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Theme of Race in “Between the World and Me”

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    As previously mentioned, Ta-Nehisi Coates is the writer of the award winning book, “Between the World and Me”. Currently, Coates is an African-American essayist, journalist and writer. He was born on September 30, 197 in from Baltimore, Maryland where both of his parents were members of th Black Panther Party (Sparks). After completing highschool, Coates attended Howard University in 1993 for five years before leaving to start a career in journalism in New York. Over the years, he spent time working at The Washington City Paper and Time before being hired by the Atlantic, where he wrote his most famous essay, “The Case for Reparations”(Sparks). Many of Coates’s work reflect contemporary race relations showcased not only in “Between the World in Me”, but also in his memoir “The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood”. Coates highly favors Malcom X and looks up to him for inspiration when writing. Lastly, in terms of his political beliefs, Ta-Nehisi Coates has mentioned in interviews that the election of President Obama served as an important symbol for blacks in America (Miller).

    Additionally, the purpose in “Between the World and Me” is not only to entertain the reader but to educate as well. While Coates’ recollection of the events in his life can be entertaining, he also serves to educate the reader on topics dealing with race relations, the typical struggles many blacks endure, and elaborates on what the black body signifies. In the beginning of the book, Coates first message is on the subject of race and racism. He claims that the idea of race is simply a social construct that humans created which further resulted in racism. One of his most profound quotes in the book relating to this topic is, “Race is the child of racism, not the father” (Coates). He further explains that racism is simply the act of attributing bone-deep features to people only to humiliate, reduce, and destroy them. Another aspect in which Coates educates the reader on deals with the struggles that African-Americans encounter in American society, focusing particularly on black males. He mainly accomplishes this by vividly portraying his childhood and adulthood chronologically, highlighting his encounters with gangs and the “street life”. The message he wants to convey is that there was a lot of “rules” he had to follow in order to stay safe in the streets, which played a major role in his feelings of insecurity while growing up black in America. However, the attention to detail and imagery Coates has while describing many of his life’s moments bring the piece to life, give the reader a form of entertainment. Lastly, the final important message that Coates communicates is expressing what the black body represents. While many African-American are not connected with their roots nor are they deeply educated on their history, Coates wants them to understand that the black body embodies the pain the suffering felt by our ancestors during slavery. He wants them to understand that living in ablack body means that you must come to terms with the fact that to be “free” in this nation will never truly exist because, “In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body” (Coates).

    Furthermore, overall the book has two sets of audiences. Since the “Between the World and Me” is a letter to Coates’ son, the target audience is undoubtedly his son. However, the book is also intended for all African-Americans, or just blacks in general. Coates wants to teach his son about the life he will soon face because of his the color of his skin, and also explain stories about the experiences he has already faced while being a black man in America. On the other hand, Coates wants to reach blacks all across America, of all ages and gender so they are educated on the important matters dealing with race relations as well.

    Lastly, the exigence behind the book is rooted mainly on the tragedies that have taken place in America where blacks have been unjustly murdered because of their race. In fact, the first event in the novel where Coates’s son is present is centered on the night where his son found out the killers of Michael Brown (fatally shot by white police) would be set free. His son’s only response after hearing the news was, “I’ve got to go”, where he then proceeded to go to his room and cry. Coates son was the main power source behind Coates’s motivation to write the piece.

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