I gave Between the World and Me to my son at Christmas. After the holidays I realized #1 son had left the book behind and I’ll admit I was a little glad! I had wanted to read the book but it seemed silly to buy two copies. So here was my chance to read it. I’m kind of a fast reader and the book is rather slim, so I thought I’d zip through the book in no time.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. Between the world and me is not a book you rush through. Even though I’m Black I figured our Black experiences would be similar and I could simply shake my head in agreement and commiserate. Not so. Coate’s experience as a Black male is vastly different from mine. And certainly one worth listening to.
In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race,” a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men—bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden?
Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s attempt to answer these questions in a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son—and readers—the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children’s lives were taken as American plunder.
I can’t say that I agree with every single point Coates makes. Partially ignorance, partially different upbringings, and partially different sexes have lead us in different directions. But yet, our experiences are far sides of the same coin. We are Black and have each learned a thing or two about how we are perceived and handled in the world. Coates’ book should really be taught in schools, as Toni Morrison says on the cover. I think open minded educators and students can learn from Coates’ thoughts. And students of color may see themselves in Coates’ struggle.
I plan to finish the book and have a chat with a girlfriend, who is White, and also reading it, when we are finished. It should be an interesting discussion. I don’t have all the answers but it’s a conversation that needs to be had. Again and again.
Sorry for being so deep this time. Every once in a while, I have to. When my littles are hurt and in pain, it bothers me and I have to speak out.
This title could definitely count toward the Diversity Challenge.