“In America, the injury is not in being born with darker skin, with fuller lips, with a broader nose, but in everything that happens after.” -Ta-Nehisi Coates
It took me a few weeks to read this book. Not because I didn’t have the time or because the language was particularly dense. But, everyone once in a while you stumble upon something that is so true and resonant, yet painful. Reading this book was not like experiencing a sharp, surprising pain. It was as if being reminded that the wound deep inside you was still there and it still hurt, throbbing.
People act like black people being treated badly in America is some newfound phenomena. Come up with slogans like “Black Lives Matter” or rebrand racism as “microaggressions.” No matter what name you give it, it isn’t new. These ideas and prejudices are deeply rooted in our country and we are still feeling the effects of what happened long ago.
The book gets to the heart of that. Constructed as a letter to his fifteen year-old son, Ta-Nehisi Coates describes the experience of being black in America through different moments in his life. Through beautiful, poignant language, he captures the fears and emotions of his own experience while juxtaposing them against his son’s experience as being black in America in a different situation as his father.
Everyone should read this book. I’m a firm believer in education, empathy, and understanding as the tools to heal racism and prejudice. Yes, this book is hard to read. It divulges truth we’d rather not here and presents ideas we’d rather not think of, but there is nothing more important than seeing and understanding these truths.
And once understood, the question still stands. What are you going to do about the truths you have learned?
Featured image via Elle.