TA-NEHISI COATES’ ‘BETWEEN THE WORLD & ME’ WINS US NATIONAL BOOK AWARD
This morning I opened my computer only to watch a black man, Mercutio Southall, wearing a ‘Black Lives Matter’ T shirt being punched, kicked, choked and racially abused before being forcefully evicted from a Republican gathering in Alabama to the chant of “All lives matter.”. The guest speaker, Donald Trump – contender for the Republican Presidential nomination – was heard to say into the mic, ” Get ’em the hell outta here…”. He followed that up later with a statements to the media that “…maybe he should have been roughed up… ” before tweeting a graphic containing some inflammatory, racially divisive crime statistics.It’s in this context that I’d like to recommend Ta-Mehisi Coate’s award winning ‘Between The World And Me’. Written in the post Trayvon Martin/Eric Garner / Ferguson era, this 152 page letter to his adolescent son is dedicated to his Howard University friend Prince Jones who was murdered by a undercover African American police officer.
‘Between The World And Me’ is nor a rant. This is a quiet, deeply thoughtful reflection on his own life growing up in the hood in Baltimore with parents who were Black Panther Party activists; his arrival at “Mecca” – Howard University to the sound of A Tribe Called Quest; the move to New York City and the birth of his son. There are many memorable moments on that journey. He takes in a trip to the Petersburg Battlefield to reflect on an American Civil war that killed 600,00 people and ended slavery.He travels out of the USA for the first time and lands in Paris. He gets into a potentially incendiary situation when he berates a woman who pushes his 5 year old son out of the way as they leave the cinema.
This book gives the reader a fleeting insight into what it’s like to inhabit a black body in the United States Of America and what strategies one evolves in order to live within it. As events in the US continue to unfold and degenerate, the words in this book keep coming back to me. As Toni Morrison declares of ‘Between The World And Me’ – “This is required reading.”