Book Banter: Between the World and Me

Sonnet Ettekal, October 2023

Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates, tells the story of his life-struggle of being a Black man in America. It is written as a letter to his son to heed what is a threat to the Black population when living in a place where their bodies are treated differently than those who are white. Why is it that when a group of Black people are together shopping or hanging out, people question “Oh, why are they all together? Why are there so many Black kids?” Hardly anyone asks this when a group of white kids are together. In residential areas, why are areas populated with Black people ‘dangerous’ but low-income white-populated areas are described as ‘trashy,’ not an area people warn, “Stay away”? This is what I see and take away from American society, but everyone has different interpretations.

Coates does not sugarcoat the violence he faces. He specifically focuses on the death of Prince Jones, his fellow graduate. If someone who represents an elevated social status can be killed and receive little national attention, so can anyone. Coates connects with the reader and makes them understand what it is like to live in America while enduring the struggles Black people face. Rather than the marriage bonuses white couples receive, Black people typically have a lower bonus rate, as well as a higher penalty rate. Or, even as colleges attempted to right the wrongs of the past with Affirmative Action, the Supreme Court has recently taken this away, too. Struggle doesn’t just mean the external racism received, but also the economic effects, like restricted opportunities for higher paying jobs, and going as far as to restrict corrections, like reparations, for the discrimination the Black population has faced for centuries. People do not realize why someone feels separated from the world because of their skin color. Black communities do not necessarily isolate themselves; it is what racist history has made of them and what the world currently does to them.

Coates’ text also brings to light why the United States is regressive, leading back to police brutality and the government relying on the world they built based on slavery. This is a distinct difference among the United States and other countries. European countries made the same mistakes as the United States, colonizing and torturing people because of their skin color. Their pasts are the same, but the difference now is how some of these countries acknowledge their mistakes. Coates’ epistolary work proves effective, because it can connect a person with reading his story and bring to light the racism that still lives in America.

People claim racism and inequality do not exist, that no one is different, and if we ignore racism, society’s problems will disappear. Issues are not solved by silence, which only motivates predators to carry on their delinquent actions. If racism didn’t exist, Prince Jones would be alive and Ta-Nehisi Coates would not have written this book about his life. Anyone who believes that America is an equal country and anyone who wants to understand why there is separation in American society should read this book.

Sonnet Ettekal is a rising Junior at the Albany Academies. Some of her favorite activities include reading or hanging out with her friends and sister. While she does enjoy her time with friends and family, Sonnet is very dedicated to her school work to improve her chances in the future. She is interested in continuing her education after high school at one of the UCs or studying abroad. She plans to major in politics or economics, and to find a job that will make changes to the United States to improve social and economic equality.

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