I have just read Ta Nehesi Coates’ “Between the World and Me”, a heart-rending, riveting and evocative book on black lives in America.
It is a letter from Nehesi Coates to his 15-year-old son, on the travails of living in a black body in the modern-day United States of America – the stories on how black lives have to suffer and endure, and the spirit needed to establish a beachhead to nobility, hope and redemption.
I have admired the works of Martin Luther King and Obama, the courage of Muhammad Ali, and the leadership of Abraham Lincoln as an emancipator of slaves. None have shifted me this story does.
The story is piercing, language visceral and the effect revelatory. The pain that black people endure in the US brings a very different quality to the issue of racial discrimination. It is the juxtaposition of the objectification of black bodies as a foundation of America’s prosperity and America’s claims to liberty and equality of men that is the supreme counterfeitness and contradiction.
As a school boy, I looked up to Lincoln and Kennedy, and the USA as a beacon of liberty, freedom and equality. It is sad, that today, the American President has brought such dishonour to the office and contradict almost every value which buttress USA’s greatness.
I bought this book in 2015 after rave reviews, and only just read it to get a better sense of what it is like to be a black man in America – after the incidents of George Floyd and Amy Cooper that happened earlier this year.
I cannot pretend there are easy answers to many wicked problems humankind faces today, of which this one. I know the discovery of the answers lies within ourselves.