Between the World and MeLarge Print - 2016
At every stage of his life, Coates has sought in his explorations of history answers to the mysteries that surrounded him-- most urgently, why he, and other black people he knew, seemed to live in fear. In this book he takes readers through America's history of race and its contemporary resonances through a series of awakenings-- moments when he discovered some new truth about our long, tangled history of race.
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For their innocence, they nullify your anger, your fear, until you are coming and going, and you find yourself inveighing against yourself -- 'Black people are the only people who ...' -- really inveighing against your own humanity and raging against the crime in your ghetto, because you are powerless before the great crime of history that brought the ghettos to be.
“But race is the child of racism, not the father. And the process of naming “the people” has never been a matter of genealogy and physiognomy so much as one of hierarchy. Difference in hue and hair is old. But the belief in the preeminence of hue and hair, the notion that these factors can correctly organize a society and that they signify deeper attributes, which are indelible—this is the new idea at the heart of these new people who have been brought up hopelessly, tragically, deceitfully, to believe that they are white.”
I grew up in a house drawn between love and fear. There was no room for softness. But this girl with the long dreads revealed something else -- that love could be soft and understanding; that, soft or hard, love was an act of heroism.
"Never forget that we were enslaved in this country longer than we have been free. Never forget that for 250 years black people were born into chains - whole generations followed by more generations who knew nothing but chains."
(This book opens with a quote from Richard Wright that contains the title of the book):
And one morning while in the woods I stumbled suddenly upon the thing, stumbled upon it in a grassy clearing guarded by scaly oaks and elms. And the sooty details of the scene rose, thrusting themselves between the world and me.
"Once, the Dream’s parameters were caged by technology and by the limits of horsepower and wind. But the Dreamers have improved themselves, and the damming of seas for voltage, the extraction of coal, the transmuting of oil into food, have enabled an expansion in plunder with no known precedent. And this revolution has freed the Dreamers to plunder not just the bodies of humans but the body of the Earth itself. The Earth is not our creation. It has no respect for us. It has no use for us. And its vengeance is not the fire in the cities but the fire in the sky. Something more fierce is riding on the whirlwind. Something more awful than all our African ancestors is rising with the seas…across the sprawl, is the automobile, the noose around the neck of the earth, and ultimately, the Dreamers themselves.” (150)
“…predictions of national doom. I had head such predictions all my life… [I knew] that this was all too pat, knowing that should the Dreamers reap what they had sown, we would reap it right with them. Plunder has matured into habit and addiction; the people who could author the mechanized death of our ghettos, the mass rape of private prisons, then engineer their own forgetting, must inevitably plunder much more. This is not belief in prophecy but in the seductiveness of cheap gasoline."
That was the week you learned that the killers of Michael Brown would go free… and I heard you crying. I came in five minutes after, and I didn’t hug you, and I didn’t comfort you, because I thought it would be wrong to comfort you. I did not tell you it would be okay, because I have never believed it would be okay. What I told you is what your grandparents tried to tell me: that this is your country, that this is your world, that this is your body, and you must find some way to live within the all of it.
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