between the world and me & the beginning of allyship

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

 

The recent #BlackLivesMatter movement has inspired so many of us to do the necessary work that should have been done many years ago. I am on an ever-evolving journey, as many of us are, of allyship, empathy and have a strong desire for understanding, equality and change.

Upon committing to myself that I would do the work required to become an activist and an ally, I realized that first I needed to start with some books written by POC that talk about racism. Two years ago I read The Hate U Give, and it offered a unique YA perspective I had never considered before about a Black teenaged girl growing up in a poor Black neighbourhood, and attending a rich white school. The girl’s friend was killed by a police officer, and she becomes an important voice for many.The story is riveting.

In June 2020, there were so many book lists circling social media and online articles, it was hard to decide which one to pick up first. At the bottom of this blogpost, I have included some of the excellent resources I have been using to educate myself on racism and how I can be better. But for the sake of today’s blogspot, I began my education with the moving story of Between the World and Me, knowing that Ta-Nehisi Coates is an exquisite writer with flowing prose. (And next on my list is his piece in the Atlantic entitled The Case for Reparations found here, which you can also listen to!).

Coates uses Between the World and Me as a tool to write a letter to his 15-year-old son, who was trying to understand racial injustice at the time. “I write you in your 15th year,” Coates states. “And you know now, if you did not before, that the police departments of your country have been endowed with the authority to destroy your body. . . . I tell you now that the question of how one should live within a black body, within a country lost in the Dream, is the question of my life, and the pursuit of this question, I have found, ultimately answers itself.

Coates is the perfect person to teach his son, and the readers, about racial injustice. He is able to uniquely define what it means to be Black in rooted, haunted and poetic terms, and elegantly describes what it feels like to be a Black man in today’s world. Between the World and Me uses the author’s body as a metaphor throughout the story to offer a clear perspective to the reader, especially the white reader who may have previously tried to put themselves in the shoes of a POC but has failed. I listened to Coates read his own text in the form of an audiobook; his soothing voice is as poetic as his prose, yet chills ran through me as he discussed the injustices he has faced and has seen other Black men and women face.

I love how the book is also rooted in how the American Dream is such a farce. I have looked to other reviews, especially ones by POC, to hear their perspective on the book as well, to inspire further thoughts and a deeper dialogue within myself. I found a great review of the book in the NYT by Michelle Alexander, and here is an excerpt:

“Coates’s letter to his son seems to be written on the opposite side of the same coin. Rather than urging his son to awaken to his own power, Coates emphasizes over and over the apparent permanence of racial injustice in America, the foolishness of believing that one person can make a change, and the dangers of believing in the American Dream. “Historians conjured the Dream,” Coates writes. “Hollywood fortified the Dream. The Dream was gilded by novels and adventure stories”; Dreamers are the ones who continue to believe the lie, at black people’s expense.” (The full review can be found here).

Coates makes the point that the American Dream was conjured may years ago and only applies to the people who created it. Everyone else is just trying to survive.

I am still absorbing the text from the book, thinking about it often. Coates’s words are so powerful, so poignant. His prose, arguably now more than ever, is so relevant at this point in our history. I get chills again just thinking about it.

A big thanks to my neighbour Julie for the recommendation of Between the World and Me. I advise everyone to add this book to their lists, and I especially enjoyed the audiobook.

Have you read other works by Coates? What are some of your favourites?  And if you have any other recommendations for books to read, especially by a POC around the civil rights movement happening right now, please drop me a line.

***

My Allyship Journey so Far:

As a privileged white women, the first thing I can do is commit to doing the work.

Looking inside myself, examining the issues that stemmed from my ancestors and have been carried on by my generation.

Digging through history for answers, cyclical problems and injustices.

Being okay with feeling uncomfortable and discontented at the truths I face.

*

Let’s all do the work to fight for equality and to understand all there areas where humanity messed up. We owe it to People of Colour, the next generation and to the betterment of the world.

*

Resources:

As I mentioned above (and as I am sure you have witnessed yourself), there are so many important reads out there to help educate us on racism and the #BLM movement. I am not an expert (obviously I’m not: I am a white woman!) but have found a ton of great content that was shared by POC online, and I wanted to share these findings with you. I am chipping away at the circulated lists little by little.

I have been listening to some incredible podcasts by POC (1619, White Women Killed Yoga (Yoga is Dead), and some enlightening interviews with POC on Armchair Expert), begun doing the workbook Me and White Supremacy alongside some friends, read Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (review coming soon), watched 13th on Netflix with my husband, and have listened to the beautiful audiobook of Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Every piece of the content I just listed had an impact on me. I recommend them all.

I will create a separate blogpost on some of the poignant children’s books we bought for my kids to teach them about diversity and racism (and would appreciate further input from POC regarding any other books I should be reading to them), but first I wanted to share with you my thoughts on the beautiful, genuine, raw book Between the World and Me, and share the other resources I have found helpful so far.

This is not me patting myself on the back or saying “Look, I am an ally now, just like that!No way: I have so much work to do to be a better white woman and ally, and it will take  a lot of time filled with examining uncomfortable truths on my part. I simply wanted to share with you all of the wonderful pieces of content that I have enjoyed and learned a great deal from so far, and I hope that you have found some materials that resonate with you too.

I want to raise my kids in a world where racism dissolves and equal opportunity exists… and it starts with education and compassion.

 

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