Required reading: Between the World and Me

So you know how the world is basically a toilet filled with garbage and everything is terrible?

How there are no answers for anything but people keep getting hurt and dying and it’s scary and horrible and devastating?

I’m not really sure what to do anymore so I do what I always do when things are terrible: read more.

Last week I decided to go to the bookstore because it’s really one of the only places that makes sense anymore. And I could have bought some books that were fluffy and escapist but I was pissed and that didn’t feel like the right decision in the moment.

I found myself in the non-fiction section and Ta-Nehisi Coates book Between the World and Me jumped out at me and I knew it was the right book for me. Often books will find their way to me when it’s the right time for me to read them – I won’t see them for weeks and months and suddenly there’s one last copy and it hasn’t been quite properly shelved and I pick it up.

Between the World and Me wasn’t a balm for my soul; it didn’t soothe me or unbreak my heart. But it was the book that I needed to read.

Between the World and Me is a letter Coates has written to his 15 year old son, in the wake of the murders of black men, women and children. It’s a letter that serves to explain to his son how the world got to be this way, a manifesto on how to protect himself in this world that doesn’t see him as a person but as a threat.

Between the World and Me is angry and explosive and heartbreakingly true. It is lyrical and ┬ábeautiful and devastating. It is appalling and unflinching and totally honest. The description promises that the book also holds a “transcendent vision for a way forward” but it doesn’t. And why should it? Why should Coates or his son or any people of colour be the ones to come up with a way to fix this giant mess of a world that they didn’t create?

I can’t do any proper justice to this book so I’m going to let Coates’ words speak for themselves:

I am sorry that I cannot make it okay. I am sorry that I cannot save you – but not that sorry. Part of me thinks that your very vulnerability brings you closer to the meaning of your life, just as for others, the quest to believe oneself white divides them from it. The fact is that despite their own dreams, their lives are also not inviolable. When their own vulnerabilities become real […] they are shocked in a way that those of us born and bread to understand cause and effect can never be. And I would not have you live like them. You have been cast into a race in which the wind is always at your face and the hounds are always at your heels. And to varying degrees this is true of all life. The difference is that you do not have the privilege of living in ignorance of this essential fact.