Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates


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4 Stars

I’m going to be completely forthright and let you all know that I never had any intention of reading this book until I watched peaceful protestors get teargassed in my city. When I logged on to the library website to see what recommended selections might be available for the Summer Reading Program (and my endless quest to win free mugs/glasses bi-annually) the main page featured books about race instead. This book had no waiting list so I checked it out.

Between the World and Me is a letter from Coates to his adolescent son. It is a matter-of-fact statement of what it is like to be a black man in the United States at this moment in time and offers no promises of a fairytale ending or utopian future to come. His observations hit the nail right on the head . . . . .

Never forget that we were enslaved in this country longer than we have been free. Never forget that for 250 years black people were born into chains—whole generations followed by more generations who knew nothing but chains. You must struggle to truly remember this past in all its nuance, error, and humanity. You must resist the common urge toward the comforting narrative of divine law, toward fairy tales that imply some irrepressible justice. The enslaved were not bricks in your road, and their lives were not chapters in your redemptive history. They were people turned to fuel for the American machine. Enslavement was not destined to end, and it is wrong to claim our present circumstance—no matter how improved—as the redemption for the lives of people who never asked for the posthumous, untouchable glory of dying for their children

The truth is that the police reflect America in all of its will and fear, and whatever we might make of this country’s criminal justice policy, it cannot be said that it was imposed by a repressive minority. The abuses that have followed from these policies—the sprawling carceral state, the random detention of black people, the torture of suspects—are the product of democratic will.

“It only takes one person to make a change,” you are often told. This is also a myth. Perhaps one person can make a change, but not the kind of change that would raise your body to equality with your countrymen.


Again, to be completely honest, Coates’ writing style is not the type I enjoy. Most likely it’s because I’m not intelligent enough to truly “get” it and I fully admit it – I just appreciate a more direct delivery and “purple” prose is not my idea of a good time. I would definitely struggle with his fictional work for sure and will most likely avoid it in the future since I’m not a reader who seeks out books intentionally just to complain about them. However, the message presented is worthy of all the stars, which is why it is receiving so many from me.

As I said above, I picked this up after watching the current state of events in the United States. I fully admit I’m no sort of activist. I don’t even participate in social media aside from here and Instagram which are both solely dedicated to talking books. I am not a fan of political rants conducted by Keyboard Commandos, have made that very clear in the past, and do not want to ever be mistaken for one. But the one thing I can do????



I will never understand what it’s like to be a black person, but the very least I (and all of us) can do is listen . . . . .

 

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