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Ta-Nehisi Coates Quotes
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Ta-Nehisi Coates Quote: “I had dreams back then. Big dumb dreams. Dead and gone.” “And what do you dream of now?” she asked. “After what I just came up from?” I said. “Breathing. I just dream of breathing.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates Quote: “But a great number of educators spoke of “personal responsibility” in a country authored and sustained by a criminal irresponsibility. The point of this language of “intention” and “personal responsibility” is broad exoneration. Mistakes were made. Bodies were broken. People were enslaved. We meant well. We tried our best. “Good intention” is a hall pass through history, a sleeping pill that ensures the Dream.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates Quote: “But race is the child of racism, not the father. And the process of naming “the people” has never been a matter of genealogy and physiognomy so much as one of hierarchy. Difference in hue and hair is old. But the belief in the preeminence of hue and hair, the notion that these factors can correctly organize a society and that they signify deeper attributes, which are indelible – this is the new idea at the heart of these new people who have been brought up hopelessly, tragically, deceitfully, to believe that they are white.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates Quote: “No matter was the professional talkers tell you, I never met a black boy who wanted to fail.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates Quote: “Disembodiment is a kind of terrorism, and the threat of it alters the orbit of all our lives and, like terrorism, this distortion is intentional.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates Quote: “I spent years developing a career, acquiring assets, engaging responsibilities. And one racist act. It’s all it takes.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates Quote: “Americans deify democracy in a way that allows for a dim awareness that they have, from time to time, stood in defiance of their God.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates Quote: “When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates Quote: “The question is not whether Lincoln truly meant “government of the people” but what our country has, throughout its history, taken the political term “people” to actually mean.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates Quote: “The crews, the young men who’d transmuted their fear into rage, were the greatest danger. The crews walked the blocks of their neighborhood, loud and rude, because it was only through their loud rudeness that they might feel any sense of security and power.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates Quote: “Here is what I would like for you to know: In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body – it is heritage.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates Quote: “When our elders presented school to us, they did not present it as a place of high learning but as a means of escape from death and penal warehousing.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates Quote: “We could not get out. The ground we walked was trip-wired. The air we breathed was toxic. The water stunted our growth. We could not get out. A year after I watched the boy with the small eyes pull out a gun, my father beat me for letting another boy steal from me. Two years later, he beat me for threatening my ninth-grade teacher. Not being violent enough could cost me my body. Being too violent could cost me my body. We could not get out.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates Quote: “They were utterly fearless. I did not understand it until I looked out on the street. That was where I saw white parents pushing double-wide strollers down gentrifying Harlem boulevards in T-shirts and jogging shorts. Or I saw them lost in conversation with each other, mother and father, while their sons commanded entire sidewalks with their tricycles. The galaxy belonged to them, and as terror was communicated to our children, I saw mastery communicated to theirs.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates Quote: “But the Levittowns were, with Levitt’s willing acquiescence, segregated throughout their early years. Daisy and Bill Myers, the first black family to move into Levittown, Pennsylvania, were greeted with protests and a burning cross. A neighbor who opposed the family said that Bill Myers was “probably a nice guy, but every time I look at him, I see $2,000 drop off the value of my house.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates Quote: “The galaxy belonged to them, and as terror was communicated to our children, I saw mastery communicated to theirs.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates Quote: “It must have been around that time that I discovered an essay by Ralph Wiley in which he responded to Bellow’s quip. “Tolstoy is the Tolstoy of the Zulus,” wrote Wiley. “Unless you find a profit in fencing off universal properties of mankind into exclusive tribal ownership.” And there it was. I had accepted Bellow’s premise.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates Quote: “This need to be always on guard was an unmeasured expenditure of energy, the slow siphoning of the essence.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates Quote: “But now I understand the gravity of what I was proposing – that a four-year-old child be watchful, prudent, and shrewd, that I curtail your happiness, that you submit to a loss of time. And now when I measure this fear against the boldness that the masters of the galaxy imparted to their own children, I am ashamed.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates Quote: “I knew that Prince was not killed by a single officer so much as he was murdered by his country and all the fears that have marked it from birth.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates Quote: “I didn’t always have things, but I had people – I always had people.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates Quote: “You have been cast into a race in which the wind is always at your face and the hounds are always at your heels. And to varying degrees this is true of all life. The difference is that you do not have the privilege of living in ignorance of this essential fact.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates Quote: “You are the bearer of a body more fragile than any other in this country. What I want you to know is that this is not your fault, even if it is ultimately your responsibility.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates Quote: “And I saw that what divided me from the world was not anything intrinsic to us but the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named us matters more than anything we could ever actually do. In America, the injury is not in being born with darker skin, with fuller lips, with a broader nose, but in everything that happens after.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates Quote: “But sitting in that garden, for the first time I was an alien, I was a sailor – landless and disconnected. And I was sorry that I had never felt this particular loneliness before – that I had never felt myself so far outside of someone else’s dream.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates Quote: “We have made something down here. We have taken the one-drop rules of Dreamers and flipped them. They made us into a race. We made ourselves into a people. Here.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates Quote: “The destroyers will rarely be held accountable. Mostly they will receive pensions.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates Quote: “I appear before you this evening as a thief and a robber,” Frederick Douglass told his audiences. “I stole this head, these limbs, this body from my master, and ran off with them.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates Quote: “And still I urge you to struggle. Struggle for the memory of your ancestors. Struggle for wisdom. Struggle for the warmth of The Mecca. Struggle for your grandmother and grandfather, for your name. But do not struggle for the Dreamers. Hope for them. Pray for them, if you are so moved. But do not pin your struggle on their conversion. The Dreamers will have to learn to struggle themselves, to understand that the field for their Dream, the stage where they have painted themselves white, is the deathbed of us all.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates Quote: “Even the Dreamers, lost in their great reverie, feel it, for it’s Billie they reach for in sadness, and Isley they hum in love, and Dre they yell in revelry, and Aretha the last sound they hear before dying.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates Quote: “I was learning the craft of poetry, which really was an intensive version of what my mother had taught me all those years ago – the craft of writing as the art of thinking. Poetry aims for an economy of truth – loose and useless words must be discarded, and I found that these loose and useless words were not separate from loose and useless thoughts.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates Quote: “In the 1920s, Jim Crow Mississippi was, in all facets of society, a kleptocracy.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates Quote: “The pursuit of knowing was freedom to me, the right to declare your own curiosities and follow them through all manner of books. I was made for the library... The library was open, unending, free.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates Quote: “Should assaulting an officer of the state be a capital offense, rendered without trial, with the officer as judge and executioner? Is that what we wish civilization to be?”
Ta-Nehisi Coates Quote: “The question is not whether Lincoln truly meant “government of the people” but what our country has, throughout its history, taken the political term “people” to actually mean. In 1863 it did not mean your mother or your grandmother, and it did not mean you and me. Thus America’s problem is not its betrayal of “government of the people,” but the means by which “the people” acquired their names.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates Quote: “Soft or hard, love was an act of heroism.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates Quote: “They made us into a race. We made ourselves into a people. Here.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates Quote: “I wanted to pursue things, to know things, but I could not match the means of knowing that came naturally to me with the expectations of professors. The pursuit of knowing was freedom to me, the right to declare your own curiosities and follow them through all manner of books. I was made for the library, not the classroom. The classroom was a jail of other people’s interests. The library was open, unending, free.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates Quote: “I did not tell you that it would be okay, because I have never believed it would be okay. What I told you is what your grandparents tried to tell me: that this is your country, that this is your world, that this is your body, and you must find some way to live within the all of it.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates Quote: “Mistakes were made. Bodies were broken. People were enslaved. We meant well. We tried our best. “Good intention” is a hall pass through history, a sleeping pill that ensures the Dream.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates Quote: “The Earth is not our creation. It has no respect for us. It has no use for us.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates Quote: “The need to forgive the officer would not have moved me, because even then, in some inchoate form, I knew that Prince was not killed by a single officer so much as he was murdered by his country and all the fears that have marked it from birth.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates Quote: “And no one would be brought to account for this destruction, because my death would not be the fault of any human but the fault of some unfortunate but immutable fact of “race,” imposed upon an innocent country by the inscrutable judgment of invisible gods. The earthquake cannot be subpoenaed. The typhoon will not bend under indictment.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates Quote: “But having been down, and having seen my share of those who are up, I tell you, Robert Ross, I would live down here among my losses, among the muck and mess of it, before I would ever live among those who are in their own kind of muck, but are so blinded by it they fancy it pure. Ain’t no pure, Robert. Ain’t no clean.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates Quote: “Keep your end of the yard clean and leave the justice to the Lord.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates Quote: “The plunder of black life was drilled into this country in its infancy and reinforced across its history, so that plunder has become an heirloom, an intelligence, a sentience, a default setting.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates Quote: “I should not mistake her calm probing for the absence of anger.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates Quote: “Never forget that we were enslaved in this country longer than we have been free.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates Quote: “The masters could not bring water to boil, harness to horse or strap their own drawers without us. We were better than them. We had to be. Sloth was literal death for us, while for them it was the whole ambition of their lives.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates Quote: “Everything that was the past seemed to be another life. There was before you, and then there was after, and in this after, you were the God I’d never had. I submitted before your needs, and I knew then that I must survive for something more than survival’s sake. I must survive for you.”
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