Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates: A Review

I question whether I even have the right to review this book. My initial thoughts after finishing it is that humanity as a long ways to go yet before we are living in the Kingdom of God. Coates is challenging and thought provoking in this memoir/story to his son.

Myself, growing up in a predominantly white town that was at one time a destination point for the KKK in Michigan brought me a childhood that was white and sheltered from diversity. My first real glimpse of true diversity was when I went off to college. While, I don’t consider myself racist, I know that I can have a natural tendency at looking at others differently because of my white upbringing. I may have been blind to the white privilege that I have encountered throughout my life and am now starting to understand it to a small degree.

The world that Coates shares in Between the World and Me is one that is foreign to the world that I grew up in, yet one that I feel compelled to help change as a leader in the church. This book will take many reads to truly start to soak into my sense of understanding, so instead of trying to analyze or criticize, I believe that it is best that we just listen. In that frame of mind, here are a couple excerpts:

referring to the death of Prince Jones, “When it came to her son, Dr. Jone’s country did what it does best–it forgot him. The forgetting is habit, is yet another necessary component of the Dream. They have forgotten the scale of theft that enriched them in slavery; the terror that allowed them, for a century, to pilfer the vote; the segregationist policy that gave them the suburbs. They have forgotten, because to remember would tumble them out of the beautiful Dream and force them to live down here with us, down here in the world.”

“I do not believe that we can stop them, Samori, because they must ultimately stop themselves…But do not struggle for the Dreamers. Hope for them. Pray for them, if you are so moved. But do not pin your struggle on their conversion. The Dreamers will have to learn to struggle themselves, to understand that the field for their Dream, the stage where they have painted themselves white, is the deathbed of us all.”

It is not an easy read, however, I believe that it should be a necessary reading, or has the recommendation on the front cover by Toni Morrison says, “This is required reading.” Not just for people of color, but for all people. It is time that we move beyond race, nationality, sex or sexual orientation, disability, and embrace all people as children of God. I know, easier said than done. Let us pray!

By Alex Steward

I am a husband, father, and pastor within the ELCA. I did not grow up in the church and thus come at this pastoring thing with an unique perspective.

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