April 16, 2014
Does Traditional College Debate Reinforce White Privilege?

Minority participants aren’t just debating resolutions—they’re challenging the terms of the debate itself.
Read more. [Image: Donna McWilliam/AP Photo]

Does Traditional College Debate Reinforce White Privilege?

Minority participants aren’t just debating resolutions—they’re challenging the terms of the debate itself.

Read more. [Image: Donna McWilliam/AP Photo]

April 14, 2014
I Was Racially Profiled In My Own Driveway

A retired Major League Baseball player explains how he’s trying to turn an upsetting encounter with the police into an opportunity for dialogue. 
Read more. [Image: Reuters]

I Was Racially Profiled In My Own Driveway

A retired Major League Baseball player explains how he’s trying to turn an upsetting encounter with the police into an opportunity for dialogue. 

Read more. [Image: Reuters]

March 31, 2014
"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."

Ta-Nehisi Coates, on why black culture and the culture of poverty are not same thing.

March 27, 2014
What Stop-and-Frisk Means to the Descendants of Slaves

Racial profiling is a lazy reversion to an older America—a nation that wasn’t designed with black citizens in mind. This post is part of a debate series on “Is Stop and Frisk Worth It?,” an article featured in the current issue of The Atlantic magazine.
Read more. [Image:  Library of Congress ]

What Stop-and-Frisk Means to the Descendants of Slaves

Racial profiling is a lazy reversion to an older America—a nation that wasn’t designed with black citizens in mind. This post is part of a debate series on “Is Stop and Frisk Worth It?,” an article featured in the current issue of The Atlantic magazine.

Read more. [Image: Library of Congress ]

March 25, 2014
Star Wars and the Four Ways Science-Fiction Handles Race

It’d be great news if the buzz about 12 Years a Slave’s Lupita Nyong’o being cast in the upcoming Star Wars sequel is true. That’s because Lupita Nyong’o is great, and it would be wonderful to see her get high-profile roles.  
Casting someone whose breakout role explicitly and thoughtfully engaged with the African-American experience may also, hopefully, kick off a discussion about race in Star Wars and in sci-fi more generally. The franchise has often been criticized for its clueless, tone-deaf use of caricature, especially the nods to blackface minstrelsy in Jar Jar Binks. More importantly, Star Wars encapsulates a pop-culture tradition of space operas that can easily invent spaceships and robots and aliens, but that helplessly acquiesce to old, stereotypical treatments of gender and race. Why does that matter? Sci-fi is at least in part a dream of a different world and a different future. When that future unthinkingly reproduces current inequities, it seems like both a missed opportunity and a failure of imagination.
Read more. [Image: AP; 20th Century Fox; Lionsgate]

Star Wars and the Four Ways Science-Fiction Handles Race

It’d be great news if the buzz about 12 Years a Slave’s Lupita Nyong’o being cast in the upcoming Star Wars sequel is true. That’s because Lupita Nyong’o is great, and it would be wonderful to see her get high-profile roles.  

Casting someone whose breakout role explicitly and thoughtfully engaged with the African-American experience may also, hopefully, kick off a discussion about race in Star Wars and in sci-fi more generally. The franchise has often been criticized for its clueless, tone-deaf use of caricature, especially the nods to blackface minstrelsy in Jar Jar Binks. More importantly, Star Wars encapsulates a pop-culture tradition of space operas that can easily invent spaceships and robots and aliens, but that helplessly acquiesce to old, stereotypical treatments of gender and race. Why does that matter? Sci-fi is at least in part a dream of a different world and a different future. When that future unthinkingly reproduces current inequities, it seems like both a missed opportunity and a failure of imagination.

Read more. [Image: AP; 20th Century Fox; Lionsgate]

March 5, 2014
"It does not matter that black people of a certain persuasion are making this charge. Black people of a certain persuasion also supported the kind of laws that now find one third of all black men under state supervision. This is not an appeal to a crowd, it is an appeal to the basic rules of language, without which we would all be soon reduced to babble. When people claim that the word “nigger” must necessarily mean the same thing, at all times, spoken by all people, one wonders whether they understand how the very words coming out of their mouth actually work."

Ta-Nehisi Coates, on why the NFL banning certain words would be racist.

March 4, 2014
"I’ve spent the past couple of years thinking about the “twice as good” notion in the black community, and the bindings that we put on young black boys so that their country will not kill them. Of course “twice as good” ultimately means half as many arrive, and those who do receive half as much. Let us dispense with self-congratulation and great men. The question is not, “What did Jackie Robinson achieve in spite of racism?” It is, “How much more would he achieved without it?” An ethic of “twice as good” divorced from any complaint, divorced from history is “Go for self” and can have no effect whatsoever upon a justice system, upon voter ID laws, upon asset forfeiture, upon Wells Fargo. The masses of the plundered will never be respectable to those who plunder them. The essence of plunder is disrespect. They can never respect you. They hate you, sir."

Ta-Nehisi Coates, on Kim Novak and being “twice as good.”

February 20, 2014
The Incoherent Backlash to Black Actors Playing ‘White’ Superheroes

Michael B. Jordan has been cast as Johnny Storm in the new Fantastic Four movie. For many prospective viewers, that announcement will raise the question that any announcement of a Michael B. Jordan movie raises: Will he be shirtless, and for how much screen time? Other superhero fans, though, are distracted by less wholesome concerns. Johnny Storm, they have noticed, is white. Michael B. Jordan is black. How, they wonder, can this be?
The outcry over interracial casting here appears to be much more muted than the stir over Idris Elba’s role as Heimdall in the Thor franchise, which provoked boycott threats. Still, I’ve seen people on Twitter talking about how the casting will “ruin” the franchise. I’m not going to link because I’m leery of shaming people that way on a mainstream site, but if you look around you can find them without too much trouble. (Niki Cruz has rounded up some of the response, with names redacted, here.) This echoes earlier controversies in which a campaign to get Donald Glover cast as Spider-Man met with racially fraught backlash, while the casting of Amandla Stenberg as Rue in The Hunger Games provoked angry social media whining.
Read more. [Image: John Shearer / AP; Adi Granov / Marvel]

The Incoherent Backlash to Black Actors Playing ‘White’ Superheroes

Michael B. Jordan has been cast as Johnny Storm in the new Fantastic Four movie. For many prospective viewers, that announcement will raise the question that any announcement of a Michael B. Jordan movie raises: Will he be shirtless, and for how much screen time? Other superhero fans, though, are distracted by less wholesome concerns. Johnny Storm, they have noticed, is white. Michael B. Jordan is black. How, they wonder, can this be?

The outcry over interracial casting here appears to be much more muted than the stir over Idris Elba’s role as Heimdall in the Thor franchise, which provoked boycott threats. Still, I’ve seen people on Twitter talking about how the casting will “ruin” the franchise. I’m not going to link because I’m leery of shaming people that way on a mainstream site, but if you look around you can find them without too much trouble. (Niki Cruz has rounded up some of the response, with names redacted, here.) This echoes earlier controversies in which a campaign to get Donald Glover cast as Spider-Man met with racially fraught backlash, while the casting of Amandla Stenberg as Rue in The Hunger Games provoked angry social media whining.

Read more. [Image: John Shearer / AP; Adi Granov / Marvel]

February 20, 2014
Gender, Race, and Rape During the Civil War


While researching a fictional trilogy about the Civil War, Kim Murphy kept coming across the assertion that it was a “low-rape” war. At first she didn’t question the idea, she says, but after finding official records that mentioned rape in the same sentence as pillaging and burning—crimes generally accepted to have happened—she started to suspect there was a hole in the history that needed filling. She did more digging, and what she uncovered became her new, nonfiction book, I Had Rather Die: Rape in the Civil War.
Historians, Murphy says, largely had the idea that the Victorian era was characterized by restraint, and therefore there was little rape.


Read more. [Image: Library of Congress]

Gender, Race, and Rape During the Civil War

While researching a fictional trilogy about the Civil War, Kim Murphy kept coming across the assertion that it was a “low-rape” war. At first she didn’t question the idea, she says, but after finding official records that mentioned rape in the same sentence as pillaging and burning—crimes generally accepted to have happened—she started to suspect there was a hole in the history that needed filling. She did more digging, and what she uncovered became her new, nonfiction book, I Had Rather Die: Rape in the Civil War.

Historians, Murphy says, largely had the idea that the Victorian era was characterized by restraint, and therefore there was little rape.

Read more. [Image: Library of Congress]

February 18, 2014
"

But some are given more days than others, and I think of dying at 17, in my loudness, in my vanity, which is to say in my human youth, and I tremble. I was barely anything. I understood barely anything. When Michael Dunn killed Jordan Davis, he obliterated a time-stream, devastated an open range of changes. And somewhere on that American jury, someone thought this was justice, someone believed in the voodoo of shotguns and teleportation. Michael Dunn killed a boy, and too robbed a man of his chance to be.

And this will happen again, must happen again, because our policy is color-blind, but our heritage isn’t. An American courtroom claiming it can be colorblind denies its rightful inheritance. An American courtroom claiming it can be colorblind is a drug addict claiming he can walk away after just one more hit. Law and legacy are at war. Legacy is winning. Legacy will always win. And our legacy is to die in this land where time is unequal, and deeded days are unequal, and blessed is the black man who lives to learn other ways, who lives to see other worlds, who lives to bear witness before the changes.

"

Ta-Nehisi Coates, on the killing of Jordan Davis.

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