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Between the World and Me Quotes From Ta-Nehisi’s Iconic Book

The experiences of Black America are as varied as any other community but these Between the World and Me quotes truly exemplify the complexities of Black fatherhood, education, racism and consciousness.

Ta-Nehisi Coates is one of the most talented writers of our modern era. His book Between the World and Me is an amazing piece of literature that paints a picture of the transformation of an African American boy into an African American man responsible for his own child.

The journey of fatherhood is depicted in a way that also accounts for all that shaped Coates into the man he became today. His upbringing in Baltimore, his time at Howard University, his career, mentors, and challenges that all added to his current self are intertwined with his future and past in a powerful message to his son.

Coates redefines black masculinity in a way that both empowers and enlightens. His passion and desire to support his son in a world where harsh realities manifest are truly inspiring.

Between the World and Me Quotes From Ta-Nehisi's Iconic Book

Don’t forget to also check out these Ta-Nehisi Coates quotes providing insight on race and culture.

Between the World and Me Quotes on Racism

1. “But race is the child of racism, not the father.” – Between the World and Me

2. “To yell “black-on-black crime” is to shoot a man and then shame him for bleeding.” – Between the World and Me

3. “America understands itself as God’s handiwork, but the black body is the clearest evidence that America is the work of men.” – Between the World and Me

4. “The destroyers will rarely be held accountable. Mostly they will receive pensions.” – Between the World and Me

5. “And the process of naming “the people” has never been a matter of genealogy and physiognomy so much as one of hierarchy.” – Between the World and Me

6. “It is not necessary that you believe that the officer who choked Eric Garner set out that day to destroy a body.” – Between the World and Me

7. Why were only our heroes nonviolent? I speak not of the morality of nonviolence, but of the sense that blacks are in especial need of this morality.” – Between the World and Me

8. “One cannot, at once, claim to be superhuman and then plead mortal error. I propose to take our countrymen’s claims of American exceptionalism seriously, which is to say I propose subjecting our country to an exceptional moral standard.” – Between the World and Me

9. “You still believe the injustice was Michael Brown. You have not yet grappled with your own myths and narratives and discovered the plunder everywhere around us.” – Between the World and Me

10. “Hate gives identity. The nigger, the fag, the bitch illuminate the border, illuminate what we ostensibly are not, illuminate the Dream of being white, of being a Man. We name the hated strangers and are thus confirmed in the tribe.” – Between the World and Me

11. “But the belief in the preeminence of hue and hair, the notion that these factors can correctly organize a society and that they signify deeper attributes, which are indelible—this is the new idea at the heart of these new people who have been brought up hopelessly, tragically, deceitfully, to believe that they are white.” – Between the World and Me

12. “But all our phrasing—race relations, racial chasm, racial justice, racial profiling, white privilege, even white supremacy—serves to obscure that racism is a visceral experience, that it dislodges brains, blocks airways, rips muscle, extracts organs, cracks bones, breaks teeth.” – Between the World and Me

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13. “All you need to understand is that the officer carries with him the power of the American state and the weight of an American legacy, and they necessitate that of the bodies destroyed every year, some wild and disproportionate number of them will be black.” – Between the World and Me

14. “You must never look away from this [racism]. You must always remember that the sociology, the history, the economics, the graphs, the charts, the regressions all land, with great violence, upon the body.” – Between the World and Me

15. “But the belief in the preeminence of hue and hair, the notion that these factors can correctly organize a society and that they signify deeper attributes, which are indelible—this is the new idea at the heart of these new people who have been brought up hopelessly, tragically, deceitfully, to believe that they are white.” – Between the World and Me

16. “And they are torturing Muslims, and their drones are bombing wedding parties (by accident!), and the Dreamers are quoting Martin Luther King and exulting nonviolence for the weak and the biggest guns for the strong.” – Between the World and Me

Between the World and me Quotes on Fatherhood

17. “To be black in the Baltimore of my youth was to be naked before the elements of the world, before all the guns, fists, knives, crack, rape, and disease.” – Between the World and Me

18. “Black people love their children with a kind of obsession. You are all we have, and you come to us endangered.” – Between the World and Me

19. “All my life I’d heard people tell their black boys and black girls to “be twice as good,” which is to say “accept half as much.” – Between the World and Me

20. “Marriage was presented to us as a shield against other women, other men, or the corrosive monotony of dirty socks and dishwashing.” – Between the World and Me

21. “I have raised you to respect every human being as singular. And you must extend that same respect into the past.” – Between the World and Me

22. “I remember being amazed that death could so easily rise up from the nothing of a boyish afternoon, billow up like fog.” – Between the World and Me

23. “So I feared not just the violence of this world but the rules designed to protect you from it, the rules that would have you contort your body to address the block, and contort again to be taken seriously by colleagues, and contort again so as not to give the police a reason.” – Between the World and Me

24. “Before you, I had my questions but nothing beyond my own skin in the game, and that was really nothing at all because I was a young man, and not yet clear of my own human vulnerabilities.” – Between the World and Me

25. “She had wanted her son to stand for what he believed and to be respectful. And he had died for believing his friends had a right to play their music loud, to be American teenagers.” – Between the World and Me

26. “The truth of us was always that you were our ring. We’d summoned you out of ourselves, and you were not given a vote. If only for that reason, you deserved all the protection we could muster. Everything else was subordinate to this fact.” – Between the World and Me

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Between the World and Me Quotes on Consciousness

27. “I would not have you descend into your own dream. I would have you be a conscious citizen of this terrible and beautiful world.” – Between the World and Me

28. “I was a curious boy, but the schools were not concerned with curiosity. They were concerned with compliance. I loved a few of my teachers. But I cannot say that I truly believed any of them.” – Between the World and Me

29. “You are growing into consciousness, and my wish for you is that you feel no need to constrict yourself to make other people comfortable.” – Between the World and Me

30. “My mother and father were always pushing me away from secondhand answers—even the answers they themselves believed. I don’t know that I have ever found any satisfactory answers of my own.” – Between the World and Me

31. “But every time I ask it, the question is refined. That is the best of what the old heads meant when they spoke of being “politically conscious”—as much a series of actions as a state of being, a constant questioning, questioning as ritual, questioning as exploration rather than the search for certainty.” – Between the World and Me

Between the World and Me Quotes on Education

32. “Fully 60 percent of all young black men who drop out of high school will go to jail.” – Between the World and Me

33. “These were notes on how to write, and thus notes on how to think.” – Between the World and Me

34. Schools did not reveal truths, they concealed them. Perhaps they must be burned away so that the heart of this thing might be known.” – Between the World and Me

35. “An unceasing interrogation of the stories told to us by the schools now felt essential.” – Between the World and Me

36. “Our teachers urged us toward the example of freedom marchers, Freedom Riders, and Freedom Summers, and it seemed that the month could not pass without a series of films dedicated to the glories of being beaten on camera.” – Between the World and Me

37. “When our elders presented school to use, they did not present it as a place of high learning but as a means of escape from death and personal warehousing.” – Between the World and Me

Between the World and Me Quotes on Slavery

38. “They were people turned to fuel for the American machine.” – Between the World and Me

39. “As slaves we were this country’s first windfall, the down payment on its freedom.” – Between the World and Me

40. “The enslaved were not bricks in your road, and their lives were not chapters in your redemptive history.” – Between the World and Me

41. “The point of this language of “intention” and “personal responsibility” is broad exoneration. Mistakes were made. Bodies were broken. People were enslaved. We meant well. We tried our best. “Good intention” is a hall pass through history, a sleeping pill that ensures the Dream.” – Between the World and Me

42. “Enslavement was not destined to end, and it is wrong to claim our present circumstance—no matter how improved—as the redemption for the lives of people who never asked for the posthumous, untouchable glory of dying for their children. Our triumphs can never compensate for this.” – Between the World and Me

43. “Slavery is the same woman born in a world that loudly proclaims its love of freedom and describes this world in essential texts. A world in which these same professors hold this woman a slave. Hold her mother a slave, her father a slave, her daughter a slave.” – Between the World and Me

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44. “Slavery is not an indefinable mass of flesh. It is a particular, specific enslaved woman whose mind is as active as your own, whose range of feelings as vast as your own, who prefers the way the light falls in one particular spot in the woods, who enjoys fishing where the water eddys in the nearby stream, who loves her mother in her own complicated way, thinks her sister talks to loud, has a favorite cousin, a favorite season, who excels at dressmaking, and knows inside herself that she is as intelligent and capable as anyone.” – Between the World and Me

Between the World and Me Quotes on Policing

45. “The problem with the police is not that they are fascist pigs but that our country is ruled by majoritarian pigs.” – Between the World and Me

46. “Each time a police officer engages us, death, injury, maiming is possible.” – Between the World and Me

47. “You may have heard the talk of diversity, sensitivity training, and body cameras. These are all fine and applicable, but they understate the task and allow the citizens of this country to pretend that there is real distance between their own attitudes and those of the ones appointed to protect them.” – Between the World and Me

48. “The truth is that the police reflect America in all of its will and fear, and whatever we might make of this country’s criminal justice policy, it cannot be said that it was imposed by a repressive minority.” – Between the World and Me

49. “And so to challenge the police is to challenge the American people who send them into the ghettos armed with the same self-generated fears that compelled the people who think they are white to flee the cities and into the Dream.” – Between the World and Me

50. “The need to forgive the officer would not have moved me because, even then, in some inchoate form. I knew that Prince was not killed by a single officer so much as he was murdered by his country and all the fears that have marked it from birth.” – Between the World and Me

What did you learn from these Between the World and Me quotes?

Between the World and Me is a worthwhile read for those outside of the African American community who are seeking more knowledge and awareness of the narratives that shape our reality.

It is a phenomenal book for Black fathers as it really sets the tone for what is needed to support our children. It is also an excellent book for those looking for a more concise understanding of why and how the legacy of slavery, the global implementation of white supremacy, and the powerful role our education system each plays in maintaining these artificial norms.

Coates does an amazing job of weaving historical context with modern conditions while expressing his need to share this knowledge on behalf of his son. This book reminds us of the importance of pursuing excellence for ourselves while we live for the sake of others.

Hopefully, these Between the World and Me quotes and lines can help you find solutions for any challenges in the way of your success.

Clifton Sankofa
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