Who: Ta-Nehisi Coates and Khalil Gibran Muhammad
What: Live from the NYPL
Where: New York Public Library, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, Celeste Bartos Forum, Fifth Ave. at 42nd St., 917-275-6975
When: Tuesday, October 13, $25-$40, 7:00
Why: With Between the World and Me (Spiegel & Grau, July 2015, $24), Atlantic national correspondent Ta-Nehisi Coates has written one of the most important books ever about the history of institutionalized racism in the United States, an intimate, angry, and eye-opening treatise in the form of a cautionary tale being told to his adolescent son. Coates, who also wrote the 2008 memoir The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, holds nothing back in the new book, telling his son about the danger the black body is in every day in America. He writes about his childhood, the lessons he learned from his father, his experiences attending Howard University (which he calls the Mecca), and the tragedies involving Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Renisha McBride, John Crawford, and other African Americans killed by white police officers. Although the book is a mere 156 pages, it is a dense read; you’ll want to pore over passages again and again to get the full effect of what Coates is saying. And nearly every page is filled with quotes you’ll want to remember and share with others, stinging indictments of the current state of the nation. “Race is the child of racism, not the father. And the process of naming ‘the people’ has never been a matter of genealogy and physiognomy so much as one of hierarchy,” he explains early on. “Difference in hue and hair is old. 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 is a book that should be required reading in every high school in America. Coates will be at the New York Public Library on October 13 to discuss the state of racism and more with Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture director Khalil Gibran Muhammad.