A System That Makes You Breakable
Between the World and Me

Stein, Leighton

Publisher:  Against the Current
Date Written:  01/11/2015
Year Published:  2015  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX21297

Book review of Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me.



Throughout this essay-as-letter, Coates tacitly implies a question. What is it that obscures or impedes his contact with the world? Only "White America" determined "to protect its exclusive power to dominate and control our bodies," determined to believe "that what they have named us matters more than anything we could ever actually do."

One might wonder if he offers some solution, if he reaches out an olive branch to the America filled with "unworried boys... pie and pot roast... white fences and green lawns." Coates is frankly a pessimist, placing no belief in the Dreamers, a term meant to capture the mythology of innocence and exceptionalism and inevitable progress - no belief in them who perfected their techniques for profit extraction on Black bodies, transfiguring sweat and blood "into sugar, tobacco, cotton and gold," and who’ve now imposed their schemes upon the earth itself.

But his pessimism is filtered through a blues sensibility. Repudiating recourse to a "comforting narrative of divine law," and to some grand arch of redemptive of justice, wavering on the line that divides hope from despair, he recognizes that struggle is "the only portion of this world under your control," to struggle against the disease of self-hatred and to see without "eyes... blindfolded by fear," and to embrace Black power, a "deep knowledge of how fragile everything is."
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