Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book “Between the World and Me” was written as a letter to his teenage son. The message was clear: The White power structure destroys Black bodies like a force of nature and there is no escape.
Coates attempted to make his point with a story about a college classmate that was shot and killed by a police officer. (Research shows this officer was rogue.) But Coates’ tale was inconsistent with his theme of perpetual White destruction, because the police officer in question was Black and the incident occurred in a relatively affluent Black-majority area governed by Blacks. (The Washington City Paper covered this incident in 2000. The headline said: Black victim, Black cop, Black county.)
But the bigger problem was how Coates turned this incident into an example of White destruction of the Black male body. Law professor Randall Kennedy was perplexed by the way Coates presented this police shooting. In his review of Coates’ book, Kennedy wrote, “After pointing out (that the officer was Black) Coates proceeds to discuss the case as if it was a simple replication of more familiar scenarios in which it is a White cop perpetrator who does the killing.”
Coates dismissed the Black racial factors of this particular case when he wrote in his book, “The dream of acting White, of talking White, of being White, murdered (his classmate) as sure as it murders Black people in Chicago with frightening regularity.”
Another critic of Coates’ book accused Coates of suggesting that the shooting occurred because the Black officer was thinking White. In other words, the culprit wasn’t the rogue cop, it was the Black officer’s “White thoughts,” which connects this police shooting to Coates’ theme of the White destruction of Black bodies.