Wow, is this guy pissed off. But he has a right to be. Those of us who grew up in and still live in Dick and Jane land have no idea what it's like for the folks we have intentionally barred from our Dream World. Mr. Coates tries to tell us.
From as early as he can remember, he was afraid for his body. It might be thugs on the streets when he was a young boy making his way to school. It might be his parents whose primary form of discipline was "the belt". Later on, the cops in Prince George's County who were notorious for stopping and occasionally killing black men (this long before we ever knew about Ferguson, MO; but operating similarly to Ferguson's oppressive pattern). He found occasional respite from this fear at The Mecca, Howard University, and later on, in Paris.
The book is written as a long letter to his son. It explains Coates' quest to understand the world around him and also to warn his son of the stacked deck facing all people of color in the U.S. Our country's wealth is basically derived from the plunder of black lives, first in the enslavement of black people, later in the Jim Crow system; then we had red lining, wherein "those people" were kept out of our "Dick and Jane" neighborhoods (but charged extra to live in their own); and so on to Ferguson, where "those people" were stopped, frisked and ticketed to make up for any short-falls in the city's budget. One could go on.
Interesting to me is that Coates grew up in Baltimore, a neighborhood not all that far from the fancy church I attended whilst growing up. I'm sure we drove past Coates' neighborhood pretty much every Sunday, albeit some 20 or 30 years before he was born. I had no clue about these issues going on. Out in my "Dick and Jane" land, life was idyllic. Yeah, our fancy church did some afternoon reading programs for the city kids, but we never had a clue as to how horrible their lives might be, nor how our lovely suburbs had, to some extent, been financed on the backs of "those unfortunate people". Gah!
But, I still don't know what to do, other than try to find ways to convince my ignorant in laws that their vote for Trump has already begun reversing the meager gains we've made over the past 40 or so years regarding civil rights. "We're gonna fix inner city crime by re-instituting "stop and frisk". I tell ya, it's going to be great. " Sheeesh!