 AM
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I thought Baldwin named his daughter "Ireland". Did he have another named "France"?

Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 1-15 7:33 AM
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What did I mean by "Section 1" in the post title?

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 1-15 7:38 AM
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48: I think the second one is named "Married a Younger Woman Who Instagrams Herself Doing Yoga Poses."

Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 09- 1-15 7:41 AM
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49: I assume you intended to put Tigre's in a new post.

Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09- 1-15 7:43 AM
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I bet that's it. And then later it seemed silly to break the conversation across two threads.

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 1-15 7:44 AM
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44.3: I think he is talking about money-reparations because he brings up Germany's reparation payments to Israel as precedent.

Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 09- 1-15 7:45 AM
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OK, I just read Coates' reparations article. With that in mind, I'd modify what I said somewhat, but not entirely. He is extremely attentive to the crime of lost black wealth. But he is not at all interested in tying that into some broader struggle for redistribution of wealth to poorer or middle-class Americans -- to the contrary, it is precisely the uniqueness (and unique awfulness*) of the black American experience that he relies upon in his call for the restoration of wealth. There is a strong implocation that capitalism works more or less fine, except for its roots in black oppression. The wealth redistribution he's interested in would come in the form of reparations, but not broader economic changes.

*he's absolutely right about this, of course.

Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 09- 1-15 8:51 AM
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I'm behind on the book (what I've read is really very good; I'd forgotten how good a writer Coates is (I'm usually too ADDish to read him with the necessary attention)) and I've barely skimmed the thread, but I did want to mention, regarding the issues in 54, that there's a strange parallel between reparationish policies and race-blind economic redistribution, and '70s-style liberalism and neoliberalism.
Both the latter approaches make the standard economist's mistake of ignoring the importance of community in determining an individual's economic outcomes. There is a case for special interest policies (whether targeting black Americans or, say, rural Appalachians) that's overwhelming on purely economic grounds, but that is largely ignored by economists.

Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 09- 2-15 10:22 AM
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To the unfoggiariat, when your dealing with young modestly successful white men, is there any way to get through the: "I've earned everything I've gotten, other people should just of been like me." field.

Posted by: Asteele | Link to this comment | 09- 3-15 12:49 AM
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Saw this on twitter, and I thought it would add a different perspective on the book

Just saw a girl on tinder wearing lingere looking for a threesome obscuring her face with @tanehisicoates new book

I suppose that's the kind of thing that happens when a book becomes part of the zeitgeist.

Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 09- 3-15 6:23 AM
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56: Airhorn.

Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 3-15 7:18 AM
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...dealing with young modestly successful white men, is there any way to get through...

I don't know that there is any way (and I think that "young" is a major contributor; modestly successful older people often have a broader perspective). But this comic is fantastic and does it's best to make the point.

Also, on the subject of TNC's view of race and class his comments about Toni Morrison calling Bill Clinton, "the first black president" are interesting (emphasis mine).

With the exception of the saxophone-playing detail, everything here boils down to power. Clinton isn't black, in Morrison's rendition, because he knows every verse of Lift Every Voice and Sing, but because the powers arrayed against him find their most illustrative analogue in white supremacy. "People misunderstood that phrase," Morrison would later say. "I said he was being treated like a black on the street, already guilty, already a perp."

Now, one can make all sorts of arguments over whether the pursuit of Clinton was, in fact, analogous to how black people have been regarded across American history. But Morrison was not giving Clinton an award. She was welcoming him into a club which should not exist.

What I find interesting is that I could never imagine TNC making that analogy himself. I think his understanding of Morrison is correct, but I don't think he would be inclined to compare anything else to white supremacy. So he then goes on to connect her view to his.

Morrison's argument sprang from another worldview--one that sees race as a choice, as an action, as a made thing. This worldview is less convenient. For if race in America is a "made thing," an action, then it is not sufficient for people who wish for a world without such categories to simply sigh in self-congratulation. They must commit themselves to opposing, to the discipline of making, and doing, other things.

Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09- 3-15 9:13 AM
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Wow that's very sharp.

Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 09- 3-15 9:17 AM
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Wow that's very sharp.

The linked comic? Yes, it's very well done.

Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09- 3-15 9:20 AM
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BTW, this has been a fantastic book reading discussion.

Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 09- 3-15 9:23 AM
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Ha, both!

Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 09- 3-15 9:24 AM
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56: Sadly, no. The comic linked in 59 is still good, though.

Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 09- 3-15 9:34 AM
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