Early in his career, The Atlantic writer, Ta-Nehisi Coates was mentored by journalist, David Carr. In February he wrote ‘King David’, acknowledging his friend and brother. “David Carr convinced me that, through the constant and forceful application of principle, a young hopper, a fuck-up, a knucklehead, could bring the heavens, the vast heavens, to their knees.”
“I miss you terribly. I do not want to say goodbye. Tony says you were our champion. How can we go on, David? How can all of it just go on? Who will be our champion, now?”
In ‘Between the World and Me’ the author has brought ‘the vast heavens, to their knees’ and takes on the role of the champion he lost with the passing of Mr. Carr.
The ‘Saturday Read’ is not a ‘summer beach read’. It’s an important addition to the canon of the social sciences and business.
This book should be required reading for every member of the workforce, educators and in particular, those who pride themselves as leaders of diversity.
An excerpt of the book is available on The Atlantic website. Written as a letter to his son, the book needs to be read in its’ entirety.
“…Perhaps struggle is all we have. So you must wake up every morning knowing that no natural promise is unbreakable, least of all the promise of waking up at all. This is not despair. These are the preferences of the universe itself: verbs over nouns, actions over states, struggle over hope.
The birth of a better world is not ultimately up to you, though I know, each day, there are grown men and women who tell you otherwise. I am not a cynic. I love you, and I love the world, and I love it more with every new inch I discover. But you are a black boy, and you must be responsible for your body in a way that other boys cannot know. Indeed, you must be responsible for the worst actions of other black bodies, which, somehow, will always be assigned to you. And you must be responsible for the bodies of the powerful—the policeman who cracks you with a nightstick will quickly find his excuse in your furtive movements. You have to make your peace with the chaos, but you cannot lie. You cannot forget how much they took from us and how they transfigured our very bodies into sugar, tobacco, cotton, and gold.”
“I am in near-total agreement with Coates’s view of this world we share. Yet I did wonder where the stories of black women feature in all this death and plunder. Their names are not included in this work, and I am not the only one who has noticed it. Coates seems aware of the omission, but he still only manages to surface the experiences of black women through their (very real) pain at the death of black men. That lens isn’t Coates’s alone, but it’s one worth interrogating.
In fact, Between the World and Me doesn’t aspire to anything so large – or vague – as “overcoming” or “transcending” race to defeat racism. It is simply about surviving, and remembering. Coates’s preoccupation is not with saving the soul of America. It’s urging it, to borrow a phrase you see around a lot lately, to “stay woke”.
At the end of his tribute to David Carr, Mr. Coates reflects on Mr. Carr as a “tireless advocate of writers of color, of writers who were women, and of young writers of all tribes.”
“And I know that even I, who am no longer a young writer, do not always wear my best face for young writers. And among the many things I am taking from David’s death is to be better with young writers, and young people in general. Because every single time some editor shoved me down, David picked me back up.”
‘Between the World and Me’ is a gift to young writers. It’s a testament to the power of the written word amid the distractions of technology’s sound bites.