During a time when I wanted to avoid greeting my own thoughts, I immersed myself in the writing of Ta-Nehisi Coates. His writing led me calmly, step-by-step into the body politic of the African-American male. I started with “The Case for Reparations” and then moved on to his two non-fiction works Between the World and Me and My Beautiful Struggle back to his longer Atlantic pieces on the Obamas and the black family. By unintentionally moving backward, I rewound the journey of how he became a writer.
His voice was fresh, written in a measured, well-tempered cadence, specifically his most recent works, but his writing was quietly calling upon a bold revolutionary awakening, a call for the Conscious citizen that took me by surprise during a time that has been blanketed over as post-racial. He made calls for a “post-racist” era stemming from a clear-eyed assessment of the real scape of the land.
As an atheist and a feminist, his truth came down to the black body, a body that had been exploited, ravaged and destroyed for centuries in the US and continues to be so. Coates calls this fact heritage and in a long beautiful letter to his son, tells him he has to deal with this head on, no dreaming, no illusions. In America, a father warns, possessing a black body makes holding onto life precarious but this doesn’t mean you should stop wearing hoodies or take pre-cautions in being who you are. Here was a writer developing a vocabulary to clarify truths while I had been immersed in click-bait theatrics.