Between the World and Me | Opening a third way to fight
What is the difference between a white body and a Black one, between the world and me?, Ta-Nehisi Coates asks. Fear, violence, abuse, he answers. Words that recall not an isolated, unfortunate situation but an entire structural system of supremacy. America’s democracy roots in black people’s destruction, according to Ta-Nehisi.
Flesh and blood
The validity of this thesis proves and measures itself on a battleground of flesh and blood: flesh and blood of Coates, his parents, and his siblings. The whole essay hinges on the concept of the body and its destruction. Thus, Coates’s words are imbued with radical materialism. It is from the body and on the body that the abuse of white people over Black people takes place, and it manifests in beatings, shootings, and sexual abuse. Tying the critical and sociological narrative to his personal experience, Coates embodies the words of James Baldwin, who claimed that History was trapped inside people and vice versa.
The third way
Coates retraces the stages of his awareness – from the Baltimore of The Wire (where he grew up) to the Mecca of Howard University to the New York City of mix and difference – linking it to what he calls “the fight”, a fight that never stops.
On the one hand, there is the Black body, which is afraid; this fear reverberates in two ways: the street’s rebellion and the school’s obedience. On the other hand, there is what Coates calls the “dream”, the “dreamers”: white Americans who built the idea of a tribe and a race, and on that idea, they expand their galaxy of power and security. The path that Coates has chosen is not the street or the school. A third way has opened up, the way of words: never taken for granted, never innocent, never accommodating. Terms of the fight.