Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The existentialism of Between the World and Me

Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me (2015) is almost an existentialist manifesto. Here are a few quotes:
“Hate gives identity. The nigger, the fag, the bitch illuminate the border, illuminate what we ostensibly are not, illuminate the Dream of being white, of being a Man. We name the hated strangers and are thus confirmed in the tribe.”

“There is no them without you, and without the right to break you they must necessarily fall from the mountain, lose their divinity, and tumble out of the Dream. And then they would have to determine how to build their suburbs on something other than human bones, how to angle their jails toward something other than a human stockyard, how to erect a democracy independent of cannibalism.”

“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, are built on the destruction of the body. It is to stain their nobility, to make them vulnerable, fallible, breakable humans.”
Coates’s Dream is Sartre’s and Beauvoir’s bad faith. It’s Baldwin’s innocence. And his vision of living and struggling authentically is an existentialist one. The book contributes to the long and great tradition of humanistic, atheistic political writing.

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