Winner of several awards and endorsed by Toni Morrison as “required reading,” this important book is about racial history in America. It is in the form of a visceral letter from father to son. Coates laments that the current racial climate is still one of fear, anger, and injustice. As a writer his response to the situation is to pick up the only weapon he knows how to use–a pen–and uses it eloquently and passionately. Many of us have heard that black mothers have to have “the talk” with their teenage sons…”in order to stay alive when you are young and black, you need to be ‘twice as good’ as anyone else.”
Coates writes about the hazards and hopes of black male life and in the letter to his son, tries to make him aware of the reality and the reasons for the current climate. His explanations are simple yet sobering. His conclusion is that nothing has yet changed since the days of slavery because black civilization as it was before their bodies were “transfigured into sugar, cotton, tobacco, and gold” has been destroyed. White civilization secured then by savage means, is still the heritage and history that blacks must live with despite their freedom. White domination and exclusion are still so sadly prevalent. In the climate of “us-them” prevalent around the world, in fresh clashes between white police and young blacks (violence is not new, it’s the cameras that are new), in terrorist attacks, in immigration issues, in a Republican hopeful building walls, and in Britain’s Brexit, this book is a poignant reminder that there is still much work to do in our world.
This is Part 1 of an interview with the author. There is a Part 2 and 3 as well.