There’s been a lot of buzz about Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me and I’m late getting on that train. This is my book club’s latest pick and after reading it, I think the discussion will be one of the best discussions we have had.
To start off with, I think the choice to frame this book as a letter to his son was a brilliant choice. As the discussion was framed as a discussion rather than a lecture/speech/argument, I feel that readers can access the story bringing their own experiences and comparing/contrasting them with those that Coates is describing.
Coates discusses his experience of what it means to being Black in America. He starts by discussing the idea that as Black Americans, part of the struggle has been to constantly protect your body. Whether it was survival during the period of slavery, to Jim Crow, to the urban ghettos, Black Americans have had to fight just to keep themselves and their children safe. Having the experience discussed in terms of safety not only gives access to others who are not Black or who have not had this experience; it creates an idea that everyone can relate to.
Early on one of the key ideas that Coates presents is that race is the child, not the father, of racism. This both caused me to stop and think. It seems as if previous discussions of race/racism flip this idea. It would be interesting to see what would happen if we were all to consider race itself as the foundation for racism. It makes me reconsider marking what my race is on questionnaires.
This is a good book for discussion in that it’s a journey and you get the feeling that there’s more to come as Coates continues question. It also ask the reader to consider in what ways do they cause harm others autonomy of body and how they take advantage of “The Dream”.