Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is one of those rare books that grab you by the core of your soul, refusing to let go. So I will start our with…
Wow. Simply wow.
This book was so powerful I had to put it down at times, to let this reality sink in. This book is eloquently written in the fashion of a letter; preparing him for life as a Black man in the country his ancestors built, the slavery and racism still felt today, the history and culture denied, along with justice in the legal system. What is it like to live your life in fear?
I challenge everyone to read this book; but above all I call on anyone who is not Black to read and let the reality so foreign come over you. Walk in his shoes through his childhood and his lessons, his fears, his love and pains. But this book doesn’t stop with racism against Blacks by non-Blacks, but being also part memoir, he delves into his childhood. Gangs, fear, thick fear, trying to act fearless; looking back and seeing who was the most afraid of all. He takes us to Howard University, where he for the first time gets to experience what he calls, “Black Mecca” for all the different nationalities and cultures among the beautiful Black men and women he saw around him. Police brutality hits him personally, and the tone is felt through out all of the book. Fatherless and/or broken homes, drug dealers and those lurking with guns -be it the local gangs or the police- the death and trauma he had experienced he doesn’t want for his son. That much is clear and no good father would; so he speaks of all different memories, and the moments behind each where, despite the good and joy, the weight of “his body” was ever present.
By that same note, however, he also doesn’t want to give his son false hope or false comfort. So, like his grandparents did to him, during more recent and actually televised police brutalities and murders, he describes what it feels like to be a father that cannot make the world safe for his son, and his son, indeed will grow up in, and already lives in, a dangerous world where he has to consider things, at times life or death choices, simple choices; choices he is only being tested on due to the color of his skin… These burdens fall down upon the Black youth as well as Mr. Coates son, and though cynical with the world he wants so painfully badly to believe things will be okay; so painfully it made me cry.
At times his pain, the pain he felt for his child, the realities they both face -along with my loved ones and friends, along with countless people alive right now I don’t know and never will, they all have the same fear… And it’s not one that spreads itself equally among the people. This is a fear that has locked on, for damn well good reasons, to so many.
This heartbreaking reality of being at a ‘privilege’ was never something I didn’t both see and hate growing up; but hearing a man speak out on how it is to live the side my friends and others live, cuts me deep and the guilt I feel for having pigmentation I don’t even want is very painful. But what would be worse would be to turn away; to pretend it isn’t there. To not fight it but abuse it.
I do not believe a white person who has compassion and wants to understand can ever again deny the fact of double standards- I saw these growing up and hated it then as I do now. It hurts realizing because you have light skin you’re likely not to be shot, beat, harassed, have the cops called on you for your dog playfully runs up to a white woman (that was in the news today)- Blacks and whites have different social worries; I’m not sure what whites have to fear nor why they are in denial of white privilege; especially after reading this book.
All I can say is beyond mind blowing. Everyone needs to be required to read this.. I will write a better review later, I must go now, but please, GO GET THIS BOOK!
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