Ta-Nehisi has crafted a blunt, honest letter to his son, and in turn all of us. He does not sugar coat his experience, and unlike others that I have read of the black experience in America he does not try and fabricate a hope when he feels none.
In some ways, this book is lost on me as a white male, but in another way it opens me up to an understanding I hadn’t looked or observed before. If nothing else, I hope to be a better person as I think Mr. Coates believes his son will be. Better than him and able to envision a new world free of the old.
Maybe the most powerful thing of the entire piece is how crushing Mr. Coates has set this memoir up. He does not spare a single moment to try and “lift up” his son because the entire social narrative of the United States has been to “keep a black man down.” And even as I get farther away from this novel and process, I can do nothing but mourn that such men and women suffer in this day and age.
If anything Ta-Nehisi Coates has written an open letter to our culture as a challenge to do better than he can. To do better than everyone in history up to this point has. No more romanticizing history. No more romanticizing our heroes. No more clutching our proverbial darlings of sentiment and tradition. He wants it all cast away so that his son and his peers can go unflinchingly into the daylight without fear of police taser or a white man’s cruel remark.
In other ways, Between the World and Me is a plea for white voices to stop ignoring the explicit violence out in the world. Coates feels isolated, hence the title and all of the ignorance of culture and the majority of the populace only adds to his forced isolation. The cognitive dissonance that even white liberals enforce upon other followers is apparent here as Coates savages all points of view with his own brutal experience and what he has seen over the last few years in the US.
Not an easy read by any means, but an altogether necessary one.