25. Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates (Aug 30)
Considering the fact that I count myself as ‘from Baltimore’, even though I spent my childhood outside of the city, and all of the things going on in Baltimore and the national news lately, this book was (IS) a must-read.
There is a huge problem in America, and it’s been there since the beginning. It’s something that ‘people who consider themselves to be white’ never see, never notice, and probably never think about. Living in a city like Baltimore, you have no choice but to think about it, or notice how it manifests itself, regardless of the color of your skin.
I’m not sure if reading this now was a good thing or a bad thing. With everything that happened in Baltimore still fresh in my mind, it was good to read now. Going through my own issues as a female foreigner in Japan, maybe it was a good time, maybe it was a bad time. I was already angry, but this has made me angrier.
Angry for the lives people are forced to live, angry at the stereotypes and ‘the wall in their minds’, angry at oppression, whether it be at the hands of every person living off and benefitting from white privilege in the US, or the men who run everything in Japan, angry at myself for not trying harder.
The phrase ‘be twice as good’ applies to and is used by so many people. As a woman, I’ve been living with that phrase my entire life. I have to be twice as good as a man doing my job to get any notice. I actually didn’t know it was something that was spoken by black parents to their children as well. It makes sense it would be. However, reading about the fear for the safety of one’s body, this is something I can completely understand. ALL women are told, from a young age, not to ‘ask for it’. As if we ever would.
I’m not sure I can compare being a woman to Ta-Nehisi and everyone else’s struggle, but I can say that I understand in my own way. I could never claim to understand this specific struggle, since I never lived it, and only got to witness it as an observer. I can say, however, that I’ve always tried to be a part of the solution, rather than a part of the problem.
I grew up in a predominantly white area, in which racism was rampant and outspoken. It was easy to choose a side. Moving to Baltimore city, I got to experience so many different types of people, and I’m thankful for that. If I had stayed in my hometown, my mind might have turned out to be just as closed as the people who remain there today.
Ta-Nehisi is right when he says ‘every group has a different struggle’. Living here in Japan, people of color have a different but sometimes similar issue, as do foreigners from any country, in varying degrees. Hearing the ways some people in Japan talk about Chinese people, or ‘the Nicaraguans’ is nauseating. Seeing how westerners are fetishized and categorized is cause for concern. Here, maybe, I don’t have to be afraid of how people might try to take away my body, but I am acutely aware of being ‘kept down’.
Definitely read this book. Give it to your friends, your parents, and anyone from another country who wants to know ‘what’s wrong with America’. Here’s a start.