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

Emotional and powerful treatise on race in America

This book really challenged me. I know it’s been a bit since I posted, but as I look back on when I first started setting goals and tracking my reading closely in 2017, it was third one of the year. The author is now a prolific writer and thought leader, and this book is a letter he writes to his son about his experience of American society as a black man. I try to live my life sensitive to the plight of others, and I take seriously the dark moments in the history of the people of my faith and of my country. I’m sad that there are still deep racial tensions in my homeland. This book is very honest and a window into a world so close to me in proximity and yet so far away from my experience. I appreciated the raw emotion of the book and it helped me better understand the pain and prejudice many of my countrymen live with. I don’t agree with all of his outcomes, such as his belief in chaos, but in the end the author appears generous in his approach, and I recommend this book heartily.

As I continue to reflect both on this book and everything that has transpired in the USA and the world since I read it, I can’t help but feel ashamed at the masses who seem to lack the basic ability to empathise with people groups who have a well documented and continuing difficulty in life based purely on race. I know not every problem can trace a direct line to racism. I say this as a theological conservative and political moderate. I wonder how much of the steam would be released from those who radicalise their protest efforts around racial issues if the truth of their pain were simply acknowledged. Of course acknowledgement isn’t enough, not usually, but I say it because it seems that even this is hard to come by. I have grave concerns over secularisation. Living in the realm of China, I give a hearty laugh when I see western political movement leaders lean into Marxism as an ethical upgrade to societal structure. How blind that is. But I do not laugh at their pain, and I can at least understand that one of the outcomes of racism, personal and systemic racism, is nihilism by the victims. The burden I felt when reading Coates four years ago has only grown. And when I see excesses in protest movements, political parties, and religious groups, I don’t sense God calling me to laugh, demean, and look down on them. I feel called to understand their pain better, communicate the Gospel clearer, and hope in Christ, not chaos, all the more.

155 pages or 3 hours of amazing writing, pure emotion, and a sad story I can only hope gets better in this life, if not the next.