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Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Spiegal & Grau, 2015, 152 pp
Summary from Goodreads: In a series of essays, written as a letter to his son, Coates confronts the notion of race in America and how it has shaped American history, many times at the cost of black bodies and lives. Thoughtfully exploring personal and historical events, from his time at Howard University to the Civil War, the author poignantly asks and attempts to answer difficult questions that plague modern society. In this short memoir, the "Atlantic" writer explains that the tragic examples of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and those killed in South Carolina are the results of a systematically constructed and maintained assault to black people--a structure that includes slavery, mass incarceration, and police brutality as part of its foundation. From his passionate and deliberate breakdown of the concept of race itself to the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement, Coates powerfully sums up the terrible history of the subjugation of black people in the United States.
For me, this book defies being reviewed. It is so personal, so true, so well thought out. I don't feel I have the right and I certainly don't have the nerve to write about what this man wrote.
I already knew we are not, in America, living in a post-racial world. Racism is alive and well and being committed as a harmful act gazillions of times every day.
I thought I already knew what it is like to be Black in America, but now I know I can't ever even really know.
I suppose I felt "lucky" or "blessed" that my karma this lifetime is to be middle class and white. Now I know that is the ultimate privilege, even if one is female or lower class or poor. Anyone seen as White in this country is safer, has more opportunity and more freedom than a Black person, no matter how much education or power or money that Black person has.
So I thank Ta-Nehisi Coates for writing this book, for getting it published, for thinking so hard and writing so clearly, for applying his intelligence and his love for his son to what is more than just a problem but is actually an insanity.
I don't know what to do about it except to keep reading and encouraging others to read the books by people of color who tell us White people what it is like for them. Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Jacqueline Woodson, Malcolm X, Walter Mosley, Colson Whitehead, Gloria Naylor, Gwendolyn Brooks, James Mc Bride, Dorothy West, and many more. I encourage you to read all of them. Then do what needs to be done where you live, where you work, where you vote.
(Between the World and Me is available in various formats by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)