Hate gives identity. (p. 60)
I rarely say this about any writer I read. Clearly, I enjoy many authors and have learned quite a bit from reading. But I rarely say I think their work is important to anyone but me. Ta-Nehisi Coates’ work is important, and it should be read by everyone.
Written in the form of a letter to his son, Coates explains what it means to be a black male in America. The fragility of a black man’s body, based on the need to know how to navigate the physical world without incurring the wrath of anybody along the way.
It was hard to for me to imagine how fraught life could be for someone like Ta-Nehisi Coates. How could I? My experiences growing up white in mostly safe neighborhoods where I could concentrate on enriching my life would never have prepared me for understanding what it’s like to be black, and male, in America.
To yell ‘black-on-black crime’ is to shoot a man and then shame him for bleeding. (p. 111)
There’s a lot to think about here, and Coates does it so elegantly and eloquently. Between the World and Me changed my understanding . Having to explain to his son what to it’s like to grow up black and male in America, to explain why his parents are hard on him, or why their reactions often seem overly harsh, is to be uncommonly self-aware.
Never have I read such a powerful work. Never. His description of navigating his Baltimore neighborhood was rife with literal boundaries and secret codes, any violation of which could get him beat up. Ta-Nehisi Coates attempts to make sense of the senseless. While explaining to his son, it becomes clear that there is a sort of sense in the chaos, but only to those who are so invested in making sure the “other” oppressed.
Ta-Nehisi Coates’ work is important, his words are important. They’re important because they point to the nonsensical and say, “How can this make sense?”