Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This might just be one of the most important pieces of literature I've ever read.
That's saying a lot because I've read a lot. But not only is it written brilliantly, beautifully, and full of passion and thought, it is also a question.
A massive question that has no easy answer, but demands that everyone ought to open their eyes.
Oh, sure, we've all heard this argument before, you say, that problems of safety should always outweigh justice... but there is nothing in this life that says we must forego one in order to have the other.
Look. I'm a fan of dreamers and idealism, but after reading this absolutely fantastic socratic dialogue/personal awakening/heartfelt desire, I have to admit it might be time to put away the Dream.
What does this mean? It means there are Dreams, such as the American Dream, that are built on the backs of slaves, of plundered indians, of a dance on the back of any poor of any stripe, that brought the American Dream its prosperity. We can't ignore that. We can't continue this Great Forgetting. Nor can we keep on sweeping it under the rug when predatory lenders, new prisons, racial profiling, and misunderstanding keeps sweeping through our house.
Your American Dream is not untarnished. If you insist on believing in it, then you must also insist on taking responsibility for the injustice perpetrated in its name. This doesn't mean you ought to join white supremacists to justify your own guilt in the system that still bruises black bodies, giving yourself up to the hate that had submerged into the very fabric of your society.
It means we must wake up and see reality as it really is. That we have frank and open discussions and see how a whole class of people are not safe in their own persons. That everything and anything can be taken from them at any time. That they are an institutional underclass.
This isn't right.
I recommend this essay/epistle to everyone. Anyone. Its writing is beyond gorgeous and eloquent. It can do what this lousy review can never do:
Inspire, even as it makes me cry.
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