Ta-Nehisi Coates, “My President Was Black,” The Atlantic
What Obama was able to offer white America is something very few African Americans could — trust. The vast majority of us are, necessarily, too crippled by our defenses to ever consider such a proposition. But Obama, through a mixture of ancestral connections and distance from the poisons of Jim Crow, can credibly and sincerely trust the majority population of this country. That trust is reinforced, not contradicted, by his blackness. Obama isn’t shuffling before white power (Herman Cain’s “shucky ducky” act) or flattering white ego (O. J. Simpson’s listing not being seen as black as a great accomplishment). That, too, is defensive, and deep down, I suspect, white people know it. He stands firm in his own cultural traditions and says to the country something virtually no black person can, but every president must: “I believe you.”
Zadie Smith, “On Optimism and Despair,” The New York Review of Books
The art of midlife is surely always cloudier than the art of youth, as life itself gets cloudier. But it would be disingenuous to pretend it is only that. I am a citizen as well as an individual soul and one of the things citizenship teaches us, over the long stretch, is that there is no perfectibility in human affairs. This fact, still obscure to a twenty-one-year-old, is a little clearer to the woman of forty-one.
If some white men are more sentimental about history than anyone else…
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George Saunders, “My Writing Education: A Time Line,” The New Yorker
On a visit to Syracuse, I hear Toby saying goodbye to one of his sons. “Goodbye, dear,” he says.
I never forget this powerful man calling his son “dear.”
All kinds of windows fly open in my mind. It is powerful to call your son “dear,” it is powerful to feel that the world is dear, it is powerful to always strive to see everything as dear. Toby is a powerful man: in his physicality, in his experiences, in his charisma. But all that power has culminated in gentleness. It is as if that is the point of power: to allow one to access the higher registers of gentleness.
Sylvan Esso, Genius comment on “Hey Mami”:
“But our hero, she don’t know the gravity she holds”
Sometimes there would be a pack of old men outside of the building who would look at me and say “Ugh, bless you.” It would make me feel like a million dollars. I realized that I didn’t think that cat-calling was always a bad thing. It is really wonderful to be acknowledged as a beautiful being. I also like to acknowledge others as beautiful beings in public. It’s a kind of communication. People usually just like to decide that I’m saying cat-calling is…
Ta-Nehisi Coates, “Why Precisely Is Bernie Sanders Against Reparations?,” The Atlantic:
… Our current sprawling megapolis of prisons was a bipartisan achievement. Obamacare was not. Sometimes the moral course lies within the politically possible, and sometimes the moral course lies outside of the politically possible. One of the great functions of radical candidates is to war against equivocators and opportunists who conflate these two things. Radicals expand the political imagination and, hopefully, prevent incrementalism from becoming a virtue.
Ryan Dombal, “True Myth: A Conversation with Sufjan Stevens,” Pitchfork:
Hanging from scaffolding on an in-progress luxury condo near Sufjan Stevens’ office studio in Brooklyn, a huge sign promises to “preserve the history but change the meaning.” The phrase is a euphemism for gentrification at its highest levels — an advertisement meant to appeal to the delirious grandeur of those willing and able to spend $5 million on an apartment. But in a different context, those same words can take on an odd profundity. When I relay the sign’s message to Stevens, he lets out a little laugh. “That could be the title of my autobiography,” he says.
Connie Bruck, “Hillary the Pol,” New Yorker, May 30, 1994:
Betsey Wright told me that Hillary had, on occasion, confided her personal troubles to her. “Hillary can separate personal emotions from the goal and task ahead in a way that very few women can,” Wright said. “That is part of the investment in the marriage — the ability to keep going when others would have a cry, at the very least, before they go on. She knows it’s there, knows it hurts, knows it’s wrong, but she controls it as a separate thing from what the goal or project is.” To the suggestion that Hillary deals with emotions in a way that is more typical of many men, Wright replied, “I don’t even think men do it the way Hillary does. It is such an extreme extension of self-discipline that it is not even self-discipline.”
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