Ta-Nehisi Coates: 'Racism is a physical experience for black people'

Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates's deeply felt message to his son about what it means to be black in America today.
Ta-nehisi Coates gives his best advice to his son in an open letter-turned-book about being a black man in American society today. (Ta-nehisi Coates)

Against the backdrop of deeply rooted racial tensions in the United States — flaring up once again with the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling at the hands of police — Ta-Nehisi Coates is passing hard-earned wisdom on to his teenage son, Samori.

Coates's lessons are bound together in a book-length open letter, Between the World and Me. It is an urgent and inspired reflection on what it means to be a black man in contemporary American society; one that the New York Times calls "essential, like water or air." 

In a conversation from the best of q, the celebrated essayist joins Shad to discuss the personal experiences that fuel his sharp commentary, the physical and psychological fear that black Americans carry, and the infuriating convenience of forgetting the lessons of history. 

*This interview originally aired in July 2015

WEB EXTRA | Coates delivered several powerful statements in today's interview. Here are a few that stood out to us.