Sunday, September 24, 2017
Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between The World And Me, Speigelll & Grau, NY, 2015.
Available as hardback, paperback, audiobook (CD) and for Kindle, Audible and Nook.
Recommended by Dorinda Kauzlarich-Rupe
This book is absolutely a must read, especially for all white Americans! The author is a black man writing to his adolescent son, explaining what it is like to live in a black body in today’s American society. It is depressing, anger provoking, and terribly haunting, while elucidating much empathy, and causing me to want so badly to see the situation change NOW. Coates paints a picture of the USA in which the American Dream has been built on the backs of slaves, followed by segregation, Jim Crow, and, currently, a legal system that consistently jails blacks at a rate much higher than whites for the same “crimes”, and in which persons of color are always living on the brink, whose lives may be snuffed at any point in time, for no reason other than the color of their skin and with the white perpetrators often not suffering consequences of their actions.
Coates shares experiences attending the black university, Howard; and visiting civil war battlefields, Chicago and Paris; and how the experiences in these places has affected his life view and understanding of tribalism. I didn’t find much sense of hope for the future, just terrible hopelessness in a situation that is so unjust. I have to pray that we, as a society and as individuals, can find ways to correct this and bring our black fellow citizens into “the dream” or better yet allow them to achieve their own dreams!
One of my church groups read this book and discussed it in three sessions. Unfortunately, none of the African-Americans who my attend church were able to join our discussions, each having job responsibilities that made that impossible. I would like to hear their personal responses to Coates and to find what their dreams are. Do they personally sense more hope than Coates or might they write a similar letter to their children?
Coates talks a lot about Prince Jones and his life which was snuffed out despite a life of meaning and contribution. “Prince was not killed by a single officer so much as he was murdered by his country and all the fears that have marked it from birth” (p. 78). “The truth is that the police reflect America in all of its will and fear….the product of democratic will…” (p. 78).
Coates explains that black parents feel the need to be really strict with their children and tend to beat them, feeling “better me than the police,” knowing that the children they love so dearly, “come to us endangered” (p. 82).
It is a really disturbing book and, I think, full of truth. The big question, which we as individuals and society need to figure out is how do we move beyond where we find ourselves now. Do we have to let the past dictate our future or can we move forward so that all of us are fully included in “we the people”?
Previously, I had read America’s Original Sin by Jim Wallis. That also is an excellent book and one I also highly recommend, but it was intellectual. This book was a personal, gut wrenching book.