Between the World and Me

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I first heard about this book while listening to the Book Riot podcast. It was mentioned a couple times and I finally came around to the idea of reading it. I will admit that I am not the biggest fan of consuming black media out of fear of stereotypes or the overwhelming urge to roll my eyes at the “woke” Hotep brothers preaching the praises of black kings and queens and blaming everything black people have suffered on white people. Growing up, I learned about black history and my relatives spoke of the importance in knowing where we came from. I learned it and tucked it away in the corner of my mind determined to forget it. I wanted my black experience to be different. I figured if I did not let it play in the forefront of my mind then I would not be the angry college student yelling in the face of a frightened, drunk white student about the history of the word “nigger”; I would not be the girl posting all over Facebook about being a queen and deserving a king to treat me right. Instead, I would be a girl who studied animation and loved books, and explored other cultures. My experience was going to be different.

But it wasn’t, not really. This book talks about the rules or the street. Rules that were very similar to the ones I grew up with in the suburb of Warrensville Heights. The rules that prompted my uncle and I to get jumped by a group of boys on our way home from school. The rules that caused beef between me and another girl for whatever reason. The same rules that made me dismiss a girl in 8th grade because she had grown up in the “safe” environment of a predominantly white neighborhood and, therefore, could not understand my struggle in trying to fit into a new environment.

This book talks about white people who will immediately say they are not racist while doing racist things all the time. The blonde woman who stood in line behind me and my brother in Anne Taylor probably would not label herself as racist even though she felt the need to accuse my brother of being on drugs based solely on his slow speech and droopy eyelids. My black experience is no different from the stories I tried to distance myself from because I cannot even buy my mother a birthday gift without encountering racism.

I love this book because it goes through everything I have experienced and talks about all the fears I have for my future. If you are interested in reading about the black experience, please imagine yourself in Coates’s shoes. How would you feel if your child was in danger for just existing?

Here is the summary from the back:

“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 quote ‘race,’ a falsehood that damages us all football’s most heavily on the bodies of black women and men–body 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 the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through 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. Beautifully woven from personal narrative, remagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, Between the World and Me clearly illuminates the past, recently confront our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward.”

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