Exclusive - Ta-Nehisi Coates Extended Interview

October 12, 2015 - Ta-Nehisi Coates 10/12/2015 Views: 23,430

The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates describes how a progressive examination of crime in America was co-opted to justify the mass incarceration of black people. (10:23)

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>> Trevor: WELCOME BACK!

TA-NEHISI COATES JOINING ME(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

CHATTING ON THE WEB AND ON THECOMEDY CENTRAL APP.

>> Trevor: MASS INCARCERATION.

CAN I COMPLIMENT YOU ON THEPRONUNCIATION OF MY NAME?

>> Trevor: COMPLIMENT ME ON THEPRONUNCIATION OF YOUR NAME?

>> YES, I REALLY APPRECIATE IT.

>> Trevor: HOW DO PEOPLE SAYYOUR NAME?

>> DO WE HAVE TO DO THIS?

LET'S JUST SAY YOU SAID IT RIGHTAND I REALLY APPRECIATE IT.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)>> Trevor: I FIND IT WEIRD

BECAUSE THAT'S THE WAY IT IS.IT'S NOT LIKE IT'S WRITTEN

STRANGE. IT'S NOT LIKE THERE'SA SILENT--

>> YOU HAVE NO IDEA. PEOPLE PUTTHINGS IN THE NAME.

>> Trevor: TA-HA-NASSY?

>> RIGHT.

>> Trevor: I FEEL LIKE I SHOULDHAVE DONE THAT. TA-NEHISI, MAN.

SO WE'RE LOOKING AT MOYNIHAN,

THE MAN WHO CAME IN.WHO WAS THIS GUY AND WHY WAS HE

SO IMPORTANT?

>> DANIEL PATRICK MONAHAN WASBORN IN OKLAHOMA, RAISED IN NEW

YORK CITY AND DID NOT HAVE AFATHER IN HIS HOUSEHOLD. AND

HAD A VERY PROBLEMATICRELATIONSHIP WITH HIS FATHER AND

ASCRIBED MANY OF THE HARDSHIPSHE HAD IN HIS LIFE TO THE

ABSENCE OF A FATHER.

NOW HIS LIFE WASN'T THAT HARD.HE GRADUATED FROM TUFTS, WENT TO

LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS,WORKED AS A WHITE HOUSE AIDE FOR

MANY YEARS, UN AMBASSADOR,SENATOR -- I'M MAKING A CASE

AGAINST IT, ACTUALLY.

BUT HE BELIEVED HAVING AN INTACTAND WHOLE FAMILY WAS THE KEY TO

SOCIAL POLICY.

>> Trevor: SO HE WRITES A MEMOTHAT GETS CIRCULATED IN THE

HALLS OF CONGRESS AND EVERYONEREADS IT AND IN THE MEMO HE LAYS

OUT THE PROBLEM SAYING THATBLACK PEOPLE ARE FACED WITH THE

ISSUES THEY'RE FACED WITHBECAUSE THE BLACK FAMILY HAS

BEEN BROKEN UP.

>> YEAH.

>> Trevor: BECAUSE OF MASSINCARCERATION.

>> NO, NO, NO. MASSINCARCERATION HASN'T HAPPENED

JUST YET. THIS IS 1965.

>> Trevor: HE'S SAYING BECAUSEOF THE FAMILY BEING BROKEN UP --

>> WELL, HE ACTUALLY BLAMESRACISM AND DISCRIMINATION AND

SLAVERY. HE BLAMES THE LONGHISTORY.

UNFORTUNATELY WHAT HAPPENED IS ALOT OF PEOPLE PICKED UP THE

FAMILY LINE AFTER THAT AND -->> Trevor: THEY RAN WITH IT.

>> AND THEY RAN WITH IT AND LEFTALL THE HISTORY OUT OF IT.

>> Trevor: IT'S WEIRD TOME BECAUSE MOYNAHAN IS THE

CONSUMMATE LIBERAL. MANY PEOPLEWOULD SAY HIS VIEWS WOULD MIRROR

BERNIE SANDERS TODAY.

>> IT'S TRUE. HE BELIEVED INGUARANTEED INCOME, WHICH NO ONE

WOULD RUN ON THAT.

>> Trevor: EXACTLY, SO HOW DIDIT GET TWISTED? HOW DID IT GET

TO THE POINT WHERE THE SAME MANWHO SAID THAT BACK THEN, THE

SAME MAN WHO'S LIBERAL, SAYINGYOU NEED TO

IN ESSENCE CONSIDER REPARATIONSTO BLACK PEOPLE. YOU NEED TO

CONSIDER GIVING BLACK PEOPLE ALEG UP TO GET THEM BACK TO WHERE

THEY NEED TO BE IN SOCIETY--HOWDID IT GO FROM HIM BEING THE

LIBERAL VOICE TO BEING HELD UPAS THE POSTER CHILD

FOR THE CONSERVATIVES?

>> HE DIDN'T PUT ANY OF THAT INTHE REPORT.

EVERYTHING YOU LISTED FROM THEWHOLE REPARATIONS PIECE, WHICH

HE TALKS ABOUT--HE CALLS IT"UNEQUAL TREATMENT"--TO

GUARANTEED FAMILY INCOME, NONEOF THAT IS IN THE REPORT.

IT JUST ENDS WITH THE PROBLEM.

IT WASN'T LIKE HE DIDN'T KNOWSOLUTIONS.

HE HAD SOLUTIONS BUT HE WANTEDTHE REPORT--AND HE SAYS THIS--TO

BE ATTENTION-GRABBING AND HEKNEW THIS IDEA

OF FAMILY WAS DYNAMITE.

>> Trevor: HE WENT WITH AHEADLINE AND HOPED PEOPLE WOULD

READ THE STORY AND THEY NEVERDID.

>> EXACTLY.

HE THOUGHT IT WOULD ATTRACTENOUGH ATTENTION SO HE COULD

COME WITH THE SOLUTIONSAFTERWARDS.

>> Trevor: AND NO ONE ASKED HIMFOR THE SOLUTIONS?

>> WELL THEY CAME UP WITH OTHERSOLUTIONS, AND MASS

INCARCERATION WAS ONE OF THOSESOLUTIONS.

>> Trevor: IT'S SUCH A SAD STORYTO READ. WHAT I LOVED ABOUT

YOUR PIECE WAS YOUPERSONALIZED IT.

IT REALLY IS ABOUT THE BLACKFAMILY.

WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT THE O'DELLFAMILY, WHO'S IN JAIL AND HE WAS

PART OF A PROGRAM WHERE HE WASGOING TO BE LOOKED AT FOR PAROLE

AND THEY WERE GOING TO LET HIMOUT, AND HE HAD BEEN IN

PRISON FOR 40 YEARS AT THE TIME?

>> YEAH, I THINK AT THAT POINTHE HAD BEEN IN 30, 40 YEARS OR

SO.

HE HAD BEEN RECOMMENDED FORPAROLE ON THREE DIFFERENT

OCCASIONS BUT BECAUSE OF THEWAY MARYLAND'S LAW--DEEP BLUE

MARYLAND, BY THE WAY, DEMOCRATICMARYLAND--THE WAY THE LAWS ARE

STRUCTURED, THE GOVERNORHAS TO SIGN OFF ON EVERY PAROLE

FOR ANYBODY THAT'S BEEN GIVENLIFE.

AFTER THE MID 1990s, NOGOVERNOR WOULD DO THAT.

THE RISK WAS WAY TOO HIGH THATSOMEBODY MIGHT GO OUT AND

REOFFEND.

BUT O'DELL WAS IN A PRE-RELEASEPROGRAM WHERE HE WAS STAYING

WITH THIS FAMILY, HE WAS WORKINGIN THE COMMUNITY, THERE

WERE FOLKS IN THE COMMUNITY SAIDTHEY'D HIRE HIM AS

SOON AS HE GOT OUT.

>> Trevor: AND THEN HE NEVERDID.

NEVER DID.

>> Trevor: THAT BRINGS ME, IGUESS, TO THE NEXT PART OF THE

CONVERSATION, PRISON REFORM.

WE DID A PIECE ON THAT LASTWEEK, AND I'M SURE YOU READ UP,

THERE WAS A WHOLE BIPARTISANAGREEMENT IN CONGREES, BOTH

SIDES COMING TOGETHER, SAYING,MOST PEOPLE AGREEING MASS

INCARCERATION IS NOT THE RIGHTTHING THING TO BE DOING.

>> RIGHT.

>> Trevor: AND ALSO MANDATORYMINIMUMS ARE NOT HELPING, BUT

RATHER HINDERING WHAT'SHAPPENING.

>> RIGHT.

>> Trevor: BUT THE DISCUSSIONSEEMS LIKE IT'S SO MUCH MORE

COMPLICATED BECAUSE A LOT OFPEOPLE GO, "SO WE LET HALF THE

PRISONERS OUT AND WE SHOULD BEGOOD," AND YOU'RE SAYING, "NO,

IT'S NOT THAT EASY."

>> NO.

I HATE BEING THE BEARER OF BADNEWS.

>> Trevor: I FEEL LIKE YOU ENJOYIT.

>> I DON'T AT ALL, MAN!

(LAUGHTER)I JUST WANT TO JUMP IN AND

CELEBRATE WITH YOU GUYS.

I SO WANT TO BE A PART OF THECELEBRATION.

THE PROBLEM IS THAT THE BILLTHAT WAS PASSED LAST WEEK

APPLIES TO THE FEDERAL SYSTEM.

THE VAST MAJORITY OF PRISONERSIN THIS COUNTRY ARE IN THE

STATE SYSTEM, NOT IN THE FEDERALSYSTEM.

THE FEDERAL SYSTEM HAS AMINORITY OF PRISONERS.

THE PEOPLE WHO ARE GOING TO GETOUT, IT'S A GOOD, GOOD THING.

SO A GOOD FIRST STEP, BUT IT'S AVERY SMALL FIRST STEP.

THE SECOND PROBLEM IS IF YOULISTEN TO MOST POLITICIANS WHEN

THEY TALK ABOUT MASSINCARCERATION, THEY FOCUS ON

NON-VIOLENT DRUG DEALERS ORNON-VIOLENT DRUG OFFENDERS.

SOMETHING LIKE 52% OF OURPOPULATION OF PRISONERS IN OUR

STATE PRISONS COMMITTED WHAT WELABEL TODAY AS SOME SORT OF

VIOLENT CRIME.

>> Trevor: WHAT YOU'RE SAYINGIS INTERESTING.

YOU'RE SAYING WE LABEL THEM ASVIOLENT CRIMES.

>> RIGHT.

>> Trevor: AND WE HAVE TOACKNOWLEDGE THAT THESE PEOPLE

HAVE COMMITTED VIOLENT CRIMES,BUT YOU'VE SUGGESTED LOOKING AT

EUROPEAN COUNTRIES WHO HAVEREDEFINED WHAT A LIFE SENTENCE

IS IN PRISON SO THEY SAY TENYEARS IS A MAXIMUM SENTENCE.

>> RIGHT.

>> Trevor: ARE THESE THINGSTHAT EVER WERE CONSIDERED OR

SHOULD BE CONSIDERED IN AMERICA?

>> IF WE DO NOT CONSIDER THEM WEWILL NOT BE DECARCERATE, IT'S

JUST THAT SIMPLE.

YOU CAN'T DECARCERATE THROUGHNON-VIOLENT DRUG OFFENDERS.

THAT'S A MYTH. YOU CAN JUST LOOKAT THE NUMBERS AND SEE.

IT SIMPLY IS NOT POSSIBLE.

>> Trevor: HOW DO YOU RESPONDTO SOMEBODY WHO SAYS, "WHY WOULD

WE LET A VIOLENT PERSON ON THESTREETS AFTER HE COMMITTED THE

THAT CRIME?

WHY SHOULDN'T HE STAY IN THEENTIRE TIME THE REST OF HIS

LIFE?"

>> BECAUSE WE ONLY DECIDED TO DOTHIS 30 YEARS AGO. THIS IS

ACTUALLY A VERY RECENTDEVELOPMENT, THIS IDEA THAT

PEOPLE SHOULD COMMIT A SINGLEVIOLENT CRIME OR TWO OR EVEN

THREE VIOLENT CRIMES, TO BEHONEST WITH YOU, SHOULD TOTALLY

LOSE THEIR LIFE. IT'S A RECENTDEVELOPMENT.

IT'S NOT CLEAR THAT IT DOESANYTHING TO STOP CRIME.

IF YOU HAVE SOMEBODY WHO'S INTHEIR LATE '60s, FOR INSTANCE,

WHY ARE WE STILL HOLDING THEM INPRISON?

WHAT'S THE ARGUMENT FOR THAT?

IF THEY DID SOMETHING VIOLENT INTHEIR TWENTIES, WHAT

CRIME-STOPPING POLICIES AREACTUALLY AUTHORIZING THAT?

>> Trevor: BECAUSE BASICALLYAT THAT AGE, STUDIES HAVE SHOWN

YOU'RE BASICALLY PAST THEAGE OF CRIME. YOU'RE NO LONGER A

THREAT TO SOCIETY, YET WE KEEPTHESE PEOPLE LOCKED UP.

>> MY COLLEAGUE JEFF GOLDBERGLIKES THE PHRASE

"CRIMINAL MENOPAUSE." MOSTCRIMES ARE COMMITTED DURING A

CERTAIN AGE.

BUT THIS IS NOT EVEN ACONVERSATION THAT POLITICIANS

ARE READY TO HAVE.

IT'S TOO RADIOACTIVE NOW BUTWITHOUT HAVING IT YOU WILL NOT

DECARCERATE.

ANYONE WHO TELLS YOU THAT YOUCAN IS LYING.

ANYBODY THAT SAYS YOU CAN DOTHIS THROUGH NON-VIOLENT DRUG

OFFENDERS IS NOT -->> Trevor: SO DRUG OFFENDERS

IS THE FIRST STEP BUT IS, BYNO MEANS, THE ANSWER TO

THE PROBLEM?

>> NOT EVEN CLOSE.

>> Trevor: LET'S TALK ABOUTSOMETHING A LITTLE BIT LIGHTER.

>> OKAY. FRANCE AGAIN?

>> Trevor: THE BLACK PANTHERS.

(LAUGHTER)NOW, I WAS SUPER EXCITED TO FIND

OUT THAT YOU WERE ASKED OR HIREDOR COMMISSIONED--I DON'T KNOW

HOW IT WORKS IN THE WORLD OFCOMIC BOOKS--TO WRITE

THE NEW BLACK PANTHER SUPERHEROCOMIC BOOK.

>> RIGHT.

(APPLAUSE)YEAH.

>> Trevor: YOU DON'T STRIKE MEAS A COMIC BOOK KIND OF GUY.

>> I AM A COMIC BOOK KIND OFGUY!

>> Trevor: REALLY? OKAY, COOL.OH, THAT'S GOOD!

(APPLAUSE)SO WHAT'S THAT GOING TO BE LIKE?

ARE YOU GOING TO LIGHTEN IT UP?

>> NO!

>> Trevor: OKAY.

HERE'S ONE THING I THOUGHT WOULDBE --

>> HE'S A KING. IT'S NOT LIGHT.

BLACK PANTHER IS A KING OF ACOUNTRY.

THERE IS NOTHING LIGHT ABOUTBEING KING.

IT HAS TO BE DARK.

>> Trevor: HERE'S AQUESTION THAT THREW ME OFF.

(LAUGHTER)HIS ARCH ENEMY, MAN APE--

ARE YOU GOING TO KEEP THAT?

BECAUSE FOR THOSE WHO DON'TKNOW--AND I DIDN'T KNOW THIS--

THE BLACK PANTHER'S ARCH-ENEMYIS MAN APE, WHO IS BASICALLY A

BLACK MAN WHO WEARS THE COSTUMEOF AN APE,

AND SO THE BLACK SUPERHEROHAS TO FIGHT THE MAN APE.

(LAUGHTER)THIS IS HOW YOU ROLL?

(LAUGHTER)>> THAT'S NOT HOW I ROLL.

>> Trevor: ARE YOU GOING TOCHANGE THAT? ARE YOU GONNA WORK

AROUND IT? WHAT ARE YOU GOING TODO?

>> I DON'T THINK THERE WILL BEMANY MAN APES.

(LAUGHTER)>> Trevor: I WAS JUST

WONDERING ABOUT THAT.

>> I THINK WE HAVE ENOUGHANIMALS.

THE BLACK PANTHER, THAT'SSTRETCHING IT.

>> Trevor: THAT'S TRUE, YOU'VEGOT THE BLACK PANTHER.

ONE THING I WAS INTERESTED BYIS, IN THE MOVIE, CAPTAIN

AMERICA GETS HIS VIBRANIUMSHIELD FROM TONY STARK'S DAD.

>> RIGHT.

>> Trevor: BUT IT WAS ACTUALLYTHE BLACK PANTHERS -- I THINK IT

WAS HIS FAMILY.

>> IT'S MADE OUT OF VIBRANIUM,WHICH COMES FROM WAKANDA.

>> Trevor: SO THE PEOPLE OFWAKANDA GAVE IT TO HIM. IT

WASN'T TONY STARK'S DAD.>> RIGHT.

>> Trevor: SO MOST PEOPLEWATCH THE MOVIE AND GO CAPTAIN

AMERICA GOT THE SHIELD FROM TONYSTARK'S DAD BUT TURNS OUT IT WAS

SOME, LIKE, AFRICAN DUDES.

(LAUGHTER)I THINK YOU NEED TO CORRECT THAT

BECAUSE WE DON'T GET MUCH PROPS!

(APPLAUSE)>> IT'S ALREADY CORRECTED IN THE

COMICS. IT'S JUST THAT MANY MOREPEOPLE WATCH THE MOVIES.

>> Trevor: THEN I HOPE YOU TURNIT INTO A MOVIE, MY FRIEND.

THAT IS WHAT I HOPE YOU DO.THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR COMING.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)"THE ATLANTIC" FEATURING

TA-NEHISI'S COVERSTORY IS ON NEWSSTANDS RIGHT

NOW. "BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME"IS IN BOOK STORES.

TA-NEHISI COATES, EVERYBODY.MAKE SURE YOU READ IT.