Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Published July 2015
Spiegel & Grau
There’s an unwritten racial dialogue uncovered by Coates in Between the World and Me.
In this short book about race in the United States, author Ta-Nehisi Coates begins with fear. Parents beat their children into submission because they fear the consequences for them if they step out of line.
He talks about his personal Mecca, Howard University, and the professors who gave alternate takes on his Malcomist views. His realization that blackness is not mystical. It doesn’t in and of itself make him royalty.
Coates writes to his son about his experiences within himself and with the world around him. His trip to France.
The undercurrent to all of this is his lack of ownership over his body.
Through slavery, then segregation, then otherness, then fear of police brutality, being relegated to ghettos, being told his body doesn’t belong in this spot. We still see it all the time; people of color being told they’re not allowed to exist at the pool, at Starbucks, on the street.
Coates has strong thoughts, strongly worded. He isn’t without his detractors. Cornel West, in particular, claims Coates fetishizes white supremacy. In an article for The Guardian, West calls Coates “the neoliberal face of the black freedom struggle.”
Coates’ supporters say West is mistaken. Detractors say he is not. Read about the debate here and form your own opinion. Or don’t. An alternative: ignore the in-fighting, read both authors, and come to your own conclusion on where you stand on the important issue of race and equality.
Admittedly, my own knowledge of the African-American struggle is limited. It’s a struggle that, while I sympathize greatly, is not a reality for me. I’ll never fully understand, but I want to be an ally.
For me, it’s a process of being an eternal student in life; knowing there’s always more to learn, new viewpoints to consider, hidden struggles that both shake and reinforce my faith in humanity.