Between the World and Me: 10 Quotes From an Honest Conversation About Racism

Although an individual perspective of systemic racism often gets lost in abstractions, Between the World and Me tells Coates’ experience with systemic racism.

Diversity Non-Fiction Recommendations

Ta-Nehisi Coates is the author of Between the World and Me, which is a 2015 book in which Coates writes directly to his son about systematic racism. The book details Coates’ life growing up in Baltimore, his college life at Howard University, and through the current social tension exacerbated by police brutality. 



This book shines a bright light on not only the problems that black Americans face, but also on the role that all Americans play in contributing to these problems. In 2015, this book won the National Book Award for nonfiction. 

We have gathered 10 quotes from this eye-opening book that will send you on a run to the nearest book store to find a copy of your own.




On Police Brutality

“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.”

“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.”

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



On The American Dream

“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.”

“I am convinced that the Dreamers, at least the Dreamers of today, would rather live white than live free.”

“We are captured, brother, surrounded by the majoritarian bandits of America. And this has happened here, in our only home, and the terrible truth is that we cannot will ourselves to an escape on our own.”

“And this revolution has freed the Dreamers to plunder not just the bodies of humans but the body of the Earth itself. The Earth is not our creation. It has no use for us. And its vengeance is not the fire in the cities but the fire in the sky.”




On the black body and black power

“Why–for us and only us– is the other side of free will and free spirits and assault upon our bodies?”

“Black life is cheap, but in America black bodies are a natural resource of incomparable value.”

“This power, this black power, originates in a view of the American galaxy taken from a dark and essential planet.”


Between the World and Me is the type of book that creates an honest discourse surrounding systemic racism. It tells the story of the individual perspective that often gets lost in the abstractions of a problem so widespread. This book is a must-read for anti-racism activists, from its beautiful language and imagery to its lessons that can be learned.