This book. Oh, this book. I can’t say enough about it, because it’s timely and one of the most important things ever written. And yet I can’t find what I need to say about it, because there aren’t words enough. I was inspired to read it after seeing faintingviolet’s insightful review, and then when Ta-Nehisi Coates won the National Book Award, I raced to the library.
In a nutshell, this is a book about being black in the United States. More specifically, it is about the dangers of being black in the United States. The popular perception in white American mythology is that slavery ended with the Civil War. And yet, as Coates points out, black suffering was just beginning. He specifically examines the kinds of hate crimes and injustices committed institutionally against black individuals, particularly young black men, who have been proliferating since the 1990s and beyond. Framed as a letter to his teenaged son, Between the World and Me is an eye-opening indictment of systematic racism from everyday encounters to the justice system.
As I write this review, we are less than 36 hours out from the protests in my beloved Chicago after a video was released of Laquan McDonald’s death at the hands of a police officer. I did not want to watch the video, but my in-laws had CNN on, and the video was playing. I was sickened. And angry. And afraid. Not for myself, but for my students and their families. For my husband’s students and their families, many of whom have already lost loved ones to the horrific violence in Chicago. For people who are guilty of being nothing more than black. I don’t know what it’s going to take to change an abusive and violent system. But this book could not be more timely. I read and nodded and listened. I feel humbled by my privilege, and I don’t know what change I can effect by myself. But I would urge you to read this book and listen to what Coates has to say.