Tag Archives: US

Neo-Con Think Tanks that Drive Policy and Send us to WAR


The military-industrial-propaganda complex: The neo-con think tanks that drive policy and send us to war

Well-funded think tanks push corporate agendas through media “experts” and sustain the neo-conservative apparatus


America’s first think tanks developed in the early 1900s and grew out of a desire to improve government and to help government think, according to McGann. The first kind of think tank was the academic model, such as the Brookings Institution, founded in 1916 by reformers devoted to fact-based studies of national public-policy issues. Experts at Brookings played a role in shaping plans for the United Nations and the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe after World War II. The next model, McGann says, was the RAND Corporation, established in 1920 as a consulting agency for the government.

The advocacy think tanks emerged in the 1960s. These new-style organizations, which campaigned actively for their policy preferences, tended to reflect that decade’s swing to the political left. But the next two decades saw what McGann calls “a sort of conservative counter-revolution,” leading to a “war of ideas,” with openly ideological or partisan think tanks proliferating on both sides.

In 1963, during the period of the Vietnam War and the Great Society, the first advocacy institution was the left-leaning Institute for Policy Studies. The neoconservative Heritage Foundation was founded in 1973.

Conservative think tanks have more power and influence today in U.S. politics, McGann says, adding that there is “increasing criticism and worry over the domination of the right on policy.” David Callahan wrote in the Washington Monthly in November 1999, “The big development of the 1990s is that conservative institutes have had spectacular new success in tapping business money to fund ideologically charged policy research.” According to Callahan, “Corporate giving to right-wing groups has steadily increased as private sector leaders have seen the effectiveness with which conservative think tanks, and their armies of credentialed ‘experts,’ advance business interests in the political arena. Money, it turns out, can buy scholars as well as politicians.”

Callahan wrote that the “current gusher of corporate funding for right-wing policy work has its roots in the 1970s, when leading conservative thinkers appealed to corporations to fund intellectuals who supported their economic interests.” He pointed out that corporate leaders make up the overwhelming majority of board members at most conservative think tanks. “Even the American Enterprise Institute, among the most scholarly of conservative think tanks, has some two dozen corporate leaders on its board and only one academic, James Q. Wilson.” Wilson, who taught at Harvard, died in 2012.

One of the most powerful underwriters of far-right-wing conservative causes is Koch Industries, the oil and chemicals conglomerate based in Wichita, Kansas, with annual revenues estimated to be $100 billion. The conglomerate operates oil refineries in Alaska, Texas, and Minnesota and controls some four thousand miles of pipeline.

Writer Jane Mayer described the political activities of Koch’s owners, David and Charles Koch, in an August 30, 2010, issue of The New Yorker magazine. Since the 1980s, the Koch brothers have provided more than $30 million to George Mason University, in Arlington, Virginia, much of it for a think tank called the Mercatus Center, which describes itself as “the world’s premier university source for market-oriented ideas and real world problems.”

Mayer quotes an environmental lawyer who has clashed with the Mercatus Center and who explained to her how corporate interests use think tanks to promote their private agendas. “You take corporate money and give it to a neutral-sounding think tank” that “hires people with pedigrees and academic degrees who put out credible-seeming studies. But they all coincide perfectly with the economic interests of their funders.” Among the largest and most influential of the conservative think tanks, in addition to the American Enterprise Institute, are the Heritage Foundation, based in Washington, D.C., and the Hoover Institution at Stanford University in California.

More than twenty AEI people wound up with top jobs in the George W. Bush administration. Paul Wolfowitz, the former deputy defense secretary and backer of the Iraq War, is now a visiting scholar at the AEI, which has an annual budget of about $20 million. It has about fifty so-called scholars and about 150 on the payroll. Its objective is to influence public policy. Christopher DeMuth, president of the AEI from 1986 through 2008, who worked in both the Nixon and Reagan administrations, put it this way: “We try to get in the newspaper op-ed pages and hawk our books and magazines much more aggressively than a university would feel comfortable with.”

If you watch the op-ed pages in the newspapers carefully, you will find the AEI and other think tanks well represented, week after week, month after month. You will also see them on television presenting their point of view. When network-television talk shows and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) want “experts” on foreign policy, they often turn to the AEI or other prominent think tanks. But they don’t always tell the public who is paying the salaries of the “experts.” You can bet it is corporate America.

DeMuth, for example, has said that his board of trustees is composed of twenty-four business and financial executives. “They read our work. They tell me what they like, and they tell me what they don’t like.” In his 2005 interview, DeMuth said the AEI raised $20 million to $25 million a year with a third of the money coming from corporations, a third from individuals, and a third from foundations. “We have over three hundred corporate donors,” he said.

Rob Stein, by profession a venture capitalist, but a former strategic adviser to the Democratic National Committee, has spent years studying conservative groups. From 2003 to 2005, by his estimate, conservative organizations spent about $295 million seeking to influence policy while those of the left spent about $75 million.

More recently, bestselling author Thomas Frank wrote in a New York Times column, “During the last three decades a cottage industry of conservative institutions and foundations has grown into a powerful quasi-academy with seven-figure budgets and phalanxes of ‘senior fellows’ and ‘distinguished chairs.’ While real academics dither and fret over bugbears like certainty and balance, the scholars of the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute act boldly in the knowledge, to quote a seminal conservative text, that ideas have consequences.” The AEI “has long been the reliable source of corporate money. Its principals effectively ran the Goldwater campaign in 1964 and it was deep thinkers from the institute who, after moving into the Bush administration, dreamed up the war in Iraq.”

A prominent opponent of the war was the libertarian Cato Institute, which is conservative on domestic issues but traditionally opposed to foreign intervention. In California’s Orange County Register, Cato vice president Ted Galen Carpenter wrote—just days before the war began—that the pro-war camp’s justifications for invading Iraq were faulty: “The United States is supposed to be a constitutional republic. As such, the job of the U.S. military is to defend the vital security interests of the American people. U.S. troops are not armed crusaders with a mission to right all wrongs and liberate oppressed populations. American dollars are too scarce and American lives too precious for such feckless ventures.”

As for the idea that Saddam’s overthrow would trigger a democratic transformation in the Middle East, Carpenter said, “This is a fantasy. The harsh reality is that the Middle East has no history of democratic rule, democratic institutions or serious democratic movements. To expect stable democracies to emerge from such an environment is naïve.” He went on, “If free elections were held today in such countries as Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, they would produce virulently anti-American governments.”

The libertarians were right. The hawks were wrong.

HAWKS IN AFGHANISTAN

Two of Washington’s most successful think-tank hawks are Frederick and Kimberly Kagan, the husband-and-wife team who spent a year in Afghanistan working as unpaid volunteers for the U.S. general in charge of the war. Frederick Kagan is a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, which has a history of supporting American military intervention around the world.

Having written papers that advocate an aggressive U.S. military policy, the Kagans moved to Afghanistan in 2010 and embedded themselves as “de facto senior advisors” to General David Petraeus. The Kagans were given top-level security clearance in Kabul, where they reviewed classified intelligence reports and participated in strategy sessions. The Kagans used their positions to advocate substantive changes in the U.S. war plan, “including a harder-edged approach,” according to a Washington Post report about them, published December 18, 2012.

Think-tank hawks have always sought to impact defense policy. The Kagans found a way to go beyond traditional influence peddling and gain the ear of the military man in charge of a real war. The Kagans were not paid by the U.S. government for their work, but their proximity to Petraeus provided valuable benefits. The Post article reported that the arrangement with Petraeus “provided an incentive for defense contractors to contribute to Kim Kagan’s think tank,” the Institute for the Study of War, which advocates an aggressive U.S. foreign policy. At an August 2011 dinner, Kim Kagan thanked two contractors, DynCorp International and CACI International, for funding her institute and making it possible for her to spend a year in Afghanistan with Petraeus.


Excerpted from America’s War Machine: Vested Interests, Endless Conflicts by James McCartney with Molly Sinclair McCartney. Copyright © 2015 by Molly Sinclair McCartney and reprinted by permission of Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press, LLC. All rights reserved.

 

 

Misogynoir: Where Racism and Sexism Meet


Misogynoir: where racism and sexism meet

 | Monday 5 October 2015 

Activists argue that the prejudice against black women is ignored by mainstream feminism. But what are the corrosive stereotypes feeding it?


Serena Williams … victim to Twitter trolls.
 Serena Williams … victim to Twitter trolls. Photograph: IBL/REX Shutterstock

Last week, London nightclub Dstrkt was accused of turning away two young black women for being “too fat” and “too dark”, prompting a swift, strident response on social media. The club was quick to deny the allegations and the council equally quick to express its concern. News outlets went into overdrive, to find “voices” to give the incident context. In the Guardian, one writer explained that young black people often resort to unlikely methods to get into certain clubs – the kind, like Dstrkt in Soho, that aren’t really about the music anyway – while in the Independent, DJ Edward Adoo discussed the pervasive racism of London’s nightclubs as a matter of fact.

But what is alleged to have happened at Dstrkt isn’t just about race; the accused promoter is black. It’s about gender too. Discrimination, prejudice and unchecked fear aimed specifically at black women now has a name: misogynoir.

The term was coined in 2010 by gay black feminist American academic Moya Bailey, who defined it “to describe the particular brand of hatred directed at black women in American visual and popular culture”.

Since then black women – and some men – predominantly on social media, have taken ownership of the term, using it to describe prejudice experienced in a range of contexts.

“Misogynoir provides a racialised nuance that mainstream feminism wasn’t catching,” says black feminist commentator, Feminista Jones. “We are talking about misogyny, yes, but there is a specific misogyny that is aimed at black women and is uniquely detrimental to black women.”

She says it is both about racial and gender hatred and can be perpetuated by non-black people and by black men – it is the latter, Jones says, she experienced the most often. “In my campaigning on street harassment, I have been targeted because I am a black woman who is vocal. They don’t go to anybody from Hollaback or Stop Street Harassment [campaigns run by white women] … they will say I’m a traitor and call me a tool for white supremacy … just because I’m calling out their very targeted misogynoir.”

It’s not ideal, as the comedian The Kid Mero pointed out last week, “We gotta make up better terms for oppressive shit cuz ‘misogynoir’ sounds like a scandalous Cirque du Soleil Vegas show”. Still, the term has spread to Britain, where most recently, writer Maya Goodfellow discussed misogynoir on the online platform Media Diversified, in reference to the abuse Diane Abbott has received since her appointment as shadow international development secretary. Goodfellow concluded that “a black woman who challenges the status quo and won’t apologise for doing so will always be judged unfairly. Because too many, subconsciously, feel it’s not up to people ‘like her’ to be the voice of opposition.”

Of course, detractors will inevitably counter that bouncers abuse their power all the time and people of all races and gender have at some point been refused entry. And that as a politician, Abbott is fair game for ridicule and scorn. Both of those points are acceptable, but neither explain or invalidate the experiences of hostility that sit at the intersection between sexism and racism.

Diane Abbott … new job criticised.
 Diane Abbott … new job criticised. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

At the heart of this concept are two corrosive stereotypes. The first characterises black people as animalistic, uncontrolled or uncontrollable, and is in part responsible for the concepts of the “angry or strong black woman”. These are used to deny pain and legitimise offence: “Oh, that unfair treatment you’ve received at work? You’ll get over it, you’re a strong black woman.” The second is that black women’s bodies are hypersexualised: the “sexy black woman” is all tits and twerking.

Few people in the public eye seem to have experienced this problem quite as much as Serena Williams. To the United States Tennis Association president, Katrina Adams – and countless others – Williams is the “greatest athlete of all time”. John McEnroe recently described her as “I think, the greatest player that ever lived”. But to the Twitter trolls she’s “a gorilla”, “more manly than any man”. As Marc Bain wrote in Quartz: “Only sexism and racism can explain why Serena Williams doesn’t earn more in endorsements.”

Misogynoir may also explain how American actor Nancy Lee Grahn can praise Patricia Arquette for using her Oscar speech to speak out about gender inequalities, but ridicule Viola Davis for doing the same thing, saying to the former: “Use your win to champion women. Make your moment matter. I like that.” But to the latter: “None of us get the respect we deserve. Emmys not venue for racial opportunity.”

Zalika Miller, Reisha, Tasha and Lin Mei on their way to Dstrkt nightclub in the West End
 Zalika Miller, Reisha, Tasha and Lin Mei on their way to Dstrkt nightclub in the West End Photograph: Lin Mei

It is because mainstream feminism has so often failed to recognise and include the experience of black and transgender women that terms such as misogynoir have been able to flourish in the shadow of feminism’s third wave. Grahn has since apologised on Twitter.

But the intention was never to use jargon to exclude the majority, in order to create safe space for the minority. Instead, argues Jones, the word is supposed to start a broader conversation. “If people want to dismiss it as jargon, it’s because they don’t want to be part of the conversation. [The term] is for everybody. We [black women] can talk until we are blue in the face but if nobody else is listening and nobody else is willing to work to make change, it really doesn’t do much for us.”

But misogynoir simply connects a new generation to the gap in the discourse on rights that abolitionist Sojourner Truth spoke of in her 1851 speech, Ain’t I a Woman. Then she told a gathering of feminists about her own needs that went unmet “betwixt the negro in the south and the white woman in the north, all talking about rights”. It has only taken 164 years to give Truth’s predicament a name. Here’s to hoping we don’t spend the next 164 discussing the term, while continuing to make excuses for the discrimination it describes.


Human Biodiversity & Its Implications


GENETICSSCIENCE / TECHSOCIAL SCIENCE

On the Reality of Race & the Abhorrence of Racism Part II: Human Biodiversity & Its Implications

On the Reality of Race & the Abhorrence of Racism Part I


GENETICSSCIENCESPOTLIGHT

On the Reality of Race and the Abhorrence of Racism

‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Highlights the Struggle for Acceptance


‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Highlights the Struggle for Acceptance


The 50th Anniversary of ‘The Battle of Algiers’ and the Film’s Impact on the Black Radical Imagination


The 50th Anniversary of ‘The Battle of Algiers’ and the Film’s Impact on the Black Radical Imagination

An excerpt from an important new book on the film.

Occupy Black Lives: TWO MOVEMENTS


OCCUPY BLACK LIVES: NOTES ON TWO MOVEMENTS

January 29, 2016

How Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Letter to his Son About Being BLACK in America Became a Bestseller


How Ta-Nehisi Coates’s letter to his son about being black in America became a bestseller

Between the World and Me is a vital analysis of America’s race problem. Here Coates explains how James Baldwin and his own father inspired his powerful message
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates – extract

 | Sunday 20 September 2015 

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Coates’s book is a profound and angry address to a nation that refuses to prosecute police officers who kill innocent black men and women; that pursues a policy of mass incarceration hugely weighted towards its black population; and that routinely seems to think nothing of it. It is also an intimate confession of the fears of a black American father, fears that whatever positive values he gives his son, however hard he encourages him to work in school and do the right thing, out on the streets his body, the colour of his skin, will make him vulnerable to state-sanctioned attack. Coates has heard Samori weeping in his bedroom after watching the night-time news. The book is a response to the sense of powerlessness, and fear, that evokes in him.

“I write to you in your 15th year,” Coates explains by way of introduction. “I am writing to you because this was the year you saw Eric Garner choked to death for selling cigarettes; because you know now that Renisha McBride was shot for seeking help, that John Crawford was shot down for browsing in a department store. And you have seen men in uniform drive by and murder Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old child they were oath-bound to protect. And you know now, if you did not know before, that the police departments of your country have been endowed with the authority to destroy your body. It does not matter if the destruction is the result of an unfortunate overreaction. It does not matter if it originates in a misunderstanding… Sell cigarettes without the proper authority and your body can be destroyed. Resent the people trying to entrap your body and it can be destroyed. Turn into a dark stairwell and your body can be destroyed. The destroyers will rarely be held accountable. Mostly they will receive pensions. And destruction is merely the superlative form of a dominion whose prerogatives include friskings, detainings, beatings and humiliations. All of this is common to black people. All of this is old for black people. No one is held responsible.”

It is Coates’s contention in the book that despite civil rights, despite the symbolism of Obama, violence towards, and subjugation of, black men and women remains ingrained in American culture from slavery. The denial of that fact is part of the “Dream” by which, in a phrase borrowed from Baldwin, those “who believe themselves to be white” maintain power and righteousness. The book is extraordinary both for the depth of its feeling and the unusual power of its writing – Coates is an atheist, but inhabits the cadences of the great religious orators as well as the voices of his literary heroes, Baldwin and Richard Wright, and mixes in some of the verbal inventiveness of hip-hop with which he grew up. Toni Morrison, who knows something about the language of provocation and wisdom, suggests that “its examination of the hazards and hopes of the black male life is as profound as it is revelatory. This is required reading.”

I met Coates a couple of weeks ago in a cafe in Paris, where he has decided to live for a year with his wife and son. It is his son’s first day at his new school and Coates is a little preoccupied by the fact that he will be the only English-speaker in his new class. One of the conclusions of his book, its pessimism about the circumscribed nature of black American life, is that escape is one option. He remembers nearly a decade ago his wife wondering aloud if they should consider a move to Paris. She subsequently took a trip and came back full of hopes and stories and with a stack of photographs of the French capital’s enormous doorways, with which she had become fascinated. Coates, who at the time had never had a passport himself, examined these pictures in their cramped Harlem apartment. “It had never occurred to me that such giant doors could exist, could be so common in one part of the world and totally absent in another…” The doors looked a lot like a symbolic way out. Some years later, while writing his book, Coates made a trip himself, and was entranced above all by the freedom, the absence of fear (“because my eyes were made in Baltimore, because my eyes were blindfolded by fear”) that he felt as an “alien American” in Paris. The family came over for a summer, and now they have moved here.

I wonder first, if that original liberating feeling persists? “It does,” he says. “I fell in love with it here and I still feel that. I like the distance. It’s helpful for me. It is interesting for me to be here and to be seen just as an American, primarily that. I talk and that’s my identity. It is a very different mask to back at home.”

BALDWIN<br>Author James Baldwin, author of the influential 1963 book The Fire Next Time.
Author James Baldwin, author of the influential 1963 book The Fire Next Time. Photograph: Associated Press

It took James Baldwin, another exile in Paris, that same distance to reveal a truer understanding of his native country. Coates only did the final edits of his own book in Paris, but was that context part of the appeal too?

“It was, and it is helpful,” he says. “The lines around race are much, much harsher at home. I am not saying they don’t have issues around racism here or in London or wherever, but racism in America is very, very sexualised.

“I haven’t fully worked that out but I think the way people actually came to be in America, through sexual violence, really has affected how black folks are seen. It is not the same as an immigrant population, as someone who just happens to be from somewhere else. Especially down south. There was no United States before slavery. I am sure somebody can make some sort of argument about modern French identity and slavery and north Africa, but there simply is no American history before black people.”

I guess one other aspect of his chosen exile is that it removes him somewhat from the attention his book has afforded him. That attention has gone right up to the White House, where Coates has been invited a couple of times to put his views to the president. He has taken Obama to task for not being more vocal on race issues; the last time they met the president took him to one side to deliver a simple message: “Don’t despair.” He tries not to; instead he trusts in his writing to make a difference. He has a vivid blog about the issues he sets out in his book, and continues to write for the Atlantic – this week a long story about American prison policy has, he hopes, “kicked up some more dust” – but he has no wish to be a talking head. He wrote the book, he says, because he felt he had no option not to, the news of last year being so bad.

“I am a little surprised to be honest by the scale of the reaction to it,” he says. “My editor said he had never seen anything like it. I can’t explain it. Expecting a reaction is almost contrary to the idea of writing over a long period of time. I don’t know. I was like a doctor trying to deliver a baby – you can’t imagine that kid at 18. I just wanted to deliver the baby successfully.”

It is, I say, a different kind of voice to most of his journalism, that richness of language; it almost demands to be spoken out loud. Was that the plan? “I didn’t start off as a journalist, I started off as a poet,” he says. “My ambition was to practise poetry. Then I found journalism but that other voice never fled from me. See, everybody makes the James Baldwin comparison, and they think it is a political comparison. They say you are saying the kinds of things he was saying. But it’s not that. Or at least that is not the thing about Baldwin that inspired me. It’s more Baldwin understood that if you are going to say something important about the world it is best if you try to say it beautifully. I don’t mean like picking flowers or writing on fancy stationery. I mean how you say it actually makes it a more meaningful piece of writing. I am going to push that further. It makes it a truer piece of writing. What you are saying is: ‘Can I make somebody feel this in a deeper way?’ That was what I was obsessed with.”

Did that voice come easily? “Hell no. I wrote at least three complete drafts.” Was he adding poetry or taking it away? “It was stripping away. The early drafts were more flowery. The effort was to say more with less.”

The fact was, though, that he felt he had no choice but to do it. One impulse was a proper response to the protests in Ferguson, Missouri and New York and elsewhere – that and the fact he returned to reading The Fire Next Time, on its 50th anniversary, and found it spoke differently to him, more urgently perhaps than it had done before. “It’s easy to forget Baldwin was a journalist,” he says. “I mean he is interviewing [Nation of Islam leader] Elijah Mohammad and others in that book. It is not him sitting on his ass in Paris saying this is how I see the world.”

I point out that Baldwin was 39, like him, when he wrote it. Coates Googles to check; he thought Baldwin was younger. And I suggest that both books feel like mid-life books, not only in the sense of personal crisis, but also in that they are expressions not of the anger and hope of youth, but of the realism and anxiety of pushing 40.

Protests in New York
Coates was motivated to write about race by recent events such as the killing by police of Eric Garner, which sparked protests in New York (above). Photograph: Yana Paskova/Getty Images

“That’s about right,” he says. “I mean I read Baldwin when I was at Howard [the predominantly black university in Washington DC that counts many civil rights heroes and intellectuals among its alumni]. But it has taken until now to really get it. At the time, people were very excited about that crop of black intellectuals, Cornel West, Henry Louis Gates. They were wonderful thinkers but no one would claim they were beautiful writers. I read Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, Sonia Sanchez. I would think about that shit for days. Those phrases stayed with me in my head you know, like Sanchez: ‘Do not speak to me of martyrdom/of men who die to be remembered/on some parish day./I don’t believe in dying/ though I too shall die/and violets like castanets/will echo me.’

“I mean: wow. It was so beautifully said. It took me a while to realise she was talking about Malcolm X. They shot him. There is immense grieving in that. And that seemed very relevant.”

University seemed to have offered Coates a way out of the quite brutalised life he had known as a child in Baltimore, where, as he recalled in his first book, a memoir called The Beautiful Struggle, a large part of his mental space was occupied by how to get safely to and from school in neighbourhoods where murderous gang violence had become the norm. As it was, he realised that escape was not so simple: a friend and peer of his at university, Prince Jones, a straight-A student, hoping to be a doctor, was shot in the back and killed by a plainclothes policeman in a case of “mistaken identity” in 2000. The officer was not prosecuted and kept his job. The sanctioned murder of Jones haunted Coates’s understanding of American life, and resurfaced with the spate of police killings in recent years. Some of the most moving passages in his book involve him going to see Dr Mabel Jones, his friend’s mother, whose loss and anger remain raw. It took all of that for him to get James Baldwin, nearing 40, and to fear for his own son’s life as he had once feared for his own, and to write.

“It’s like that phrase of Baldwin’s I use in the book,” he says: “‘Those who believe themselves to be white’: because once I got it, once I understood what he was saying, I thought it was the most beautiful thing I ever heard. What it does is introduce the idea of human agency into race. This shit isn’t natural, and it’s not accidental. There was a decision that was made here. And I realised beautiful writing could make you feel a certain way and you could carry those feelings in you for a long, long time. I really, really wanted to do that.”

What does Coates’s son make of the book that is addressed to him? “He likes it. It was not like it was a finished book and I handed it to him. He read it. He read a draft even before I turned it into a letter. And I asked him about doing that and he said sure. I would not have done it without his saying yes. I can’t yet see what he will make of it or do with it. He’s too young. I will know in 10 years.”

One of the reasons Coates thinks a lot about fathers and sons is that his own father, Paul Coates, tried to school him in similar ways. The substance of The Beautiful Struggle – a kind of hip-hop Portrait of the Artist, denser in its poetry than the new book – is the story of their relationship. Paul Coates was a Vietnam veteran and member of the Black Panther party, a follower of Malcolm X, a self-taught historian of black struggle in America and an obsessive collector of books that told the story of that history. When Coates himself was a boy, his father started a printing press and cottage publishing industry in their house to disseminate some of these stories in Baltimore and beyond. Paul Coates had six other children, practised free love, but unusually among his schoolfriends, Coates recalls, his father was ever-present in his childhood, encouraging him to read, encouraging him to write, and occasionally delivering brutal beatings when he strayed, justifying himself to Coates’s mother by asking: “Would you rather I did it or the cops?”

Coates with his son, Samori, in the summer of 2001.
Coates with his son, Samori, in the summer of 2001. Photograph: Ta-Nehisi Coates

“My dad always associated information with liberation,” Coates says. “He was very much in that Malcolm X tradition. I mean the story of Malcolm’s life was almost mythical. This guy goes into prison and he liberates himself through knowledge, finds a profound understanding of himself and his situation. That was an immensely powerful idea for men like my father. It was his version of the story of Jesus. He talked about it the way people talk about the crucifixion. You may not be able to change the course of government, but you can achieve some peace. And books were the path to that. I grew up in a house where books were everywhere. The authors my dad liked, the authors he likes, were all, like him, self-taught. He is talking about retiring at the moment but I think he might do it till the day he dies.”

His dad must be proud of Coates’s achievements? “Yes, he is very proud. And I am extremely pleased to have made him proud.”

You have become what he hoped you would become? “I don’t think he had any idea this was possible. I think he would have told you Ta-Nehisi is a smart kid he could get somewhere. But this is certainly beyond my imagination, and his.”

I wonder how much Coates felt himself in the tradition of that Black Panther movement that his father helped to organise, which advocated armed struggle as one means to achieve fuller liberation? “Violence was definitely part of it,” he says. “And that was powerful for me as a child, as I say in the book. Guns were romantic, right. But they were also part of the language that I recognise my country speaks. That is how we talk in America. The memoir was an attempt to take everything I was as a child, everything I had seen by the age of 19 or 20 and mash it together and try to find some kind of creative voice out of that.”

His experience of Baltimore at that time, he says, was very similar to that portrayed by David Simon in The Wire, a city falling apart because of the arrival of crack cocaine and abandonment of whole neighbourhoods by civic authorities. One way out was music: Coates’s first aspiration was to be a rap artist.

“Hip-hop was really the first literature I studied,” he says. “I tried to do it. But I wasn’t very good. It is extremely hard, it is not just a question of coming up with words that rhyme. When I first read Shakespeare, I fell in love with Macbeth. There was a particular scene where Macbeth is talking to the murderers, trying to get them to kill Banquo and they agree. ‘I am one, my liege, whom the vile blows and buffets of the world have so incensed that I am reckless what I do to spite the world.’ That sounded to me just like a rapper would describe his life. I’m just so beat down I don’t give a fuck. Bring it on. That is the core message of hip-hop right there. That realisation said to me there is something human in this, that desperation that is expressed there can’t be bounded by time, or place, or society, or race. It is a deeply human feeling.”

Coates with his father Paul. "Dad had been a captain in the Black Panther Party".
Coates with his father Paul. “Dad had been a captain in the Black Panther Party”. Photograph: Ta-Nehisi Coates
The act of articulating that feeling is, in a sense, the only hope that he offers Samori in his letter to him. The necessity is to understand the nature of the struggle, the way the land lies, and to be able to express it. Did he himself feel better for doing so? “Was it cathartic? I don’t know. I felt better that it was said. I didn’t want to walk around with it.”

In person Coates is warm and relaxed, full of intellectual energy, but his book is short on solace or solutions or much in the way of optimism. It preaches a gospel of brutal truths about race, and stresses the importance of acknowledging them as an aspiration in itself. Despite the fact of a black American president, despite the media focus on the protest against police killings, he sees no prospect of much change, at least not until America acknowledges the facts of its history. It is, I suggest, an argument above all against the requirement to be hopeful.

“Yes,” he says. “But I’m a writer. I have no responsibility to be hopeful. This is literature. I don’t need to be arguing that in five years we are going to turn a profit. I don’t need to look for redemption.”

But in America in particular, doesn’t that need for redemption, for optimism, run deep? “Yes and I think that it is deeply injurious to us all. If all your movies and all your stories have to end with the good guy winning on some fundamental level, your culture is not being honest about the world. My job is to look out and see what I see and to be just as honest as I can.”


Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates is published by Text Publishing (£10.99). Click here to order a copy for £8.79


Why ‘Transcending Race’ Is a Lie


O.J. Simpson gave Richard M. Nixon, then the president-elect, an autographed ball in 1968 with other college football stars. CreditAssociated Press 

I was born in the shadow of the 21st century, so I never knew O. J. Simpson as an athlete or as an actor. I wasn’t quite a year old on Jan. 1, 1989, the day Simpson beat his wife, Nicole Brown-Simpson, so badly that she fled their house screaming, “He’s going to kill me!” I was only 6 on June 17, 1994, when the N.B.A. finals broadcast cut away to a shot of Simpson’s white Ford Bronco creeping down a California highway, escorted by a line of black-and-whites, as if in a funeral procession. That was four days after Brown-Simpson, 35, and her friend Ronald Goldman, 25, were found dead in pools of blood, nearly decapitated. Some of my earliest memories are of that white Bronco, and of the “Trial of the Century” that followed, and of my parents’ happiness when Simpson was acquitted.

I understand now that I was watching Simpson’s fall. As recently as a few months ago, though, I still couldn’t contextualize Simpson, the things he had accomplished or the lofty position he occupied in America — in whiteAmerica. I approached older friends, people who had grown up watching Simpson move from a Hall of Fame N.F.L. career to mainstream megastardom, and asked them who his modern equivalent would be.

But there aren’t any. Few American athletes have been as widely beloved as Simpson was. Even today, his popularity seems inconceivable. “O. J.: Made in America,” the ESPN “30 for 30” documentary directed by Ezra Edelman that is airing this week, busies itself with the making of the man at the myth’s center and with the country that helped him become a monster. It’s the best thing ESPN has ever produced. And it answers my question: Simpson’s story is that of a black man who came of age during the civil rights era and spent his entire adult life trying to “transcend race” — to claim that strange accolade bestowed on blacks spanning from Pelé to Prince to Nelson Mandela to Muhammad Ali. Which is to say, it’s the story of a halfback trying, and failing, to outrun his own blackness.

This country was built on the backs of black slaves whose lives and labor were stolen by their white masters. That theft created a caste system in which both groups of people could occupy the same spaces yet have completely different experiences: a white America and a black America. This was true in 1619, in 1865 and in 1947, when Simpson was born; it holds true today.

Yet there are a few blacks — the most singular and spectacular among us — who have unique and priceless gifts to offer. Racial transcendence happens when white America takes these gifts for itself, in exchange for acceptance within white culture. It is the mechanism through which whites acknowledge the humanity of black superhumans and which allows these few to move, supposedly, beyond blackness, their talents granting them safe passage through white spaces, mouths and memories. Every black person, successful or not, has to overcome a steep handicap; the idea of racial transcendence is anchored in the fallacy that the handicap is blackness itself, rather than a society that terrorizes and undermines blacks at every turn.

Racial transcendence is a lie, but it’s one that Simpson believed in deeply. In the first installment of “O. J.: Made in America,” a sociologist and activist named Dr. Harry Edwards describes his efforts to recruit Simpson into a collective of black athletes working for civil rights in the late 1960s — people like Muhammad Ali, Lew Alcindor (later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), Jim Brown and the Olympic sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who raised their fists in a black-power salute at the 1968 Olympics.

Simpson refused. After just one season at the University of Southern California, it was obvious that he was a priceless talent. It wasn’t just that he was stronger and faster than everyone else was; Simpson ran almost daintily, tiptoeing through seams visible only to him, leaving defenders diving at air. He had emerged from nowhere, fully formed, already one of the best college running backs of all time and already more famous than most of the athletes in Edwards’s collective.

“His response,” Edwards remembers in the documentary, “was, ‘I’m not black, I’m O. J.’ ” In 1968, the same year Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, Simpson believed he could escape race in America.

For as long as there have been Negroes in the country, there have been “exceptional Negroes.” When Joe Louis was boxing in the 1930s and 1940s, his talent and humility allowed him to be thought of, his son claimed, “as an American, not as a black. By winning, he became white America’s first black hero.” The sportswriter Jimmy Cannon called Louis “a credit to his race — the human race.” This is the same fraudulent race-blindness that remains widespread today, found in people who claim that they “don’t see color” or that “All Lives Matter”; it’s a nasty bit of gaslighting — the denial of racism through the denial of race itself. At its best, Edelman’s documentary reveals what made Simpson unique: not simply that he tried to outrun his blackness, but the herculean efforts he made to do so. Simpson, with his team of friends and hangers-on, erected a self-contained, race-free universe, one he inhabited for much of his adult life.

At no point is this more obvious than when the documentary recounts the shooting of his famous 1978 Hertz commercial. To advertise the rental-car giant’s speed of service, the company’s chief executive, Frank Olson, enlisted Simpson to run through Newark International Airport. That simple conceit required that an entire false reality be built to support it. No other black people could be included in the shot. Fred Levinson, who directed the scene, instead added white bystanders, who cheered on Simpson as he sprinted through the empty hallways, telegraphing that he was safe, and therefore that they were, too.

Hertz’s universe was like Simpson’s, held together with lies, ever on the verge of collapse. Levinson was able to look at a man with hickory skin, full lips, a wide nose and a nappy Afro, and say this: “He’s African, but he’s a good-looking man. He almost has white features.” Olson continues: “For us, O. J. was colorless. None of the people that we associated with looked at him as a black man.”

One of the most alarming anecdotes in the documentary comes from Robert Lipsyte, a former sportswriter for The New York Times. “He was telling me a story about being at a teammate’s wedding with his wife and sitting at a table of mostly, as he said it, mostly Negroes,” Lipsyte recounts. “And he overheard a white woman sitting at the next table saying, ‘Look, there’s O. J. sitting with all those niggers.’ And I remember in my naïveté saying, ‘That must have been terrible for you.’ And he said, ‘No, it was great. Don’t you understand? She knew that I wasn’t black. She saw me as O. J.’ ”

In a time of black revolution, Simpson was a counterrevolutionary; as blacks embraced black power and self-love, Simpson surrounded himself with white people. There were plenty of great black football players around his time, but Simpson was special: Not only did he play better than most, he also used his wit and charm in the service of making white people feel safe. In a period of nationwide change and unrest, he was “one of the good ones.”

He played the role happily, and it brought him a level of fame as unprecedented as his eventual fall. “O. J.: Made in America” makes it very plain that Simpson almost certainly committed the murders and that he almost certainly was going to be acquitted from the beginning. The Los Angeles Police Department’s collection of evidence from the crime scene was botched, as was the prosecution itself. The trial was held just two years after Rodney King’s beating by L.A.P.D. officers, their acquittals and the ensuing riots. The two cases further divided the city along racial lines, laying bare the way that blacks and whites could occupy the same space yet live in separate worlds. When Simpson left the courthouse a free man, blacks across the country rejoiced, his white friends and fawners abandoned him and the universe around him crumbled.

Simpson seems to have understood many things about how so-called racial transcendence works. He understood how black talent could be co-opted for white gain and how, by denying his blackness, he could exercise a perverse control over his image. He understood that racial transcendence is less about who you are and more about who you aren’t. In this country, racially transcendent blacks are used as exemplars, direct foils to creeping black counterculture. Some blacks are complicit in the caper; Simpson was the perfect portrait of an anti-angry black athlete. When Richard Pryor was lacing his sets with the word “nigger,” Bill Cosby was beginning to peddle respectability politics; he remained transcendent until the world was reminded of allegations that he had spent his career drugging and raping women. When Allen Iverson was popularizing cornrows, baggy shorts and tattoos in the N.B.A., Tiger Woods was the respectable black athlete on the golf circuit. Even now, the N.B.A.’s most valuable player, Steph Curry — who transforms from a trash-talking showman during the game to a humble, God-fearing introvert minutes after — is the subject of all manner of racial projection and notes on skin tone. A white friend of mine once called him the league’s first Great White Hope since Larry Bird.

What Simpson may not have recognized, though, is that the United States’ history is a story of theft, and theft doesn’t require cooperation. Talents you don’t trade can be stolen through your silence, through your absence or after your death. And once you’ve been marked as having “transcended race,” the success you’ve earned in spite of white racism can be twisted into an example of white magnanimity. Muhammad Ali was a menace, a black fighter who engaged in psychological warfare with his opponents, changed his name after joining a black-supremacist sect and gave up the best years of his career in exile rather than killing for a country he decried as racist — yet after his death, the sportscaster Chris Myers could tweet that “When you saw #Ali, you didn’t see color, you didn’t see religion.” Martin Luther King Jr., harassed by the F.B.I. and ultimately assassinated, is now deployed as a symbol of a nation that has achieved colorblindness. Whitney Houston, a black woman who made black music after finding her voice in a black church, was congratulated on transcending race after her death. You can imagine the Barack Obama obituaries to come.

I grew up in a different America from the one in which Simpson did, but one thing still unites our two worlds: The highest compliment America will pay black people today is to say they escaped their blackness, which is to say they escaped themselves. As long as Simpson’s shortcomings were kept to cheating in golf against wealthy, white businessmen, and his physical abuse of Brown-Simpson was kept behind closed doors, he could pretend that he wasn’t black — just O. J. But when he stood trial for murder, he did so as a black man. Racial transcendence is, above all, probationary.


Correction: June 18, 2016
An earlier version of this article misquoted a former New York Times sportswriter, Robert Lipsyte, a subject in ESPN’s documentary on O. J. Simpson. When recounting what had caused him to ask O. J. Simpson if an interaction at a colleague’s wedding was terrible for him, Lipsyte said, “And I remember in my naïveté, (not ‘in my light of day’) saying, ‘That must have been terrible for you.’”


50 Years Ago Stokely Carmichael Called for ‘Black Power,’ Galvanizing a Movement


50 Years Ago Stokely Carmichael Called for ‘Black Power,’ Galvanizing a Movement

While the movement would eventually fade, groups like Black Lives Matter have kept its themes of black liberation alive.

Stokely Carmichael, aka Kwame Ture, on Nov. 30, 1967 STR/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Fifty years ago this Thursday, the call for “black power” by Stokely Carmichael in Greenwood, Miss., transformed the black freedom struggle.

Frightening white citizens while transforming black identity, the black power movement’s call for radical political self-determination challenged liberal frameworks for racial equality in profound ways that continue to reverberate to this day. Black power took us beyond civil rights protests and challenged the structural nature of race, class and gender inequality, and in the process galvanized domestic and international struggles for liberation.

Just as today’s Black Lives Matter activists have recognized the criminal-justice system as a gateway to multifaceted systems of racial oppression, black power activists identified the Vietnam War, Jim Crow racism and poverty as panoramic threats against racial equality and economic justice.

Under Carmichael’s leadership, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC (pronounced “snick”), turned “black power” into a clarion call, a phrase that identified an already existing movement for black liberation that had been led by the indefatigable Malcolm X.

But Malcolm’s ideas of black solidarity, the cultural politics of race, anti-colonialism and human rights flourished past his assassination.

Carmichael, a Trinidadian immigrant-turned-brash New Yorker activist, became the black power movement’s most well-known and charismatic spokesperson, publicly repudiating racism, war and white supremacy while vowing to fight for freedom by any means necessary.

“It is a call for black people in this country to unite, to recognize their heritage, to build a sense of community,” Carmichael said. “It is a call for black people to define their own goals, to lead their own organizations.”

The most famous group to heed Carmichael’s call to action was the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. Founded in Oakland, Calif., in October 1966, the Panthers derived their name from black sharecroppers in Lowndes County, Ala., but were inspired by Malcolm X. Maverick black nationalists, budding socialists and unconventional Marxists, the Panthers organized around ending police brutality, the tip of the spear in an expansive revolutionary program that called for “land, peace, bread and justice” for the black community.

Brandishing shotguns, pistols and bandoliers, with powder-blue T-shirts, leather jackets and black berets, the Panthers became the most enduring symbol of black power activism’s bracing challenge against institutional racism. In an era before mass incarceration and Black Lives Matter, the Panthers regarded the criminal-justice system as a racist gulag designed to demonize and denigrate poor blacks. On this score, the group developed innovative and enduring anti-poverty programs that offered free breakfast for children, health clinics, ambulance services, tenant and legal aid, and prisoner-rights advocacy.

The “black consciousness” movement spurred by Carmichael’s call for black power touched every sector of the African-American community. Black college and high school students responded to the movement by pushing for black-history and black-studies programs and changing the names of public schools to honor past activists. Poets, writers and artists embarked on a Black Arts Movement, led by Sonia Sanchez and Amiri Baraka, that embraced a new, complex black identity, one closely tied to Africa. Angela Davis, George Jackson and the Attica prison rebellion helped expand the movement’s political terrain by elevating black prisoners to the forefront of radical political organizing in the early 1970s.

A broad range of black artists, from Nina Simone to James Brown and Marvin Gaye, drew inspiration from a movement that challenged white supremacy from the inside out. For the black middle class, magazines like Essence (launched in 1970) provided new, expansive notions of black beauty that would culminate in a transformed media landscape by the 1970s. The search for black identity would reach its popular peak with the broadcast of the television series Roots, which was watched by over 100 million Americans in 1977.

But the black power rise was countered by multiple efforts to smash the movement. FBI, state and local authorities arrested, harassed, threatened and at times killed activists, dozens of whom remain in jail to this day. Carmichael himself was targeted by the FBI’s COINTELPRO, planting evidence that made him look like a CIA informant, causing Carmichael’s expulsion from both the Black Panthers and SNCC. President Richard Nixon attempted, at times successfully, to redefine black power as black capitalism, a maneuver that co-opted radical energies into believing that black faces in higher places would lead to freedom.

By the 1980s, black power activists could point to Harold Washington’s successful Chicago mayoral campaign, the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s passionate 1984 presidential run and the global impact of the anti-apartheid movement as testaments to the movement’s endurance, but its heyday had past.

But today, Black Lives Matter activism has served as a valediction of the movement. This passionate, disruptive activism against mass incarceration and police killings has spilled over onto college campuses in defiant displays of protest and civil disobedience that recall America’s heady black power years, echoing a time when a 24-year-old black revolutionary walked along a Mississippi highway and made the earth stand still.


The Racist Roots of the GOP’s Favorite New Immigration Plan


The Racist Roots of the GOP’s Favorite New Immigration Plan

By Zoë Carpenter – The Nation | english@other-news.info

 Aug 20, 2015 8:41 PM


Birthright citizenship is enshrined in the 14th Amendment, but Donald Trump and other candidates are keeping alive the idea that some Americans should not have equal rights at birth.

The year 1866 was an alarming one for xenophobes: Congress passed the Civil Rights Act, declaring “all persons born in the United States and not subject to any foreign power…to be citizens of the United States.” Though explicitly intended to grant citizenship to African-Americans, who’d been denied it by the Supreme Court’s ruling in the 1857 Dred Scott case, wouldn’t the law also “have the effect of naturalizing the children of Chinese and Gypsies born in this country?” wondered Pennsylvania Senator Edgar Cowan. “Undoubtedly,” responded Senator Lyman Trumbull of Illinois. When President Andrew Johnson vetoed the act, he too raised the specter of the Chinese and “the people called Gypsies.”
Congress overrode the veto, and went on to enshrine the principle of birthright citizenship in the Constitution’s 14th Amendment. Needless to say, fears about the children of the gypsies proved unfounded. Yet the idea that people with certain types of parents should be denied citizenship—and the associated rights—persisted. Late in the nineteenth century the government tried to withhold citizenship from the children of Chinese immigrants, but was rebuffed by the Supreme Court. Native Americans weren’t considered citizens until 1924. These days the target is Latino immigrants and their children. And thanks to Donald Trump, the nativist argument against birthright citizenship has moved from a sideline item to a centerpiece in the Republican primary.
In a set of immigration policies released Sunday, Trump called for an end to birthright citizenship, which he described as “the biggest magnet for illegal immigration.” Trump’s invocation of the fictitious “anchor baby” phenomenon isn’t particularly original. But what’s striking is that his implausible call for reinterpreting or rescinding the 14th Amendment has been taken up by so many of his competitors in the Republican field, including Scott Walker, Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum, Ben Carson, and Rand Paul. Chris Christie said recently that birthright citizenship should be “reexamined.” The much shorter list of those not in favor includes John Kasich (who previously advocated for revoking birthright citizenship), Jeb Bush, and Marco Rubio, who stated that he is “open to exploring ways of not allowing people who are coming here deliberately for that purpose to acquire citizenship.”
The issue of birthright citizenship resurfaces every so often in Congress, but it’s never gotten much traction. Most recently Louisiana Senator David Vitter warned of the “exploding phenomenon” of “birth tourism,” and in March proposed to limit citizenship to those who have at least one parent with a green card or who’ve served in the military. Though bids like Vitter’s are more demagogic than actionable, some US-born children with undocumented parents already face hurdles related to their citizenship rights. Texas, for instance, recently began refusing to issue birth certificates to parents who use a photo ID from the Mexican Consulate as their only form of identification.
Kelefa Sanneh points out that, bluster aside, Trump is actually forcing a substantive policy debate. The substance is extreme: Walker, for instance, once supported comprehensive reform legislation that including labor rights and a pathway to legal status; now he is “absolutely” in favor of ending birthright citizenship. (So are 63 percent of Republicans, according to a 2010 Fox News poll.) While the GOP was once wondering whether Romney’s promotion of “self deportation” went too far, now candidates are pandering to the base’s racial anxieties with talk of undoing what historian Eric Foner characterizes as one of the Republican Party’s own “historic achievements.”
The irony is that doing so would dramatically increase the number of undocumented people living in the US. (As has the militarization of the border.) Denying birthright citizenship to children with undocumented parents would bring the population of unauthorized people to as many as 24 million by 2050, according to the Migration Policy Institute. The result, according to MPI, would be the creation of “an underclass of unauthorized immigrants who, through no fault of their own, would be forced to live in the margins of US society.” In other words, undermining the 14th Amendment won’t solve the (nonexistent) problem of “birth tourism.” It would, however, do what the denial of citizenship has done since the era of Dred Scott: strip civil rights from a racialized group, facilitating their exploitation.

[]


The Dark Art of Racecraft


The Dark Art of Racecraft

Jason Richwine’s place in the long history of research on race and IQ

 TA-NEHISI COATES | MAY 13, 2013 | U.S.

mordecai

Mordecai Wyatt Johnson, the first black president of Howard University

 

Dave Weigel is one of my favorite reporters, but I think this piece on Jason Richwine, intelligence research, and “race” deserves a closer look:

Academics aren’t so concerned with the politics. But they know all too well the risks that come with research connecting IQ and race. At the start of his dissertation, Richwine thanked his three advisers — George Borjas, Christopher Jenks, and Richard Zeckhauser — for being so helpful and so bold. Borjas “helped me navigate the minefield of early graduate school,” he wrote. “Richard Zeckhauser, never someone to shy away from controversial ideas, immediately embraced my work. …”

Anyone who works in Washington and wants to explore the dark arts of race and IQ research is in the right place. The city’s a bit like a college campus, where investigating “taboo” topics is rewarded, especially on the right. A liberal squeals “racism,” and they hear the political-correctness cops (most often, the Southern Poverty Law Center) reporting a thought crime.

It is almost as though the “dark arts of race and IQ” were an untapped field of potential knowledge, not one of the most discredited fields of study in modern history. We should first be clear that there is nothing mysterious or forbidden about purporting to study race and intelligence. Indeed, despite an inability to define “race” or “intelligence,” such studies are one of the dominant intellectual strains in Western history. We forget this because its convient to believe that history begins with the Watts riots. But it’s important to remember the particular tradition that Charles Murray and Jason Richwine are working in. A brief reminder seems in order.

Here is antebellum “race realist” Josiah Clark Nott writing in 1854 to justify slavery:

That Negroes imported into, or born in, the United States become more intelligent and better developed in their physique generally than their native compatriots of Africa, every one admits; but such intelligence is easily explained by their ceaseless contact with the whites, from whom they derive much instruction; and such physical improvement may also be readily accounted for by the increased comforts with which they are supplied. In Africa, owing to their natural improvidence, the Negroes are, more frequently than not, a half-starved, and therefore half-developed race; but when they are regularly and adequately fed, they become healthier, better developed, and more humanized. Wild horses, cattle, asses, and other brutes, are greatly improved in like manner by domestication : but neither climate nor food can transmute an ass into a horse, or a buffalo into an ox.

Here is an excerpt from Madison Grant’s 1916 study The Passing of a Great Race:

These new immigrants were no longer exclusively members of the Nordic race as were the earlier ones who came of their own impulse to improve their social conditions. The transportation lines advertised America as a land flowing with milk and honey and the European governments took the opportunity to unload upon careless, wealthy and hospitable America the sweepings of their jails and asylums. The result was that the new immigration, while it still included many strong elements from the north of Europe, contained a large and increasing number of the weak, the broken and the mentally crippled of all races drawn from the lowest stratum of the Mediterranean basin and the Balkans, together with hordes of the wretched, submerged populations of the Polish Ghettos.

Our jails, insane asylums and almshouses are filled with this human flotsam and the whole tone of American life, social, moral and political has been lowered and vulgarized by them. With a pathetic and fatuous belief in the efficacy of American institutions and environment to reverse or obliterate immemorial hereditary tendencies, these newcomers were welcomed and given a share in our land and prosperity….

The result of unlimited immigration is showing plainly in the rapid decline in the birth rate of native Americans because the poorer classes of Colonial stock, where they still exist, will not bring children into the world to compete in the labor market with the Slovak, the Italian, the Syrian and the Jew. The native American is too proud to mix socially with them and is gradually withdrawing from the scene, abandoning to these aliens the land which he conquered and developed.

The man of the old stock is being crowded out of many country districts by these foreigners just as he is to-day being literally driven off the streets of New York City by the swarms of Polish Jews. These immigrants adopt the language of the native American, they wear his clothes, they steal his name and they are beginning to take his women, but they seldom adopt his religion or understand his ideals and while he is being elbowed out of his own home the American looks calmly abroad and urges on others the suicidal ethics which are exterminating his own race.

Another from Lothrop Stoddard’s 1922 work The Revolt Against Civilization and the Menace of the Underman:

In Massachusetts the birth-rate of foreign-born women is two and one-half times as high as the birth-rate among the native-bom; in New Hampshire two times; in Rhode Island one and one-half times, the most prolific of the alien stocks being Poles, Polish and Russian Jews, South Italians, and French-Canadians. What this may mean after a few generations is indicated by a calculation made by the biologist Davenport, who stated that, at present rates of reproduction, 1,000 Harvard graduates of to-day would have only fifty descendants two centuries hence, whereas 1,000 Rumanians today in Boston, at their present rate of breeding, would have 100,000 descendants in the same space of time.

To return to the more general aspect of the problem, it is clear that both in Europe and America the quality of the population is deteriorating, the more intelligent and talented strains being relatively or absolutely on the decline. Now this can mean nothing lees than a deadly menace both to civilization and the race.

More from Lothrop Stoddard‘s 1921 book The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy:

In the United States it has been the same story. Our country, originally settled almost exclusively by Nordics, was toward the close of the nineteenth century invaded by hordes of immigrant Alpines and Mediterraneans, not to mention Asiatic elements like Levantines and Jews. As a result, the Nordic native American has been crowded out with amazing rapidity by these swarming, prolific aliens, and after two short generations he has in many of our urban areas become almost extinct.

The racial displacements induced by a changed economic or social environment are, indeed, almost incalculable. Contrary to the popular belief, nothing is more unstable than the ethnic make-up of a people. Above all, there is no more absurd fallacy than the shibboleth of the “melting-pot.” As a matter of fact, the melting-pot may mix but does not melt. Each race-type, formed ages ago, and “set” by millenniums of isolation and inbreeding, is a stubbornly persistent entity. Each type possesses a special set of characters: not merely the physical characters visible to the naked eye, but moral, intellectual, and spiritual characters as well. All these characters are transmitted substantially unchanged from generation to generation.

To be sure, where members of the same race-stock intermarry (as English and Swedish Nordics, or French and British Mediterraneans), there seems to be genuine amalgamation. In most other cases, however, the result is not a blend but a mechanical mixture. Where the parent stocks are very diverse, as in matings between whites, negroes, and Amerindians, the offspring is a mongrel — a walking chaos, so consumed by his jarring heredities that he is quite worthless. We have already viewed the mongrel and his works in Latin America.

Here is Karl Pearson in 1925 looking at Jewish immigration into Britain:

What is definitely clear, however, is that our alien Jewish boys do not form from the standpoint of intelligence a group markedly superior to the natives. But that is the sole condition under which we are prepared to admit that immigration should be allowed. Taken on the average, and regarding both sexes, this alien Jewish population is somewhat inferior physically and mentally to the native population. It is not so markedly inferior as some of those who wish to stop all immigration are inclined to assert. But we have to face the facts; we know and admit that some of the children of these alien Jews from the academic standpoint have done brilliantly, whether they have the staying powers of the native race is another question*. No breeder of cattle, however, would purchase an entire herd because he anticipated finding one or two fine specimens included in it; still less would he do it, if his byres and pastures were already full.

Far from being relegated to some musty corner of intellectual life, the Stoddard tradition, the tradition in which Jason Richwine stands, proved to be an influential force in world history. The Stoddard tradition gave us forced sterilization, “euthanasia” programs, miscegenation bans, and, ultimately, the Holocaust.

One might oppose the Stoddard tradition strictly on its tendency to birth suffering, misery, and catastrophe. But one can oppose it for simpler reasons — its practitioners have a nasty habit of being wrong. Harvard still stands. The Jews of Poland seem to understand American ideas quite well. And it was not the darker races who threatened civilization, but the cannibal Nordics rampaging under the Nazi flag. History has been deeply unkind to Jason Richwine’s spiritual ancestors. It’s comforting to think that the academics who show no interest in the “dark arts” do so out of fear of the leftist cabal. More likely, they do so to avoid being associated with a specious field of study whose primary contributions to the world include justifying slavery and inspiring genocide.

Which is not to say these authors should not be read. Pearson is especially instructive. In 1925, he claimed the Jews immigrating to Britain threatened to become a “parasitic race.” Under similar thinking, Jews were subsequently subjected to college quotas throughout America. Today, the descendants of Pearson tell us that Jews are the intellectual cream of the genetic crop.

This is what Barbara and Karen Fields mean when they talk about “racecraft.” Power must justify itself. When it is proven wrong, it simply recalibrates. Conditions and actions are explained away as the inalterable work of genetics. Yesterday’s yellow peril becomes today’s model minority. In the 1930s Jews dominated basketball because of their “Oriental background” and “flashy trickiness.” Today blacks dominate it through their animal strength and agility.

You see this shifting in Weigel’s own article, where we are told that Richwine is looking into “race.” But Hispanics are considered an ethnic group, not a race. That is because we have trouble explaining why Matt Yglesias, Sophia Vegara, Carmelo Anthony, Rosario Dawson, and Charlie Rangel can be said to comprise a separate “race.” One should also have trouble explaining why Walter White, Whoopi Goldberg, Djimon Hounsou, Jay Smooth, Mordecai Wyatt Johnson, and I are all the same “race.”

These people do share something in common — their geographic ancestry makes them potential targets of white racism. If there is any fact we are warned away from, this is it. Richwine’s theories originate from a long tradition of white racism, the tradition of Grant, Stoddard, and Pearson.  But to say this is to indict an insupportable portion of our own history and traditions. It is to remind us that the differences between us were constructed by men who sought power, and are maintained just the same.


Ta-Nehisi Coates

TA-NEHISI COATES is a national correspondent for The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of The Beautiful Struggleand Between the World and Me.