More than a century ago, the writer, historian, sociologist and civil rights activist W. E. B. Du Bois wrote about the unasked question that followed him everywhere: how does it feel to be a problem?
Zadie Smith asks whether the discourse about privilege still applies in the same way when we consider the suffering of individuals.
Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn suggests that evil is not something manifested by wicked people, rather it perpetuates with the conventions that we absorb from childhood.
Gwendolyn Brooks' Boy Breaking Glass looks at the creative imperative and the drive towards expression in a boy with curtailed options. Dedicated to the writer Marc Crawford who asked Brooks to write a poem about inequality, the images she uses are detractive and dissonant - the hole in the glass filled with the contrasting black and white objects.
James Baldwin describes his own coming of age and awakening to spiritual and political consciousness as beginning with the revelation of sin: 'I became, during my fourteenth year, for the first time in my life, afraid—afraid of the evil within me and afraid of the evil without.'
In this excerpt from an article published prior to the release of Between the World and Me, Coates talks about his childhood in West Baltimore. He describes the gap he felt between his own world and the world he saw through the TV set, as well as the perplexity and disingenuity of being fed a stream of non-violent role models at school.