Between the World and Me

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Samori is the son of Ta-Nehisi Coates and Kenyatta Matthews, and is 15 years old at the time the book is written. The book is addressed to him, and although he does not play a very active role within the narrative, Coates characterizes him as curious and sensitive, with a strong sense of justice.

Samori Coates Quotes in Between the World and Me

The Between the World and Me quotes below are all either spoken by Samori Coates or refer to Samori Coates . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
African-American Family and Heritage Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Spiegel & Grau edition of Between the World and Me published in 2015.
Part 1 Quotes

Son,
Last Sunday the host of a popular news show asked me what it meant to lose my body. The host was broadcasting from Washington, D.C., and I was seated in a remote studio on the far west side of Manhattan. A satellite closed the miles between us, but no machinery could close the gap between her world and the world for which I had been summoned to speak.

Related Characters: Ta-Nehisi Coates (speaker), Samori Coates
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

The opening makes it clear that the book will take the form of an extended letter from Coates to his son, Samori. Coates’ account of his experience speaking on the news shows introduces many of the themes that will be of central importance within the narrative. Firstly, he writes that the host of the news show asks him to explain “what it meant to lose my body.” This unusual phrasing immediately establishes the significance of the black body within the book, and also emphasizes the fact that the host is asking Coates a deeply personal question (even if she is perhaps not aware that she is doing so).

This quotation also contains a reference to the book’s title when Coates mentions the “gap between her world and the world for which I had been summoned to speak.” The host’s world is what Coates will come to describe as the Dream—the world of whiteness, prosperity, security, and a false, mythologized understanding of American history. The world on behalf of which Coates has been asked to speak is the world of black people, and arguably also the violent truth of America beneath the myth of the Dream. Although these two worlds exist side by side—Coates illustrates their proximity through the metaphor of the satellite—the gulf between them consists of a block in communication, experience, and understanding.

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All our phrasing—race relations, racial chasm, racial justice, racial profiling, white privilege, even white supremacy––serves to obscure that racism is a visceral experience, that it dislodges brains, blocks airways, rips muscle, extracts organs, cracks bones, breaks teeth. You must never look away from this. You must always remember that the sociology, the history, the economics, the graphs, the charts, the regressions all land, with great violence, upon the body.

Related Characters: Ta-Nehisi Coates (speaker), Samori Coates
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:

Coates has continued to explain his theory of race and racism, pointing out that white identity has shifted over time based on the particular social dynamics of the era. The whole idea of whiteness in the first place depends on the violent rejection and destruction of blackness, and in this passage Coates urges Samori (and thus the reader) to pay attention to the physical element of this destruction.

Although Coates does not object to the study and discussion of race through social sciences and data, he seems concerned that focusing too much on these methodologies allows people to forget the lived reality of racism as a bodily experience. While urging his son to think of graphic descriptions of physical violence may seem alarming, throughout the book Coates shows that this attention to visceral experience is necessary in order to cut through the soothing myths of the Dream.

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. And knowing this, knowing that the Dream persists by warring with the known world, I was sad for the host, I was sad for all those families, I was sad for my country but above all, in that moment, I was sad for you.

Related Characters: Ta-Nehisi Coates (speaker), Samori Coates
Related Symbols: The Dream
Page Number: 11
Explanation and Analysis:

Coates has introduced the concept of the Dream, which is his interpretation of the American Dream, emphasizing the extent to which this idea is a willful delusion. Rather than being a morally admirable—or even morally innocent—quest for success and prosperity, the Dream is inherently built out of the exploitation and oppression of African Americans. In this passage, Coates explains that he does not resent the Dream outright, and has even longed to believe in it.

All “those families” he mentions are mostly white families who are able to go about their lives within the delusion of the Dream, never questioning its ethical validity or consequences. Yet even as Coates at times envies those who believe in the delusion, fundamentally he pities them—this is because, as Coates emphasizes throughout the book, no one can ever be free unless they see the world as it really is, rather than buying into myths. The Dream only exists by “warring with the known world,” and thus those who pursue the Dream cannot fully engage or be at peace with the world around them.

She said to me, “You take care of my daughter.” When she got out of the car, my world had shifted. I felt that I had crossed some threshold, out of the foyer of my life and into the living room. 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.

Related Characters: Ta-Nehisi Coates (speaker), Samori Coates , Kenyatta Matthews
Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis:

While Kenyatta is pregnant, her mother comes to visit Kenyatta and Coates in their barely furnished apartment in Delaware. At the end of her visit, Kenyatta’s mother urges Coates to “take care of my daughter,” and it is at this moment that Coates feels he is transformed from a man into a father. He describes this transformation as being akin to a religious awakening. Whereas before he had lacked the sense of guidance and purpose provided by religion, Samori becomes a God figure to him—not in the authoritarian or divine sense, but rather by giving Coates a reason to “survive.” Whereas Coates is not able to live with what he perceives to be the false dogma of religion, this connection to Samori is undeniably real, and thus forms a powerful shift in Coates’ attitude toward life.

Part 2 Quotes

The entire narrative of this country argues against the truth of who you are.

Related Characters: Ta-Nehisi Coates (speaker), Samori Coates
Page Number: 99
Explanation and Analysis:

Coates has been reflecting on the history of racism in America, and has noted that the Dreamers are committed to ignoring the reality of racist injustice even when the evidence stares them in the face. He then tells Samori that the American narrative “argues against the truth of who you are.” This is a deliberately abstract sentence, and thus could be interpreted in a number of ways. Coates is perhaps referring to the fact that, as he mentions earlier in the book, America was founded within the context of a system that dehumanized black people. Samori’s humanity itself is thus at odds with the historical narrative of the country in which he was born.

At the same time, Coates could also be referring to Samori’s youth. Many scholars of race have demonstrated that black children are routinely treated as adults, and that white people frequently overestimate the age of black children when interacting with them. On a more general level, black children are not afforded the same associations with “innocence” as white children (or even white adults) and are not protected from violence and injustice. The “truth,” of course, is that as a black boy Samori is innocent, even if he cannot (and should not) remain within the delusional innocence of the Dream.

Here is what I would like for you to know: In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body––it is heritage.

Related Characters: Ta-Nehisi Coates (speaker), Samori Coates
Page Number: 103
Explanation and Analysis:

Coates has been discussing the police murders of Eric Garner and others, and has explained to Samori that it does not matter whether the officer who murdered Garner intended to kill him or not. The officer’s individual intentions are irrelevant, because violence against black bodies is “traditional” within America, and this tradition does not consist of the acts of any one individual but instead of a much broader, more powerful legacy.

Within this sentence, two forms of “heritage” are at play. One on level, Coates discusses the “heritage” of anti-black violence that has existed for even longer than America itself. By adding the phrase “here’s what I would like for you to know,” however, Coates highlights another, oppositional form of heritage—the love and knowledge passed down from himself to his son, which directly contradicts the racist heritage of America.

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Samori Coates Character Timeline in Between the World and Me

The timeline below shows where the character Samori Coates appears in Between the World and Me. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1
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Coates begins the book in the style of a letter addressed to his son Samori. He explains that he was recently on a talk show where the host asked him... (full context)
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At the time Coates is writing, his son Samori is fifteen, and has recently witnessed the violent, racist deaths of Eric Garner, Renisha McBride,... (full context)
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That same weekend, Samori learns that the police officer who killed Mike Brown will not be punished, something that... (full context)
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...less afraid of “disembodiment,” but he still remains fearful. He recalls that when he was Samori’s age—fifteen—everyone he knew was black, and all of them were afraid. The narrative jumps back... (full context)
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...also recognizes it in his own father, Paul, who gave him money to help raise Samori and who also beat Coates as a child—beat him with a severity that showed he... (full context)
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Coates observes that Samori’s life is very different from his own. During Samori’s youth, the president is black, social... (full context)
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...education taught in elementary school because “they were essential to the security of my body.” Samori, on the other hand, does not have to spend as much time obsessively learning and... (full context)
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...explain that his only Mecca is Howard University. Coates’ father, Paul, worked there, many of Samori’s aunts and uncles attended, and it is where Coates and his wife Kenyatta met. Coates... (full context)
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...accompanied on this journey of self-discovery by his friend Ben, whom he refers to as Samori’s uncle and “a fellow traveler for life.” Coates continues to write “bad poetry” and read... (full context)
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The last time Coates falls in love at Howard is with Kenyatta, Samori’s mother. Kenyatta does not know her father, which is true of most people Coates knows.... (full context)
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When the baby is born, Coates and Kenyatta call him Samori, after Samori Touré, the Guinean Muslim cleric who fought French colonizers in the 19th century.... (full context)
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Coates encourages Samori to view American history realistically and to resist seeing enslaved people as “chapters in your... (full context)
Part 2
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Not long before Samori’s birth, Coates was pulled over by the Prince George’s County police. Coates is terrified, recalling... (full context)
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When Coates takes Samori into Manhattan, he feels “ill at ease,” aware of the fact that he will not... (full context)
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Coates recalls one incident in which he takes Samori to the movies on the Upper West Side. On the escalator, Samori is “moving at... (full context)
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Coates recalls a trip he took with ten-year-old Samori and his cousin to historical sites from the Civil War. Although the boys are young,... (full context)
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...the first place. Coates takes this as evidence that “historians conjured the Dream.” He wants Samori to be aware of the fact that it is “heritage” in America to “destroy the... (full context)
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...indulge a delusional worldview that blames black people for their own oppression. Coates apologizes to Samori because he “cannot make it okay,” but adds that he is “not that sorry.” Although... (full context)
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Coates tells Samori that he wanted his son to “grow into consciousness,” and recalls when he first took... (full context)
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The boy’s mother tells Samori: “You exist. You matter. You have value,” and Coates is glad she says it. He... (full context)
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That summer, Coates and Kenyatta take Samori to Paris, in the hope that they will give their son a life “apart from... (full context)
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...proving that “there was another way beyond the schools and the streets.” He remarks that Samori must find a different path, and notes that Samori enjoys “an abnormal amount of security”... (full context)
Part 3
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...away from Dr. Jones’ house thinking about this threat and the struggle that lies before Samori. He encourages Samori to struggle for himself, his family, and his ancestors, but not for... (full context)