The glamorous notion of America being a Land of Dreams has assaulted, assailed and attracted us from the time we have become aware of our thinking faculties. Horatio Alger stories celebrating the rags-to-riches rise of the quintessential common man who has as his reliable allies the weapons of integrity and hard work abound to such an extent that there is no longer a distinguishing line between celebrated fiction and clichéd facts.
In this visceral book, compiled as a series of essays penned by a father to his adolescent son, Ta-Nehisi Coates marvels in not just shattering the fatuous myth of “The American Dream”, but also in disemboweling it! This disembowelment is carried out neither with prejudice nor bias, but with a great element of pain and a sense of profoundness. Ta-Nehisi Coates lays out for his son, with ruthless candour and frightening clarity, the latter’s future in the country of his birth. This understanding of the future is helped by an assiduous explanation of the past and a clinical assessment of the present. As the past and the present coalesce, the future that the reader gets to see is not one of hope, but of caution mixed with an ample dose of pessimism.
The racial divide that gives the inexplicable right to a person belonging to a particular colour to demean, denigrate and derogate others envisaged to be of a ‘lesser’ breed has been mankind’s scourge from time immemorial. The author highlights the perils faced by the black population in America right from the time of the infamous Civil War that led to an abolition of slavery to the present where the unprovoked killings of black citizens such as Prince Carmen Jones, Trayvon Martin etc. brings into the open the plight of black and coloured people in the World’s Oldest Democracy.
Drawing from his experience of interacting with literary figures of repute who espoused the cause of their fellow Black Americans and also inspired by the deeds of legendary activists such as Malcom X, Ta-Nehisi Coates weaves a stunning tapestry of harsh reality. The smug veneer of sophistication and hypocrisy that has all along doubled up as a convenient façade for masking the truth is ripped out without sympathy or warning. The raw and festering wounds of isolation, discrimination and stereo typing are thrown open to the world at large to view, evaluate and judge;
Ta-Nehisi Coates writes neither with rigidity nor with laxity. He just lays out things for what they are. If cops from a particular county tailed an innocent black for hundreds of kilometers across multiple states before gunning him down a few meters from his own house, on trumped up charges that were not subject to even the most rudimentary corroboration, Coates just states it in a matter-of-fact manner. The reality is that no amount of careful dissection would uncover the truth and no degree of introspection would prevent unfortunate recurrences of such events.
This is a book that needs to be read by everyone who cares for the empowerment of humanity regardless of caste, creed, colour or country. Most importantly it needs to be read by all those in power who in spite of having taken an oath of allegiance to protect the meek and carry out their duties with dignity and impartiality seem to forget their very vows when it comes to dealing with their fellow citizens who are the ‘children of a lesser God’.
“Between the World an Me” – A gaping chasm that needs immediate filling!