Jamelle Bouie

American columnist and political correspondent

Jamelle Bouie (born April 12, 1987) is an American journalist and columnist for The New York Times. He was formerly chief political correspondent for Slate magazine.

Jamelle Bouie in 2015


  • one consequence of the fact that our popular historical understanding erases roughly 1870 to 1932 from public memory is that many Americans have a distinctly warped view of how resilient american democracy actually is
    • 11/12/2020 on Twitter
  • ah, the halycon free speech days of 1954, when two-thirds of american blacks - about 10 million people - lived in a brutal and lawless apartheid state
    • On Twitter, responding to Yascha Mounk writing "Americans are three times as likely to self-censor now than in the 1950s"
  • State control of the kind we've seen during the lockdowns has historically been associated with nonwhites and the extent to which some white Americans are viciously apposed to it may reflect the extent to which the social meaning of whiteness is freedom from that control...as well as the right to impose it on racial others. The lockdown is thus an assault on "liberty" *and* the inability to force (disproportionately black and brown) others to labor is *also* an assault on liberty
    • 5/7/2020 on Twitter
  • The story of emancipation, going really back to the founding of the country all the way to the civil war is very much the story of enslaved Africans and freed blacks taking the initiative to put their freedom on the agenda of national politics. That's especially true during the Civil War. The war, as many people know, it does not begin as a war for abolition. It begins as a war for union. But as soon as the shooting starts, enslaved people are escaping to union lines. They're leaving work on plantations. They're offering their assistance to- to union soldiers as guides, as laborers and eventually as soldiers. And it's those actions that transform the war for union into a war for liberation, into a war for emancipation. And although Juneteenth commemorates those enslaved Africans who were whisked away to Texas to avoid the Emancipation Proclamation, I think it's still an opportunity for us to really think and take seriously the fact that emancipation does not happen without the actions of the enslaved, not just over the war, but really over the course of 80 years.
  • why this moment? Why Juneteenth has sort of erupted in this way over the past couple weeks, why people find it so resonant right now is that Juneteenth is very much a holiday about the distance between freedom that is promised and freedom that is lived. And right now, millions of Americans are seeing with regards to police brutality, with regard to inequality, the distance that still exists between freedom and liberty, as we imagine it, as we have proclaimed it, and that has actually experienced by ordinary people.
  • I think that's progress. I think that represents Americans coming to recognize what those statues were erected for. They weren't erected as memorials for the war. They were very much erected as symbols of Jim Crow, as symbols of white supremacy. I think it's the public beginning to come to the recognition that public space is ours to shape. Right? That when we put up memorials or monuments, we are trying to present a particular memory of the past that we want to remember. And do we want to remember, honor a past where someone like Robert E. Lee was a central figure, a figure of esteem?
    • "this week we had the governor of Virginia talk about taking down Lee in the capital of the Confederacy. Isn't that progress?"

"Politics" in The 1619 Project (2019)

  • After Trump lost, with the majority of mail-in ballots going to his opponent, his campaign argued that illegal voting had been particularly rampant in a few cities within the states that had determined the election: Atlanta, Detroit, Philadelphia, and Milwaukee. No one has ever accused Donald Trump of being subtle, but even for him, this was blatant. Atlanta is 51 percent Black; Detroit, 78 percent. Philadelphia is 42 percent Black, and Milwaukee has a Black population of just under 39 percent. So-called illegal votes were, in actuality, just Black votes.
  • A multiracial coalition of Black, brown, and white Americans had defeated Trump and put Biden and Kamala Harris, the first woman and first woman of color to become vice president, in the White House, and the president's supporters, with his direct encouragement, stormed the national legislature to try to nullify the result.
  • And Trumpism, as the iconography of his movement demonstrates, has race at its core. Trump began his march to the White House as the chief proponent of the "birther" conspiracy, arguing relentlessly that the country's first Black president was foreign-born and therefore illegitimate. His appeal as a presidential candidate was to white Americans who believed that their racial identity and the country's national identity were one and the same.
  • Arguably the most prominent and accomplished of these planter-politicians was John Calhoun...On this defense of the prerogatives of the Southern section of the nation, Calhoun built an entire theory of government. Seeing the threat democracy posed to slavery, he set out to limit democracy...The problem, in Calhoun's eyes, was that the will of the majority, as expressed in the House of Representatives and the election of the president, had too much power. It had to be curbed, lest it overrun this "true and perfect voice of the people." And those "people" whose voices must be heard, of course, were those like him. Those with power. Those with property. Those who enslaved others.
  • There is a homegrown ideology of reaction in the United States, inextricably tied to our system of slavery. And while that ideology no longer carries the explicit racism of the past, the basic framework remains: fear of rival political majorities; of demographic "replacement"; of a government that threatens privilege and hierarchy.
  • "The central question that emerges," the National Review's founding editor, William F. Buckley, Jr., wrote in 1957, amid congressional debate over the first Civil Rights of the modern era, "is whether the white community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas which it does not predominate numerically? The sobering answer is yes-the white community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race." He continued: "It is more important for any community, anywhere in the world, to affirm and live by civilized standards, than to bow to the demands of the numerical majority." It was a strikingly blunt defense of Jim Crow and affirmation of white supremacy from the father of the conservative movement. Later, when key civil rights questions had been settled by law, Buckley would essentially renounce these views, praising the movement and criticizing race-baiting demagogues like George C. Wallace. Still, his initial impulse-to give white political minorities a veto not just over policy but over democracy itself-reflected a tendency that would express itself again and again in the conservative politics he ushered into the mainstream, emerging when political, cultural, and demographic change threatened a narrow, exclusionary vision of American democracy.
  • There is a homegrown ideology of reaction in the United States, inextricably tied to our system of slavery. And while that ideology no longer carries the explicit racism of the past, the basic framework remains: fear of rival political majorities; of demographic "replacement"; of a government that threatens privilege and hierarchy.
  • The speaker of the Wisconsin state assembly, Robin Vos, made his point more explicitly: "If Madison and Milwaukee out of the state election formula, we would have a clear majority-we would have all five constitutional officers, and we would probably have many more seats in the Legislature." The argument is straight-forward: Their mostly white voters should count. Other voters-Black people and other people of color who live in cities-shouldn't.
  • The larger implication is clear enough: a majority made up of liberals and nonwhites isn't a real majority. And the solution is clear, too: to write those people out of the polity, to use every available tool to weaken their influence on American politics-whether that means raising barriers to voting and registration or slashing access to the ballot box itself or anything in between.
  • Donald Trump's false claims of electoral fraud in the wake of the 2020 presidential election were an expression of the idea that only certain majorities are real majorities, that only some Americans deserve to hold power. And while Trump lost and left office, the idea persists. Rather than mobilize new voters or persuade existing ones, Republicans throughout the country have set about restricting access to the forms of voting that helped Democrats win in traditionally Republican states like Georgia and Arizona. In Michigan, likewise, Republican lawmakers want to change the way the state distributes its Electoral College votes to nullify the influence of Detroit on the final result.
  • Republicans stepped onto this path after America elected its first Black president, and they thereafter embraced a racist demagogue and his attacks on the legitimacy of the nation's multiracial character; these actions speak to how the threads of history tie past and present together.
  • the price of equality, or at least of the promise of an equal society, is vigilance against those who would make government the tool of hierarchy. And, in turn, we must recognize that this struggle-to secure democracy against privilege on the one hand, and to secure privilege against democracy on the other-is the unresolvable conflict of American life. It is the push and pull that will last for as long as the republic stands.

Interview with The War on Cars

  • I just became super attuned to how much space cars take up in a way that I just don’t think people appreciate. It’s very easy to say we need more parking in a place, but there’s not that much conversation of, like, what you’re giving up when you do that. And I think being a biker or pedestrian helps you see what actually you’re giving up by prioritizing car infrastructure.
  • if you could get 10 percent of people doing their daily life on a bike,that clears up roads, that kind of makes it easier for everyone else who does rely on cars and does rely on motorized transportation to get around.
  • I occasionally tweet very vociferously about land-use decisions in this city. And a lot of that’s inspired just by actually seeing, like, 70 percent, 80 percent of lots in the city. Like, I’ve actually seen much of the built environment of Charlottesville just from biking around.
  • becoming someone whose primary mode of getting around here is on a bicycle has sort of, like, made me much more aggressively, you know, pro-density, anti-cars, anti-parking. Because it just becomes like a waste. You see it as like the waste of space that it is.
  • Big, massive relief bill was passed, $1.9-trillion, by the Biden administration and Democrats in Congress, and then the Republicans in Congress are going on about Dr. Seuss or whatever...I think the right response is just not even to engage it. To say, “You guys can talk about that if you want, but here are actual problems that we’re trying to solve.”
  • I think nationally, we have the Republican Party, which sort of doesn’t really believe it can win without changing the rules and, like, kicking people out the electorate. And then in cities like New York and the state of California, you have a party that does not think it can lose. And so that creates its own set of dysfunctions.
  • there is no national drive, no national politician saying the United States needs to construct much more housing than it does. And I think it has everything to do with how the party coalitions right now are what their nature is.
  • Making the city less car dependent is making the city less expensive for people.

Down and Out, 2014

Down and Out (April 03, 2014), Slate.
  • [B]lack Americans live with a level of poverty that is simply unknown to the vast majority of whites. It’s tempting to attribute this to the income disparity between blacks and whites. Since blacks are more likely to be poor, it stands to reason that they’re more likely to live in poor neighborhoods. But the fact of large-scale neighborhood poverty holds true for higher-income black Americans as well. Middle-class blacks are far more likely than middle-class whites to live in areas with significant amounts of poverty. Among today’s cohort of middle- and upper-class blacks, about half were raised in neighborhoods of at least 20 percent poverty. Only 1 percent of today’s middle- and upper-class whites can say the same. In short, if you took two children—one white, one black—and gave them parents with similar jobs, similar educations, and similar values, the black child would be much more likely to grow up in a neighborhood with higher poverty, worse schools, and more violence. This is an outright disaster for income mobility. Given their circumstances, blacks face a reversal of their gains over the last generation. Simply put, the persistence of poor neighborhoods is a fact of life for the large majority of blacks; it’s been transmitted from one generation to the next, and shows little sign of changing.
  • All of which raises an obvious question: Why do blacks have a hard time leaving impoverished neighborhoods? [...] Once you grasp the staggering differences between black and white neighborhoods, it becomes much easier to explain a whole realm of phenomena. Take the achievement gap between middle-class black students and their white peers. It’s easy to look at this and jump to cultural explanations—that this is a function of black culture and not income or wealth. But, when we say middle-class black kids are more likely to live in poor neighborhoods, what we’re also saying is that they’re less likely to have social networks with professionals, and more likely to be exposed to violence and crime. This can have serious consequences. Youthful experimentation for a white teenager in a suburb might be smoking a joint in a friend’s attic. Youthful experimentation for a black teenager might be hanging out with gang members.
  • DeSean Jackson is still an NFL player, and—as a player for Washington, D.C.’s professional football team—will make a tremendous amount of money. He can keep his connections to his friends, he can live in the same neighborhood, if he wants, and downward mobility won’t be a pressing concern. For millions of more ordinary black Americans, however, the opposite is true. Even with more income and more education, they’re stuck in segregated neighborhoods. Yes, there isn’t much mobility for anyone, but that fact is especially true for blacks. Indeed, when someone says that America has a “racial hierarchy,” this is what they mean: Whether times are good or bad, blacks remain at the bottom.

Quotes about Jamelle Bouie

  • (Which writers — novelists, playwrights, critics, journalists, poets — working today do you admire most?) ...Because of “The Daily Show,” most of my reading time these days is consumed by journalists...Vann R. Newkirk; Jamelle Bouie; and Rembert Browne. All fantastic writers.
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