OUAB has the pleasure of bringing renowned journalist and educator Ta-Nehisi Coates to campus on November 10th! Coates, a recent 2015 MacArthur Grant recipient for his autobiographical account Between the World and Me, writes an open letter to his son about the harsh realities of being Black in America today. He eloquently accounts how the shadows of segregation and slavery are very much alive today in the justice system and the value of the black body.
A national correspondent of The Atlantic, a literary and cultural commentary magazine, Coates has written numerous blogs and posts about topics about rap god Kanye West to superhero Spiderman. He has been able to masterfully articulate cultural, social and political issues, particularly as regards African-Americans through various media outlets (Check out his lit Twitter account @tanehisicoates).
His esteemed reputation hasn’t come from just elevated rhetoric on the Black diaspora but rather his personal, pragmatic narrative that he has humbly woven about his life as a black native of Baltimore. Thus is the motive for his book. Rather than invoke a renewed sense of power and worth in his now 15-year-old son, he focuses on telling his son the harsh realities of racial injustice in America. Coates pointedly tells his son that his life revolved around an implicit fear of the physical world and the start “American Dream.” His message to both his son and the world is to be weary of this Dream as this exact concept prevents people from seeing the disparity that lies between races and are at the expense of the black individual.
If it was up to Coates, it seems like he’d readily dissolve of the race, stating: “race is the child of racism, not the father.” However, as long as uncertainty, exclusionary principles, and a need to fulfill the American Dream are the common ideologies of Americans, the preservation of humanity will be at its ends. This is lost quite plainly in the destruction of black bodies from cases of teenage Trayvon Martin to Michael Brown. Ultimately, Coates wants to convey a message of continuing racial prejudice in America. It is as problematic as the Civil War era and pervades through much of society’s systems from higher education to the criminal justice system.
Interestingly enough, it’s apt to note Coates music taste. He frequently drops noted soul singers and hip-hop artists that either sing out of fear or resistance. Favorites include Tupac to Otis Redding to Ice Cube! Be sure to come out to the event (TODAY) and catch Coates discuss his new novel and his perspective on social norms in today’s society. Just remember, Black is Beautiful.
Written By: Jessica Shakesprere