I’ve been a fan of TNC for a while, and I finally got a chance to read Between the world and me on a recent plane trip. I told myself early on that I wouldn’t highlight powerful passages, because the prose is so taut. There are no wasted words, and every sentence packs a punch.
I’ve put some of the sections I highlighted below. Suffice to say that this is a powerful book, and one that’s very much worth reading. I’d put it at the top of every list.
Perhaps being named “black” had nothing to do with any of this; perhaps being named “black” was just someone’s name for being at the bottom, a human turned to object, object turned to pariah.
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. Perhaps our triumphs are not even the point. Perhaps struggle is all we have because the god of history is an atheist, and nothing about his world is meant to be. 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.
A society, almost necessarily, begins every success story with the chapter that most advantages itself, and in America, these precipitating chapters are almost always rendered in the singular action of exceptional individuals. “It only takes one person to make a change”, you are often told. This is also a myth. Perhaps one person can make a change, but not the kind of change that would raise your body to equality with your countrymen.
And still you are called to struggle, not because it assures you victory but because it assures you an honorable and sane life.
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.
The changes have awarded me a rapture that comes only when you can no longer be lied to, when you have rejected the Dream.
Her disposition toward life was that of an elite athlete who knows the opponent is dirty and the refs are on the take, but also knows the championship is one game away.