Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates is a powerful set of essays describing the life of a black man in America, and the struggles that that entails. The essays are written to his son, in an effort to spread his knowledge and worldview.
Throughout the book, Coates uses names most of us are familiar with to emphasize his point: Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner. These are all black men killed by white police officers who were never punished.
These examples serve to emphasize Coates overarching point: black bodies are more likely to be taken away, and no one will be punished for it. This is an idea in the streets he grew up in, surrounded not only by police, but gangs and thugs who might shoot him for being in the wrong neighborhood.
He goes so far as to claim that even schools demonstrate the ability to lose your body, because if you don’t do well in school you will end up back on the streets. Coates acknowledges that the world his son lives in is safer, but that only makes the realization of the powerlessness of black bodies harder to cope with.
Besides the names the nation has become familiar with as the basis of the fight against police brutality, another name drives the book: Prince Jones. Jones was a friend of Coates in college; he was wealthy and cultured, and grew up in private schools rather than the streets.
However, none of this saved him from being shot by a police officer searching for someone who looked nothing like Prince. This reinforces the helplessness of black bodies and adds to the narrative of black dads not being there to support their kids, like Ta-Nehisi Coates’s paternal grandfather and his wife’s father. Except Prince did not run away from fatherhood, he was taken away from his pregnant fiancé and his unborn daughter.
When all is said and done, Between the World and Me is a difficult book to review because it speaks for itself. This book attempts to bridge the knowledge gap on what it is like to grow up as a black person in America. While this is only one perspective of race in America, it is an important perspective to understand.