Theme of Racism in Ta-Nehisi Coates' Novel Between The World and Me

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a name that raises eyebrows whenever and where ever it is uttered. One of his more well-known works is titled “Between the World and Me”, originally it was a book to his son which addressed the hardships in life that he may have to overcome, nevertheless, you can still see much of Coates inside of the book. The adversities that Coates describes to his son are things that he had been through in his own life: things that he would want his son not to come across and if he does ever cross paths with such difficulties, know how to overcome them. Some may ask, why would Coates write his son a book instead of directly talking to him? But when you delve into the makeup of Coates, you’ll see that his father Paul Coates was a Vietnam War Veteran, librarian as well a Black Panther; his mother Cheryl Lynn was an educator. By looking at Coates’s parents you can see why Coates would give such a literate and cultural response to his kin. Not to forget that whenever Coates would display unacceptable behavior at a younger age, his mother instead of punishing him heavily would make him write essays on his wrong doings. Such an odd punishment would give Coates different perspective on life and his actions, which would influence him to be such a fluent writer.

In a way I feel connected to Coates because he too grew up with being a minority in America, with the stress of both the schools and the streets. He voices this in “Between the world and Me”, by saying “Ecstasy, coke you say it’s love, it is poison Schools where I learn they should all be burned, it is poison”. Coates is explaining how the schools are teaching false morality. But this place of false morality is the place that decides whether you haggle streets for dimes or have multiple homes, so you are forced to stomach it down.

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This struggle of Coates creates a dark or dull mood in the story not only for him but for anyone in that sort of dilemma. Everyone knows that schools are funded by the property value of the homes surrounding it, for most minority black schools this is an unforgiving; it is the reason for underfunding of many minority schools which puts people of color at more of a risk to try to support themselves with an illegal trade because their job just isn’t making ends meet. Coates also states that “The classroom was a jail of other people’s interest. The library open, unending, free”. This quote spoke out to me because when you are in a class that you don’t really understand it feels as if you are under a forced agenda, an agenda that you will eventually get drowned by. But the library or the more modern/accessible version, the internet lets you dive into whatever informational source you could possibly imagine.

Through out the entire book Coates continuously references the “black body” and explains how it is tradition to destroy it in America. Over time we see that the black body bears importance and is the motif of the story. With so much emphasis over the black body and how others may conspire against the black body because it is a black-body it was mind breaking to read “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”. After this quote by Coates there is still importance in the black body but the common tales on why racism exist is shattered in a mere sentence. It is explained that from racism race is born which simply means that because of the existence of racism race is created to differentiate and classify people. I have not heard of such a statement and at first it was difficult to understand. I mean I had gotten use to people saying, “They only hate us for our color” or “The white man dislikes anything that is not like him”. But never had I even thought that racism is mentally in the head already and that skin just aids the process.

In the beginning of my exploration and deconstruction of “Between the World and Me” which was two years ago in ninth grade I was perplexed. I had not even enveloped a steady opinion or ideal of the theme for this story which is race or racism. But with time this course (Duel Enrollment Literature 1000 or Lit 1000) has helped me with in multiple ways, from understanding elaborate themes, tones and motif to bring able to comprehend almost every characters perspective in literature and even life. When my class and I watched and scene by scene analyzed the film “Fences” it really helped me understand perspective and motives of characters. My professor Dr.Weaver immersed me on what pushes people to do things, virtuous or immoral. That was only a singular portion of what aided my comprehension of “Between the World and Me”. I have learned about almost every literary term and rhetorical device to where they seem ubiquitous in life, while under Dr.Weaver’s wing.

Overall Ta-Nehisi Coates’s three-time award winning, best seller, “Between the World and Me” reformed my way of thinking of race or racism and challenged my intellect. If it wasn’t for this course and my professor, I would have never seen the perspective of half of the cast in this book. Even though I’m no Einstein yet I can say confidently that I now know about another world of reading and my comprehension of literature had risen exponentially ever since the beginning of this course.

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