“Here is what I would like for you to know: In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body—it is heritage,” is the jarring opener to Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book, Between The World And Me.
Coates talked about the book, which is dedicated to his son, in a forty minute segment in Democracy Now! earlier this week (July 22).
Coates further explained the line while citing the recent case of Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old Black woman who was stopped by a police officer for failure to signal while turning into another lane. In a nearby dash cam, the police officer is seen slamming Bland to the ground before he detained her. Later, it was announced that she allegedly asphyxiated herself, much to the disbelief of follows of the story.
“…when you’re in a situation—where she was stopped for not signaling, I believe it is—when the powers that be, when the person who is armed, with the ability, you know, on behalf of the state to dispense lethal violence, decides to threaten someone with that lethal violence, based on a turn signal, that’s a statement on where we are. That’s a statement on heritage.”
Before this, the author said that he avoided watching the video for some time.
“…I think, you know, all of us have our ways of coping, and sometimes it just becomes a little too much,” said Coates.
But he hopes that the book can give the reader a perspective on those similar overt experiences and nuances of being Black in America.
“…what I wanted to do with this book is to give the reader some sense of what it meant to live under a system of plunder as an individual, to express that, to take it out of the realm of numbers and to take it directly into, you know, individual people,” said Coates
“How does it feel every day in your life to live under such a system? How do you cope with that? How is it warping? What is it perverse? What sort of effects does it ultimately have on you? And how do you, you know, as much as possible, make your peace with it?” he furthered questioned.
Between The World And Me has already got some high praise and pushback from Black intellectuals.
Toni Morrison called the book “required reading,” and said Coates fills the void that she was “plagued with” after James Baldwin died.
Cornel West on the other hand found that Coates is a clever journalist who “avoids any critique of a Black president in power.”
“I don’t think Cornel West knows who I am,” replied Coates who suggested listeners to read some of his work to make a decision for themselves.
The interview is available in three parts. The first part is above and the next two can be seen below.