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#NPRreads: Ta-Nehisi Coates' Latest Essay And A Profile Of The 'Anti-Redskin'

NPRreads is a weekly feature on Twitter and on The Two-Way. The premise is simple: Correspondents, editors and producers from our newsroom share the pieces that have kept them reading, using the #NPRreads hashtag. On Fridays, we highlight some of the best stories.

This week, we bring you three items.

From Tanya Ballard Brown, an NPR.org editor:

Last June, writer, author and big thinker Ta-Nehisi Coates described in The Atlantic how discriminatory housing practices (and other historical disadvantages) had affected black Americans in his piece, "The Case for Reparations." The essay called for a reckoning by Americans, and this led to a renewed discussion about reparations. I followed many of these conversations, absorbing the varied reactions and responses to Coates' assertions.

Now, Coates, the recipient of a National Magazine Award and George Polk Award for his essays and commentary, is tackling the storied Moynihan report in his latest Atlantic essay, "The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration." According to Coates, the report, written in 1965 by then-Assistant Secretary of Labor Daniel Patrick Moynihan and titled, "The Negro Family: The Case for National Action," argued "that the federal government was underestimating the damage done to black families by 'three centuries of sometimes unimaginable mistreatment' as well as a 'racist virus in the American blood stream,' which would continue to plague blacks in the future." But it seems the remedies Moynihan envisioned didn't take hold in quite the way he intended.

Coates writes:

"As the civil-rights movement wound down, Moynihan looked out and saw a black population reeling under the effects of 350 years of bondage and plunder. He believed that these effects could be addressed through state action. They were—through the mass incarceration of millions of black people.

"This bloating of the prison population may not have reduced crime much, but it increased misery among the group that so concerned Moynihan. Among all black males born since the late 1970s, one in four went to prison by their mid-'30s; among those who dropped out of high school, seven in 10 did. "Prison is no longer a rare or extreme event among our nation's most marginalized groups," Devah Pager, a sociologist at Harvard, has written. "Rather it has now become a normal and anticipated marker in the transition to adulthood."

It will be interesting to see the discussions that arise from this piece.

From Morning Edition Executive Producer Tracy Wahl:

This was a fascinating profile on Ray Halbritter, the leader of the Oneida Indian Nation, and his clash with the NFL over the name of the Washington Redskins. I love profiles in general, learning the deep back stories of the people behind the headlines. This piece introduced me to someone I didn't know. And changed the way I thought about the conflict.

The writer, Ariel Sabar, drew me in from the first paragraph when he wrote in referring to Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder and Halbritter: "Both are bullheaded multimillionaire CEOS who hate losing, which has made their clash nearly as bruising as the boxing matches Halbritter hosts at his casino in update New York."

Prior to this moment, I had seen the debate as between a large group of people and the Redskins organization. This was the first time I thought of it as something else.

Here's another particularly vivid piece of writing:

"Halbritter was the sort of adversary the Redskins had never seen before: a leader of an American Indian tribe, with media chops, A-list political ties (he sat beside Obama at a White House event in 2013 and hosted a golf fund-raiser for John Boehner this August), and a bankroll big enough to keep the NFL's third-most-valuable franchise under a blistering spotlight."

At the end of the day, this piece helped me to understand why the debate over the Redskins name has stuck in a way that it hadn't in the past.

From Arnie Seipel, an editor on the Washington Desk:

This article seemed to shed new light on how Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, opened the valve to allow some criticism of the Iran nuclear deal in recent weeks. It's really demonstrative of how he wields ultimate control inside the country.

"Iran's Supreme National Security Council, which is presided over by the president, ruled in late June that reporting on the nuclear deal should be 'restricted,' and letters were sent to media offices warning of tough consequences, including legal action, for 'completely opposing the deal,' according to Iranian news reports."

There is also a striking parallel to the debate in the U.S. over the nuclear deal. Hillary Clinton has used the line "distrust but verify" on the campaign trail, saying that while she supports the deal, it does not brighten her view of the Iranian government. But she and President Obama have been under constant criticism from their opponents for putting too much trust in the Iranian regime. Similarly, Iran's leaders have to demonstrate that they still think America is the "great satan" and that a deal doesn't change that. With the degree to which the press and speech are controlled within Iran, President Hassan Rouhani obviously has an easier time making his argument than President Obama does.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

In her nearly 20 years at NPR, Tracy Wahl has established herself as a champion for innovation in the newsroom. She was among the first at NPR to embrace social media as a way to engage audiences and deepen our journalism through crowd-sourced reporting. She launched Morning Edition's first Twitter account, and led the program's early ventures into multi-platform storytelling.
Arnie Seipel
Arnie Seipel is the Deputy Washington Editor for NPR. He oversees daily news coverage of politics and the inner workings of the federal government. Prior to this role, he edited politics coverage for seven years, leading NPR's reporting on the 2016, 2018 and 2020 elections. In between campaigns, Seipel edited coverage of Congress and the White House, and he coordinated coverage of major events including State of the Union addresses, Supreme Court confirmations and congressional hearings.
Tanya Ballard Brown is an editor for NPR. She joined the organization in 2008.

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