And the Post’s Emma Brown gets it right: Can Ta-Nehisi Coates do that?
Over at the Atlantic, Coates keep presenting original subject matter! This practice virtually doesn’t exist within the guild of the modern professional “journalist.”
People, it just isn’t done! Except by a very few folk.
On Monday and Tuesday of this week, Coates offered posts about the so-called Moynihan Report, Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s famous, much maligned discussion of race from 1965. In the first of his posts, Coates presented this remarkable passage from Moynihan:
“That the Negro American has survived at all is extraordinary—a lesser people might simply have died out, as indeed others have. That the Negro community has not only survived, but in this political generation has entered national affairs as a moderate, humane, and constructive national force is the highest testament to the healing powers of the democratic ideal and the creative vitality of the Negro people. But it may not be supposed that the Negro American community has not paid a fearful price for the incredible mistreatment to which it has been subjected over the past three centuries.”
As Moynihan implies, the people in question are, on the whole, the greatest achievers in American history. It’s also true that this group has paid that “fearful price” for our brutal history, and continues to do so.
In our view, each part of that story was on display in Emma Brown’s painful, sensational report in Monday’s Washington Post. Brown described the struggles faced by valedictorians from Washington, DC high schools when they head off to competitive colleges.
Brown describes the terrible price these kids still pay in the backwash of our American history. But good God! She also does a beautiful job describing the other part of that story.
Say hello to Sache Collier, 2011 valedictorian at Ballou High, now a junior at Penn State:
BROWN (6/17/13): Collier, the 2011 valedictorian at Ballou Senior High in Southeast Washington, said the first thing she noticed when she arrived at Penn State University was how intently her fellow students paid attention during class.We thought of both parts of Moynihan’s story when we read that portrait.
“It was like, ‘Wow, everyone’s on the same page and everyone wants to learn,’ ” Collier said. “At Ballou, it wasn’t like that at all. I was always trying to get the students quiet.”
Collier had been a star at Ballou, where fewer than one-quarter of students are proficient in math and reading. But she said that her classes largely dealt with the basics: summarizing story plots, for example, and learning how to write complete and grammatically correct sentences.
Only in her senior year, in an advanced English course, did a teacher challenge her to think more deeply. “I feel like it was too late,” said Collier, who took two of the three AP classes she said were available to her at Ballou. “It just wasn’t enough to have that kind of teacher for one year.”
In her first semester at Penn State, Collier took seminars in which professors asked her to synthesize ideas, develop arguments and do original research. It was new to her.
“We had to go into the library all the time and research articles and really, really write,” Collier said. “It was difficult for me because I hadn’t done that in high school. I didn’t have to write a lot. I didn’t really research anything.”
The 2.1 grade-point average she earned that first semester devastated her. She visited writing tutors, talked to librarians and sought out professors during office hours. Now a rising junior, her GPA is 3.38.
“I’m not the type of person to give up,” Collier said.
Meanwhile, three cheers for Emma Brown, who did great work in this series of profiles. When Collier compares life at Penn State to life at Ballou, what she says is very painful to hear. White “progressives” are generally embarrassed to talk about race, and, to be honest, they don’t really care. They walk away from descriptions like that.
Journalist Brown, and her editors, went right out and told it.
The situation in which Collier rose is the fault of no living person. It’s the fault of our brutal history, which we rarely want to describe and which Collier is rewriting and overcoming, not being the type to give up.
We think Brown’s piece was just sensational. Coates’ work is sensational too.
Are Coates and Brown allowed to do that? We’re just asking, of course.