3. Ta-Nehisi Coates

3. In Between the World and Me, Coates writes a series of letters to his teenage son, explaining the systems of racism that currently function in America and what it means to grow up as a young black person today. The book won the 2015 National Book Award and generated rich discussions across the country. Coates has long been direct and urgent in his writings on race. His 2014 essay, “The Case for Reparations,” asks: Are black people not worthy of some compensation for hundreds of years of enslavement and disenfranchisement? Arguing that America was built on the back of black bodies, he says, “An America that asks what it owes its most vulnerable citizens is improved and humane. An America that looks away is ignoring not just the sins of the past but the sins of the present and the certain sins of the future. More important than any single check cut to any African American, the payment of reparations would represent America’s maturation out of the childhood myth of its innocence into a wisdom worthy of its founders.” It is indicative of (slowly) changing social opinions that Coates and his ideas attained the #1 spot on the New York Times Bestseller List last year. Coates is speaking loudly, and America is listening.

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