The Dream Rests on Our Backs

“Here is what I would like for you to know: In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body — it is heritage,” writes Ta-Nehisi Coates in Between the World and Me, his 2015 book written as a letter to his son.

Thanks to Kate Gavino for the illustration below — she created author portraits with quotes for people who made recent donations to Black Visions Collective. It’s a nice way to raise funds for one of the organizations out there fighting against injustice and police brutality.

So many lines from Coates’ book are stuck in my head — it was hard to choose, but this one, in the beginning of the book, is so haunting and so powerful.

When the journalist asked me about my body, it was like she was asking me to awaken her from the most gorgeous dream. I have seen that dream all my life. It is perfect houses with nice lawns. It is Memorial Day cookouts, block associations, and driveways. The Dream is tree houses and the Cub Scouts. And for so long I have wanted to escape into the Dream, to fold my country over my head like a blanket. But this has never been an option, because the Dream rests on our backs, the bedding made from our bodies.

Published by Cheri Lucas Rowlands

I am an editor at Longreads. For over a decade, I've worked on curation, editing, and storytelling projects across Automattic, including

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