In Between the World and Me, the author discusses the realities that Black men face in America in an open letter to his 15-year-old son.
He uses anecdotes about his personal growth and experiences with racism to prepare young Black people for the world ahead.
You may be wondering if you should read the book. This book summary will tell you what important lessons you can learn from this book so you can decide if it is worth your time.
At the end of this book summary, I’ll also tell you the best way to get rich by reading and writing.
Without further ado, let’s get started.
Between The World And Me Book Summary
Lesson 1: It is no surprise that racism still exists in modern America, considering that the country was built on the backs of blacks.
The American dream states that everyone has a chance to make it big in the United States. It would appear that life in the United States is steeped in optimism. When blacks are oppressed, they have no chance to achieve the American dream.
The Emancipation Proclamation and the struggle for civil rights have not eliminated racism. America’s history is still riddled with this theme. The American Dream was possible in part because blacks were oppressed and continue to be oppressed.
Before the American Revolution, slavery was widespread in the colonies. Some of the Founding Fathers even had slaves. Nonetheless, enslaved Africans helped the United States prosper after the war ended. Slavery in the United States meant the importation of 1.5 million people, the vast majority of whom were brought to the South.
When the Confederacy was defeated in 1865 at the end of the Civil War, both slavery and racism were abolished. After decades of discrimination and violence against African Americans during Reconstruction, Jim Crow society emerged in the South, a society based on inequality and segregation.
Thereafter, the Civil Rights Movement emerged, the ultimate goal of which was the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed any form of discrimination based on a person’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Despite the passage of the Civil Rights Act, racism persists in the United States in both the private and public sectors.
Institutional racism has remained largely unchanged since the 1960s. Black people are implicitly associated with violence and crime, and law enforcement and the media continue to profile them based on these stereotypes.
The lack of state and federal resources to create safe and vibrant communities has disproportionately disadvantaged black people for generations. As a result, people are forced to engage in criminal activity to make a living.
For African Americans, the American dream comes with a side of nightmares.
Lesson 2: Both the streets and classrooms are hostile environments for people of African descent.
When the author was a child, he feared two things: the streets he had to cross on his way to school and downtown, and his schools, where he spent most of the day learning things only the teachers knew.
The streets have become a place of fear for low-income black communities. Learning to master the complex “law of the streets” is essential for people to survive.
Throughout the city, children live in constant fear of the many gangs that rule the various neighborhoods. To avoid encounters with gang members, people must strategically plan their daily routes.
Coates argues, however, that even gang members have a healthy respect for the white world. All of their assertions of authority are directed at white-dominated institutions such as the police, government, and financiers.
Black lives are as fettered in the school system as they are on the streets. In the traditional, or white, education system, black children have fewer opportunities than their white peers.
Coates argues that this phenomenon suppresses children’s natural curiosity and makes them docile. The Baltimore schools did not foster Coates’ natural curiosity, but rather kept him occupied.
He came to this conclusion when he studied the French language. To him, France was like a distant galaxy, and he saw no point in trying to learn the language.
For him, the spark that sparked his transformation was reading books written by and for blacks, books that described the black experience in America and provided an antidote to the numbing lies of the schools and the false bravado in the streets.
Lesson 3: Black people will have to deal with the racist world they live in in the future.
How can you help your children prepare for a world that you cannot deprive them of? Can we help them prepare for the inevitable fear and hatred that will be directed at them without giving up hope?
Coates’ son’s recent experiences have helped him better understand the complexities of a young black man’s life.
In 2012, George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, shot and killed Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old unarmed Florida boy. Earlier in the day, burglars had broken into several homes in the neighborhood. In fact, Martin was on his way to one of those homes at that very moment. Zimmerman saw him, became suspicious, and called the police.
An altercation ensued, during which Zimmerman fired a shot at Martin, striking him in the chest. Zimmerman was injured in the alleged fight. Two counts of murder and one count of manslaughter were dropped against him.
Eighteen-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by white police officer Darren Wilson in 2014. Brown was unarmed. Brown’s death hurt his reputation, and the fact that he had been caught stealing cigarillos from a nearby store made his death seem justified.
His murder sparked protests that have not subsided to this day, and his killer has yet to be charged.
One example of the daily injustices Americans face is the police shootings of unarmed black men. Among black men in particular, the spread of negative stereotypes and portrayal as criminals has been linked to an increase in violent crime.
Is there a sense of improvement?
Although we have come a long way since the abolition of slavery, institutional racism is still very much alive today.
Coates, however, did not want to comfort his son after the murders. Trying to bridge those long-standing rifts was futile. On the other hand, he believes that his son must join the movement to make the world a better place.
Lesson 4: It is imperative that the American dream be challenged because it is a white dream supported by a racist society.
As we have seen, slavery was instrumental in creating and sustaining the American Dream, upon whose foundation a racist society was then built. Changing American society by reworking the American Dream is not the answer. The myth must be fully debunked if society is to become more open and liberated.
The American Dream is a white dream that ignores the existence of racist institutions. The media, the police, and the education system fail to recognise these injustices.
No matter how you phrase it, blacks do not have the same access to the American Dream as whites. How can you expect to achieve your dream if you rely on the country’s institutions to label you a criminal?
The problem is that the American Dream is primarily associated with whites, even though those who achieve it may not necessarily be white. When it comes to succeeding in white society, blacks have no choice but to embody the stereotype of the “successful black.”
For Coates, the problem is not limited to the American dream, but lies in the concept of the “dream” itself.
While studying at Howard University, Coates learned about the multi-layered realities of black life. His search for the core of black identity led him to Howard University, where he learned that blacks are not a unified group. At this university, Christians, Muslims, African Americans and students from all parts of the United States study and engage in a variety of issues.
His realisation that there is no unified black experience led him to conclude that there is no black American dream to replace the American dream. Instead of trying to debunk myths with more myths, we need to take a more direct approach.
Between The World And Me Book Review
Betwwen The World And Me is a great book I’d like to recommend to anyone who is interested in politics. If you spend some time digesting the ideas, it might make a positive impact on your life.
The reality of black Americans is very different from that of white Americans, having been shaped by centuries of oppression. African Americans face a number of obstacles on the road to economic and social success.
To help his son and other young blacks today come to terms with these realities, the author dismantles the myth of the American dream and tells it like it really is.
About the Author
Ta-Nehisi Coates is an Atlantic national correspondent and the author of The Beautiful Struggle, a memoir about his relationship with his father, Paul Coates.
He received the George Polk Award in Journalism in 2014, and the MacArthur “Genius Grant” in 2015.
Buy The Book: Between The World And Me
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