In this era of “Black Lives Matter” and concerns of increased police violence, it has become increasingly difficult to contextualize the American Dream with the reality of American Reality. The two cannot seem to be reconciled for people of color, whose reality is filled with injustices both large and small. In Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates explains this state of affairs to his son in the context of the protection of the Black body and how it is been traded as the currency of so-called “progress” over the centuries of American history and continues to be at risk today.
Throughout this treatise, Coates speaks of the protection of that body from the Dreamers, those who follow the false idea of the American Dream, from those who would protect the false idea of “race”, of whiteness and blackness, and those who would break that body to protect that dream. He speaks of the death of Prince Jones, a former classmate that galvanized his anger at the struggle. He has anger at the threat to his body, but not hatred. Righteous anger. And that’s an important difference. This is what he wants to impart to his son–an eyes-wide-open attitude to race and to the struggle. Not hatred, but a realistic look at what is really going on and an attitude that will allow him to protect his precious body.
This is a profound book that needs to be read slowly and deeply to get its nuance. Its language is lyrical and resonant. Its message is deep and timely and transcendent. According to Toni Morrison, “This is required reading.” I heartily agree.