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Between the World and Ta-Nehisi Coates

by | Sep 23, 2015 | Social Justice | 0 comments

In the book Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates shares a Humanist outlook shaped by his experiences as a black man. Coates wrote the book as a letter to his son and gives his personal take on many issues of interest to Humanists.

Coates makes clear that he was “raised conscious, in rejection of a Christian God” by saying things like “I could not retreat, as did so many, into the church and its mysteries…My parents rejected all dogmas…We would not kneel before their God…I believed that the void would not answer back.” In place of religion, Coates focuses on inquiry into his experiences saying, “I have searched for answers…The greatest reward of this constant interrogation, of confrontation with the brutality of my country, is that it has freed me from ghosts and girded me against the sheer terror of disembodiment.”

Rather than fighting against belief in God, Coates challenges the practices of naming groups and creating hierarchies that come from racism. He questions the “belief in pre-eminence of hue and hair, the notion that these factors can correctly organize a society and that they signify deeper attributes, which are indelible.” He questions the beliefs of those “brought up hopelessly, tragically, deceitfully, to believe that they are white.”

In contrast to many non-believers who call for free minds, Coates describes concerns for the freedom and safety of his body. Coates explains in depth the impact of racism on the body in a country with a history of “torture, theft, enslavement,” “looting and violence.”

Even while Humanists share a thoughtful approach to life, our different roles in society and personal experiences intersect with our Humanism in unique ways. As Coates shares his personal experiences of life as Humanist, Between the World and Me contributes to understanding our different needs among Humanists and to building community among Humanists.

Featured Image via Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan /

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