50 Between the World and Me Quotes With Page Numbers

This post shares the best Between the World and Me quotes with page numbers.

Between the World and Me explores the complex reality of being black in America through the lens of a deeply personal letter to his son.

Ta-Nehisi Coates reflects on his experiences, delving into racial injustices, historical legacies, and societal challenges that black individuals confront daily.

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Between the World and Me Quotes With Page Numbers 

“The question is not whether Lincoln truly meant “government of the people” but what our country has, throughout its history, taken the political term “people” to actually mean.”

~Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Chapter 1, Page 6

 

“At the onset of the Civil War, our stolen bodies were worth four billion dollars, more than all of American industry, all of American railroads, workshops, and factories combined, and the prime product rendered by our stolen bodies—cotton—was America’s primary export.”

~Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Chapter 1, Page 6

 

“But 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. 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.”

~Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Chapter 1, Page 7

 

“But race is the child of racism, not the father.”

~Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Chapter 1, Page 7

 

“Perhaps there has been, at some point in history, some great power whose elevation was exempt from the violent exploitation of other human bodies. If there has been, I have yet to discover it. But this banality of violence can never excuse America, because America makes no claim to the banal. America believes itself exceptional, the greatest and noblest nation ever to exist, a lone champion standing between the white city of democracy and the terrorists, despots, barbarians, and other enemies of civilization. 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. This is difficult because there exists, all around us, an apparatus urging us to accept American innocence at face value and not to inquire too much.”

~Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Chapter 1, Page 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.”

~Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Chapter 1, Page 8

 

“The destroyers will rarely be held accountable. Mostly they will receive pensions.”

~Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Chapter 1, Page 9

 

“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. You must never look away from this. 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.”

~Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Chapter 1, Page 10

 

“I did not tell you that it would be okay, because I have never believed it would be okay. What I told you is what your grandparents tried to tell me: that this is your country, that this is your world, that this is your body, and you must find some way to live within the all of it.”

~Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Chapter 1, Page 11

 

“And for so long I have wanted to escape into the Dream, to fold my country over my head like a blanket. But this has never been an option because the Dream rests on our backs, the bedding made from our bodies.”

~Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Chapter 1, Page 11

 

“America understands itself as God’s handiwork, but the black body is the clearest evidence that America is the work of men.”

~Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Chapter 1, Page 12

 

“But a society that protects some people through a safety net of schools, government-backed home loans, and ancestral wealth but can only protect you with the club of criminal justice has either failed at enforcing its good intentions or has succeeded at something much darker.”

~Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Chapter 1, Page 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. The nakedness is not an error, nor pathology. The nakedness is the correct and intended result of policy, the predictable upshot of people forced for centuries to live under fear.”

~Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Chapter 1, Page 17

 

“If the streets shackled my right leg, the schools shackled my left. Fail to comprehend the streets and you gave up your body now. But fail to comprehend the schools and you gave up your body later.”

~Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Chapter 1, Page 25

 

“Fully 60 percent of all young black men who drop out of high school will go to jail. This should disgrace the country. But it does not,”

~Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Chapter 1, Page 27

 

“Not being violent enough could cost me my body. Being too violent could cost me my body. We could not get out.”

~Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Chapter 1, Page 28

 

“I wassuch 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.”

~Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Chapter 1, Page 29

 

“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.”

~Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Chapter 1, Page 33

 

“It does not matter that the “intentions” of individual educators were noble. Forget about intentions. What any institution, or its agents, “intend” for you is secondary. Our world is physical. Learn to play defense—ignore the head and keep your eyes on the body. Very few Americans will directly proclaim that they are in favor of black people being left to the streets. But a very large number of Americans will do all they can to preserve the Dream. No one directly proclaimed that schools were designed to sanctify failure and destruction. But a great number of educators spoke of “personal responsibility” in a country authored and sustained by a criminal irresponsibility. 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.”

~Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Chapter 1, Page 33

 

“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. 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.”

~Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Chapter 1, Page 34

 

“Black is beautiful—which is to say that the black body is beautiful, that black hair must be guarded against the torture of processing and lye, that black skin must be guarded against bleach, that our noses and mouths must be protected against modern surgery. We are all our beautiful bodies and so must never be prostrate before barbarians, must never submit our original self, our one of one, to defiling and plunder.”

~Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Chapter 1, Page 35

 

“My work is to give you what I know of my own particular path while allowing you to walk your own.”

~Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Chapter 1, Page 38

 

“White America” is a syndicate arrayed to protect its exclusive power to dominate and control our bodies. Sometimes this power is direct (lynching), and sometimes it is insidious (redlining). But however it appears, the power of domination and exclusion is central to the belief in being white, and without it, “white people” would cease to exist for want of reasons.”

~Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Chapter 1, Page 42

 

“I was made for the library, not the classroom. The classroom was a jail of other people’s interests. The library was open, unending, free.”

~Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Chapter 1, Page 48

 

“I was learning the craft of poetry, which really was an intensive version of what my mother had taught me all those years ago—the craft of writing as the art of thinking. Poetry aims for an economy of truth—loose and useless words must be discarded, and I found that these loose and useless words were not separate from loose and useless thoughts.”

~Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Chapter 1, Page 51

 

“You must resist the common urge toward the comforting narrative of divine law, toward fairy tales that imply some irrepressible justice. The enslaved were not bricks in your road, and their lives were not chapters in your redemptive history. They were people turned to fuel for the American machine. 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.”

~Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Chapter 1, Page 70

 

“The enslaved were not bricks in your road, and their lives were not chapters in your redemptive history. They were people turned to fuel for the American machine.”

~Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Chapter 1, Page 70

 

“So you must wake up every morning knowing that no promise is unbreakable, least of all the promise of waking up at all. This is not despair. These are the preferences of the universe itself: verbs over nouns, actions over states, struggle over hope.”

~Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Chapter 1, Page 71

 

Chapter 2

“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. 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. The abuses that have followed from these policies—the sprawling carceral state, the random detention of black people, the torture of suspects—are the product of democratic will. 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. The problem with the police is not that they are fascist pigs but that our country is ruled by majoritarian pigs.”

~Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Chapter 2, Page 78

 

“I believed, and still do, that our bodies are our selves, that my soul is the voltage conducted through neurons and nerves, and that my spirit is my flesh.”

~Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Chapter 2, Page 79

 

“The problem with the police is not that they are fascist pigs but that our country is ruled by majoritarian pigs.”

~Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Chapter 2, Page 79

 

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

~Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Chapter 2, Page 82

 

“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. 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.” These words would be spoken with a veneer of religious nobility, as though they evidenced some unspoken quality, some undetected courage, when in fact all they evidenced was the gun to our head and the hand in our pocket. This is how we lose our softness. This is how they steal our right to smile.”

~Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Chapter 2, Page 90

 

“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.” These words would be spoken with a veneer of religious nobility, as though they evidenced some unspoken quality, some undetected courage, when in fact all they evidenced was the gun to our head and the hand in our pocket. This is how we lose our softness. This is how they steal our right to smile. No one told those little white children, with their tricycles, to be twice as good. I imagined their parents telling them to take twice as much. It seemed to me that our own rules redoubled plunder. It struck me that perhaps the defining feature of being drafted into the black race was the inescapable robbery of time, because the moments we spent readying the mask, or readying ourselves to accept half as much, could not be recovered. The robbery of time is not measured in lifespans but in moments. It is the last bottle of wine that you have just uncorked but do not have time to drink. It is the kiss that you do not have time to share, before she walks out of your life. It is the raft of second chances for them, and the twenty-three-hour days for us.”

~Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Chapter 2, Page 90

 

“It struck me that perhaps the defining feature of being drafted into the black race was the inescapable robbery of time, because the moments we spent readying the mask, or readying ourselves to accept half as much, could not be recovered. The robbery of time is not measured in lifespans but in moments. It is the last bottle of wine that you have just uncorked but do not have time to drink. It is the kiss that you do not have time to share, before she walks out of your life. It is the raft of second chances for them, and twenty-three-hour days for us.”

~Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Chapter 2, Page 91

 

“Black people love their children with a kind of obsession. You are all we have, and you come to us endangered. I think we would like to kill you ourselves before seeing you killed by the streets that America made. That is a philosophy of the disembodied, of a people who control nothing, who can protect nothing, who are made to fear not just the criminals among them but the police who lord over them with all the moral authority of a protection racket.”

~Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Chapter 2, Page 92

 

“It is not necessary that you believe that the officer who choked Eric Garner set out that day to destroy a body. 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.”

~Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Chapter 2, Page 103

 

“Here is what I would like for you to know: In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body—it is heritage.”

~Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Chapter 2, Page 103

 

“The two great divisions of society are not the rich and poor, but white and black,” said the great South Carolina senator John C. Calhoun. “And all the former, the poor as well as the rich, belong to the upper class, and are respected and treated as equals.” And there it is—the right to break the black body as the meaning of their sacred equality. And that right has always given them meaning, has always meant that there was someone down in the valley because a mountain is not a mountain if there is nothing below.*”

~Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Chapter 2, Page 104

 

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

~Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Chapter 2, Page 107

 

“I would not have you descend into your own dream. I would have you be a conscious citizen of this terrible and beautiful world.”

~Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Chapter 2, Page 107

 

“I am sorry that I cannot make it okay. I am sorry that I cannot save you — but not that sorry. Part of me thinks that your very vulnerability brings you closer to the meaning of life, just as for others, the quest to believe oneself white divides them from it. The fact is that despite their dreams, their lives are also not inviolable. When their own vulnerability becomes real — when the police decide that tactics for the ghetto should enjoy wider usage, when their armed society shoots down their children, when nature sends hurricanes against their cities — they are shocked in a way that those of us who were born and bred to understand cause and effect can never be. And I would not have you like them. You have been cast into a race in which the wind is always at your face and the hounds are always at your heels. And to varying degrees this is true of all life. The difference is that you do not have the privilege of living in ignorance of this essential fact. I am speaking to you as I always have — as the sober and serious man I have always wanted you to be, who does not apologize for his human feelings, who does not make excuses for his height, his long arms, his beautiful smile. You are growing into consciousness, and my wish for you is that you feel no need to constrict yourself to make other people comfortable. None of that can change the math anyway. I never wanted you to be twice as good as them, so much as I have always wanted you to attack every day of your brief bright life in struggle. The people who must believe they are white can never be your measuring stick. I would not have you descend into your own dream. I would have you be a conscious citizen of this terrible and beautiful world.”

~Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Chapter 2, Page 107

 

“Black-on black crime’ is jargon, violence on language, which vanishes the men who engineered the covenants, who fixed the loans, who planned the projects, who built the streets and sold red ink by the barrel.”

~Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Chapter 2, Page 110

 

“To yell “black-on-black crime” is to shoot a man and then shame him for bleeding.”

~Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Chapter 2, Page 111

 

“Disembodiment is a kind of terrorism, and the threat of it alters the orbit of all our lives and, like terrorism, this distortion is intentional.”

~Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Chapter 2, Page 114

 

“Then the mother of the murdered boy rose, turned to you, and said, “You exist. You matter. You have value. You have every right to wear your hoodie, to play your music as loud as you want. You have every right to be you. And no one should deter you from being you. You have to be you. And you can never be afraid to be you.”

~Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Chapter 2, Page 113

 

“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.”

~Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Chapter 2, Page 131

 

Chapter 3

“The forgetting is habit, is yet another necessary component of the Dream. They have forgotten the scale of theft that enriched them in slavery; the terror that allowed them, for a century, to pilfer the vote; the segregationist policy that gave them their suburbs. They have forgotten, because to remember would tumble them out of the beautiful Dream and force them to live down here with us, down here in the world. I am convinced that the Dreamers, at least the Dreamers of today, would rather live white than live free. In the Dream they are Buck Rogers, Prince Aragorn, an entire race of Skywalkers. To awaken them is to reveal that they are an empire of humans and, like all empires of humans, are built on the destruction of the body. It is to stain their nobility, to make them vulnerable, fallible, breakable humans.”

~Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Chapter 3, Page 143

 

“She alluded to 12 Years a Slave. “There he was,” she said, speaking of Solomon Northup. “He had means. He had a family. He was living like a human being. And one racist act took him back. And the same is true of me. I spent years developing a career, acquiring assets, engaging responsibilities. And one racist act. It’s all it takes.”

~Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Chapter 2, Page 145

 

“And still I urge you to struggle. Struggle for the memory of your ancestors. Struggle for wisdom. Struggle for the warmth of The Mecca. Struggle for your grandmother and grandfather, for your name. But do not struggle for the Dreamers. Hope for them. Pray for them, if you are so moved. But do not pin your struggle on their conversion. The Dreamers will have to learn to struggle themselves, to understand that the field for their Dream, the stage where they have painted themselves white, is the deathbed of us all.”

~Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Chapter 3, Page 151

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