Between the World and Me
by Ta-Nehisi Coates
So 2016 proved to be a bit of a wake-up call for me in terms of politics and social justice. We have some serious problems in the US, regarding unjust inequality of human respect and public safety in addition to inequalities of income, access to education, access to healthcare, and access to overall opportunities.
I’ve come to the realization that it’s a sign of just how sheltered I’ve been that 2016 was a wake-up call rather than just another demonstration of what the world can be like. It was time and past for me to expand my horizons and get out of my comfort zone.
Ta-Nehisi Coates is only a couple of years older than me and this book is about his experience with being black in a white society. I’m white in a white society and thus a lot of racial issues are nearly invisible to me. I am not at all the intended audience for this book: he writes it as a black man to his black son about his experience with the way their blackness is seen by society. It is beautifully written and it’s an honor to be be allowed to read this somewhat intimate letter from a father to his son about his fears and hurts and anger.
It reminded me of Why Are They Angry With Us?, another book I highly recommend, but while that book was academic and intended for a general audience, Between the World and Me is very personal and intended for a specific audience of one, possibly expanded to include all young black men.
I’m glad I listened to it as an audio book rather than trying to read it as text. Coates reads it himself, which I always appreciate in audio books. But the real benefit of audio books is that they don’t stop unless you actively push the pause button. I found it a difficult book to hear but that very difficulty is what makes it all the more important that I listen.
Captain America: Civil War
All three of us blog writers went to go see the third Captain America movie together, and I have thoughts. Actually, I had thoughts (concerns) before we even went. I didn’t follow the Civil War event in the comic books, but I knew the basic gist is that there is a growing political movement for putting superheroes under some kind of government control, and the Avengers become split between Iron Man supporting that movement, and Captain America against it.
I think it is a nice touch to make the most outwardly patriotic character still have concerns about political overreach, but I simply couldn’t wrap my mind around how Tony Stark, who wasn’t even willing to register his mechanical suit with the government in the first Iron Man movie, would take a pro-registration stance. In fact, I’d always thought Tony Stark sort of represented the classic Republican stance of financial independence, corporate freedom, and small government. It made me wonder if this movie would actually be a bit of a commentary on how the Republican Party itself has shifted in ideology.
And, then I saw the movie, and I’m even more confused. I wish I could have taken notes in the theater because I vehemently disagreed with basically everything that any of the characters said, and now I can’t actually remember any of the arguments. However, when trying to write this up, I tracked down some of the transcribed argument, and reading it didn’t make any more sense. It felt a little like when I was reading Atlas Shrugged, and the supposed ‘liberal’ characters made bizarre straw men arguments that I’d never heard an actual liberal make.
After much discussion with Rebecca, I think I have a basic grasp on the two sides, boiled way down and largely guesstimated from some very overwrought dialogue (clearly, this includes spoilers, but only for the most stupid and boring parts of the movie): Continue reading