Sunday, September 6, 2015

Struggle for wisdom

“Here is what I would like for you to know: In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body—it is heritage.” 
― Ta-Nehisi CoatesBetween the World and Me

I read Between The World And Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I read it after seeing Mr. Coates on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart... so that was a while ago. It has been one of those books that I can't get out of my head... that haunts me still... that I can't quite wrap up.

I would love to hear if you've read it and what you think. How can we unravel this twisted knot we've created?

There is so much to talk about, and so much to listen about.

Between The World And Me is written as a letter to the author's 15 year-old son. It's a warning about racial injustice in America. Here is a sample of some passages I can't put down:

“The question is not whether Lincoln truly meant “government of the people” but what our country has, throughout its history, taken the political term “people” to actually mean.” 

“The enslaved were not bricks in your road, and their lives were not chapters in your redemptive history. They were people turned to fuel for the American machine.”  

“The truth is that the police reflect America in all of its will and fear, and whatever we might make of this country’s criminal justice policy, it cannot be said that it was imposed by a repressive minority.” 

“That was the week you learned that the killers of Michael Brown would go free. The men who had left his body in the street like some awesome declaration of their inviolable power would never be punished. It was not my expectation that anyone would ever be punished. But you were young and still believed. You stayed up till 11 P.M. that night, waiting for the announcement of an indictment, and when instead it was announced that there was none you said, “I’ve got to go,” and you went into your room, and I heard you crying. I came in five minutes after, and I didn’t hug you, and I didn’t comfort you, because I thought it would be wrong to comfort you.”  

“And still I urge you to struggle. Struggle for the memory of your ancestors. Struggle for wisdom. Struggle for the warmth of The Mecca. Struggle for your grandmother and grandfather, for your name. 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.”  

What I've come to know as history, both past and current, is that black American citizens have been far more likely than white American citizens to die at the hands of the police. The phrase "Black Lives Matter" is not asserting that black lives are more precious than white lives. The declaration is underlining the fact that the lives of black citizens have been discounted and devalued. It's an indisputable, unpleasant  truth.

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