Between the World and Me Book Summary By Ta-Nehisi Coates

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Between the World and Me is an insightful book about racism, written as an open letter to the author’s 15-year-old son.

Through personal anecdotes, critical analysis, and memories of racial injustice, it serves to inform young Black people of the realities that await them in our country.

The author builds a powerful narrative on those experiences, touching upon culture and identity along with historical events such as the Civil Rights Movement.

His intention is to equip readers with the language they need in order to think critically about systemic racism and its far-reaching implications – both personal and national.

All in all, this eye-opening work provides an inspiring road map that guides future generations on their journey towards self-knowledge.

Between the World and Me Book

Book Name: Between the World and Me (The 2015 National Book Award Winner is a deep look at being black in America today)

Author(s): Ta-Nehisi Coates

Rating: 4.3/5

Reading Time: 13 Minutes

Categories: Book Summaries

Author Bio

Ta-Nehisi Coates is an acclaimed journalist and author.

As a national correspondent for the Atlantic, he has won numerous awards in journalism, including the George Polk Award.

His memoir The Beautiful Struggle explored his relationship with his father Paul Coates and remains a critically acclaimed work.

In 2015, he was even honored by the MacArthur Foundation with their prestigious "Genius Grant".

With such impressive credentials, it's no wonder that Ta-Nehisi Coates was chosen to write Between the World and Me—a thought-provoking book which examines race and identity through a personal lens.

It has been praised as an honest look at our present era and its various implications for global societies.

The Reality Of Racism In America: How Social Inequality Keeps Black People From Realizing The American Dream

Racism In America

If you spend a few minutes inside the reality of a Black writer in the United States, you’ll get an understanding of what it’s like to live as a person of color.

The most evident example of racism and inequality is seen in the frequency at which police officers murder innocent Black citizens, often with no punishment at all.

This leads to protests and campaigns calling out these injustices that should not still be happening in the 21st century.

However, racism goes far deeper than what we can see on TV news feeds.

It penetrates every aspect of life, from education to employment opportunities and more.

By examining the words of one American’s insightful writing, you can begin to understand why the American Dream is often a white dream presented through rose-colored glasses; you’ll see why school systems work against creativity in Black students; and why changing such an unequal society will be difficult yet much needed.

The Fear Of Unexpected Violence And Tragedy: Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Journey To Stand Up For Black Americans

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a black man born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland.

All his life, he has been well aware of the fears of violence Black people experience throughout their lives as minorities in America.

This was made all too apparent on a day in 1986 when, after school, an unknown boy across the street called him over and pulled out a gun from his ski jacket in front of him.

This moment crystallized in Coates’ mind that he was continuously subject to the deep-rooted threat of unexpected racial violence.

Similarly, Coates became saddened and disturbed at the tragedy of Prince Jones’ story – a young man whose mother had done everything to get him into a position to make something of his life but had it suddenly taken away through ill fate caused by blind prejudice.

It further cemented for Coates that no amount of caution or hard work can guarantee safety or peace for African Americans.

With the birth of his son, Coates made it his mission to tackle these grave issues head on using his natural gift with words.

He pens both an examination and condemnation of racism in America and what it means to be an African American living under these conditions today – giving readers around the world much needed insight into this ongoing issue while inspiring healing towards itself.

Coates Finds Truth And Renewed Hope In Malcolm X And The Mecca Of Howard University

Reading Malcolm X and going to Howard University exposed Coates to the harsh realities of racism and race in America.

Through Malcolm X’s speeches, Coates was able to come to realize that the education he was getting in school was not enough to prepare him for the world he had to deal with.

The ideology of The Mecca at Howard University strengthened this realization even more, providing both historical and current examples of Black excellence that had been systematically denied access to educational institutes and other sources of privilege.

Notable Howard alumni include activists like Stokely Carmichael, poets like Amiri Baraka, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, Toni Morrison, and Zora Neale Hurston—who all showed Coates that despite the odds Black people are capable of greatness.

While Malcolm X encouraged retaliation for white racism in his speeches, Coates found a different type of justice through learning about The Mecca – a platform amenable towards a positive identity for black people set within one of America’s top universities.

The Unbridgeable Gap Between White People And Black People In The Us Today: A Reality Of Having A Black Body

Reality Of Having A Black Body

The first reality of being Black in the United States is having a Black body.

This means that your experience as an American to what white people experience are completely different.

Black people, even when walking down the street and going about their daily lives, must constantly worry about being profiled by law enforcement or the public based solely on the color of their skin.

They never know if an interaction could take an unexpected and dangerous turn because of something as simple as skin color.

White folks, on the other hand, do not carry this same weight on their shoulders throughout every moment of every day and so can never comprehend what it’s like to live with such racial pressure on them at all times.

This racism affects many aspects of everyday life, most notably in police brutality against unarmed Black individuals and the disproportionate rates of incarceration within the Black community, which are both linked to poverty and a lack of access to quality resources for struggling communities – something white folks have far less trouble finding.

No matter how far we have come in terms of civil rights in America there still remains a barrier between White and Black experience that no amount of attempted understanding can bridge.

The Dark Side Of The American Dream: How Historical And Ongoing Racism Has Disadvantaged African Americans

The idea of the American Dream has traditionally been one of great hope, offering a sense that anyone can succeed no matter their race or background.

Yet this feel-good belief about life in America is deeply entrenched in centuries of subjugation and racism against Black people.

Before and after the Revolution, slavery was a common practice in the colonies.

The profits earned through these enslaved individuals became the foundation for much of America’s wealth and power – an uncomfortable but very real truth.

When slavery was eventually abolished following the Civil War, it should have brought an end to racism too.

But what actually developed was a segregated, inequitable society known as Jim Crow.

This period paved the way for continued institutional racism that has shaped our culture until today.

How Reading Books Can Transform Fear And Re-Educate The Oppressed

On the streets and in schools, Black people must fend for themselves.

Growing up, Coates experienced two different systems of fear: one while he navigated his way through his neighbourhood to get to school, downtown and back home; and another while he was in the classroom being taught information that didn’t relate anything to himself or fellow students.

The streets are an especially daunting place as gangs control various parts of the city.

To survive, people have learnt to map out their routes throughout the day carefully in order to avoid running into any gang members when possible.

It’s worth noting that even these gangs were driven by fear – primarily of the powerful white institutions such as police, politicians and those who are often in control of funding.

Coates finds schools equally challenging.

He calls it a ‘drug’ that keeps learners from developing their curiosity but rather renders them passive – a notion he felt strongly when sitting in French class.

Although France may be interesting, it does not make sense for him if there is no practical application for learning its language when France is nothing more than a distant galaxy to him.

Teaching Our Children To Embrace Hope Despite Racial Injustice And Inequality

Injustice And Inequality

The reality of the world for Black people is fearsome and it has been for a long time.

The examples of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown show us this; sadly, their stories are not exceptions from the reality that many Black people face every day.

From these events, Coates’ son was able to realize one thing: systemic racism will continue in the U.S., regardless of any progress that’s made.

In essence, this means that the next generation of Black people will have to confront a society entrenched in racism – something that no parent wants for their child.

It is clear that we need to step up as a community if we want to work towards a world without oppression for minorities.

We must strive to teach our children how to defend themselves against injustice on all levels, from employment opportunities to encountering police officers.

This isn’t going away anytime soon – so we can either prepare our children and help them grow strong enough to tackle racism head-on, or choose not to and instead be unknowingly complicit with it ourselves.

Abandoning The Myth Of The American Dream: A Call For Inclusivity And Equality

The American Dream, while reaching for its lofty goals, is completely blind to the racial injustices that its formation and sustainability are based on.

It’s a white dream that requires an exclusionary society in order to maintain itself.

This means that if America is going to change, it must abandon this myth altogether in favor of more inclusive, free policy.

Education systems, media outlets, and any authority responsible for law and order – all these institutions view those who don’t “fit the mold” as criminals by default.

So how can anyone but white people hope to achieve this dream? Even though an individual may succeed at achieving the American Dream without being white themselves, since it was created in a racist manner from the start it will never be available in the same way for Black folks.

It wasn’t until Coates studied at Howard University that he faced firsthand the complexity of Black life, shattering his conception of a singular essence of what it meant to be Black.

He found people with various identities spread across various countries and interests across many different disciplines- making it impossible to supplant the idea of one “Black American Dream” on top of another one.

Wrap Up

The ultimate takeaway from Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me is that Black Americans live in a completely different reality than white Americans.

It’s a reality that has been defined by centuries of subjugation that has lead to violence, poverty and institutional neglect.

Through his journey, Coates tells it like it is – dispelling the myth of a one-size-fits-all American Dream – to prepare his son and the next generation of young Black people for what they are up against.

It’s a thought-provoking book and an important conversation about understanding racial disparities in America.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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