What happens when Coates takes Samori to the movies?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Between the World and Mewas published in 2015 by the famous contemporary African American journalist and author Ta-Nehisi Coates . The book came to be in the form a letter to Coates' then-fifteen year old son Samori. The narrative of the book/letter is essentially Coates being straightforward in relating...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Between the World and Me was published in 2015 by the famous contemporary African American journalist and author Ta-Nehisi Coates. The book came to be in the form a letter to Coates' then-fifteen year old son Samori. The narrative of the book/letter is essentially Coates being straightforward in relating his own experience of being black in America, including his youth in 1980s Baltimore, and losing a friend who became a fatal victim of police brutality.

Some time after Coates moved his family to New York City, he took an almost five year old Samori to a screening of the movie Howl's Moving Castle. A white woman became impatient with waiting for Samori to move off of an escalator, and pushed the boy. Coates perceived that this is not something the woman would have done if she were not in the primarily white Upper West Side, and Samori were not a black boy. When Coates spoke to the woman harshly in defense of his son, a white man "spoke up in her defense," and he and Coates almost got into a fight. The white man threatened Coates with, "I could have you arrested!"

The quote below, taken from an article adapted from Coates' book before it was released (link below), demonstrates how shaken up Coates was by the incident:

I came home shook. It was a mix of shame for having gone back to the law of the streets, and rage—“I could have you arrested!” Which is to say: “I could take your body."

I have told this story many times, not out of bravado, but out of a need for absolution. But more than any shame I felt, my greatest regret was that in seeking to defend you I was, in fact, endangering you.

“I could have you arrested,” he said. Which is to say: “One of your son’s earliest memories will be watching the men who sodomized Abner Louima and choked Anthony Baez cuff, club, tase, and break you.” I had forgotten the rules, an error as dangerous on the Upper West Side of Manhattan as on the West Side of Baltimore. One must be without error out here. Walk in single file. Work quietly. Pack an extra No. 2 pencil. Make no mistakes.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team