The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehesi Coates

When I, like everyone else, was reading Between the World and Me at the end of 2015, a friend of mine who works at our local Austin book store, Book People, told me that Coates' first memoir, The Beautiful Struggle, was also worth a try.

Uh, YEAH. I ate this book up in the way one does when one realizes one knows very little about the world, and that this will always be so. In this book, Coates is not the father shepherding the son, but the son being prepared for the cruel, chaotic and glorious world before him by a charismatic and somewhat eccentric Black Panther of a father. (Side note: The Black Panthers Vanguard of the Revolution documentary is available in full on YouTube.)

Learning about Coates' early education made me realize how small my own education had been. Yes, I learned about the civil rights movement, American heroes like Martin Luther King Jr.,  but I knew nothing about the Black Panthers, about fear on my morning walk to school, about needing to '(wo)man up' when I was only a child, doing as children do.

Fuck what you have heard or what you have seen in your son. He may lie about homework and laugh when the teacher calls home. He may curse his teacher, propose arson for the whole public system. But inside is the same sense that was in me. None of us ever want to fail. None of us want to be unworthy, to not measure up.
— Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Beautiful Struggle

America is strange in the way it incites violence by expecting it. Civil movements based on peace always seem to turn to war, self-fulfilling prophecy of the leaders who feared taking steps toward equality. And, when we finally took a step forward in 2008, when this step left some people behind and resentful, we faced another cruel backlash in this ongoing civil rights movement with the rise of Trump as President.

Where others saw America in lovely columns, marvels of engineering, and refined democrats, Dad saw only masks concealing the heralds of woe.
— Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Beautiful Struggle

When I was reading another notable book, The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, I asked a friend, what would you if you had been in Texas during this time? Her response was, "The times have not changed as much as you think. The better question (and by far the only reasonable question in this dialogue) is what will you do now?"

Micaela NeumannComment