In Between the World and Me, Ta-Nahisi Coates writes to his teenage son explaining his life experiences with race and class. Coates describes growing up navigating the dangerous streets of Baltimore and experiencing an academic and cultural awakening when he enrolled at Howard University. He tells of the death of a promising young friend at the hands of the police and warns his son that America values black bodies less than white bodies. From our legacy of slavery to contemporary racial and economic segregation, Coates describes an America divided between the “Dreamers” who live privileged (suburban) lives with easy access to the American Dream and those whose urban lives are haunted and hindered by violence and inequality.
As a child, I took great solace in the fact that my Catholic faith allied me with African-Americans and the Civil Rights Movement. It the eyes of the K.K.K. we were grouped together as “other,” as enemies of white supremacy. While I still take some comfort in this fact, reading Between the World and Me made it painfully clear that I live squarely in the world of the “Dreamers.” I strive to treat all people with care and respect. At my high school graduation, I received a “Human Relations Award” for: “…compassion, sincerity, and a deep respect for all others without regard to race, creed or national origin.” I remain committed to these principles, and reading this book helped me realize that I can’t really rest secure in my comfortable world while fellow citizens are denied full access to the American Dream.