Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me was on my reading list for months before I finally read it. Stop waiting. Read this book.
I can’t say much that hasn’t already been applauded and praised by critics, readers and writers far and wide. I’ll just share one piece of what stood out to me.
Coates’s descriptions of those who “believe themselves to be white” and the Dream really hit home.
You know my record (literally). And yet I admittedly describe myself as “white,” despite understanding how “whiteness” is a construct of oppression. I also love US history. Probably because I loved the Dream.
What I’ve called “the Myth,” Coates refers to as “the Dream.” It’s believing those elevating declarations drilled into our heads in early history classes, in which America is a place where All people are created equal, where equal opportunity gives All the chance to thrive, where playing an active role within the electoral system will, eventually, move humankind forward.
I don’t buy it anymore. Reality won’t allow me to.
This description of the Dreamers was one of many that stood out:
“When it came to her son, Dr. Jones’s country did what it does best—it forgot him. The forgetting is habit, is yet another necessary component of the Dream. They have forgotten the scale of theft that enriched them in slavery; the terror that allowed them, for a century, to pilfer the vote; the segregationist policy that gave them their suburbs. They have forgotten, because to remember would tumble them out of the beautiful Dream and force them to live down here with us, down here in the world. I am convinced that the Dreamers, at least the Dreamers of today, would rather live white than live free. In the Dream they are all Buck Rogers, Prince Aragorn, an entire race of Skywalkers. To awaken them is to reveal that they are an empire of humans and, like all empires of humans, are built on the destruction of the body. It is to stain their nobility, to make them vulnerable, fallible, breakable humans.” (Coates, p 143)
I believe that I’ve been woke from the Dream for some time, but there’s more of this Dream to shake awake from. I keep my mouth open and feet on the street, but where do I really fit in? Will calling out and saying, “NO MORE!” to the US government’s implicit destruction of Black bodies ever be enough to wake the Dreamers and end oppression?
Some call for, “Revolution!” I feel you, but what kind? How?
Many more argue that we must trust the slow movement of the democratic process. I am a registered Democrat, yet my faith in the system shrinks with every debate. Nothing about this “democracy” feels healthy. I can no longer trust it. So now what?
Who has answers?
Thank you, Mr. Coates, for forcing us to ask.
This popped into Coates’s head on a Paris trip, and since Outkast is also my jam, here you are.