By Katherine Stark

On April 3, Ta-Nehisi Coates spoke at Michigan State. Coates is a renowned journalist, a national correspondent for The Atlantic, and an author. He’s written two books, Between the World and Me, and The Beautiful Struggle, and most recently, he’s been writing comics for the Marvel superhero Black Panther. His writing most often centers on the theme of race in America, specifically issues faced by the African American population.

I was introduced to Coates in a class I took last semester through RCAH, where his award-winning essay written for The Atlantic, “The Case for Reparations” was an early assigned reading. The article argues that the United States needs to engage in conversation about reparations to make up for the centuries of injustices committed against black people in America. I followed up by reading another class recommendation, Between the World and Me.  This book, written as a letter to his son as he grapples with his place as a young black man in the U.S., was probably the best book I read in the last year—I started marking spots I loved, and by the end my copy was overflowing with little pink tabs.

His writing combines thorough research about the history of race in the U.S. with human interest expertly—he often talks about personal experiences of himself and other individuals who have suffered because of institutional racism in America. His lecture, part of MSU’s World View Lecture Series, was as informational and moving as his written works. Hearing from such a prominent figure in the discussion of race in the U.S. was so important to me. Because the national climate is so contentious right now, his perspective is needed more than ever.