“It’s worth thinking about the history of this country and the institutions that have built wealth through extraction of labor through black lives,” Ta Nehisi Coates said on the evening of Feb. 4. Thousands of students and Lane county residents gathered under the dome of Matthew Knight Arena to listen to the 2017 Ruhl Lecture.
Coates is a world renowned author, educator and journalist who writes from his perspective as a black man in today’s world.
Coates has published two books, his first being “The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood,” a memoir of his childhood growing up in Baltimore, Maryland, having a father in the Black Panthers movement, and the struggles with street crime he and his brother faced.
His newest book, “Between the World and Me,” brings to light the subjections blacks have faced throughout generations of mistreatment and abuse since the colonization of America.
Coates didn’t directly reference his latest book in the speech however he presented the research he did before he wrote it.
He opened his speech with an issue that resonated with the college audience. “University systems across America should spend some time talking about the extent of the wealth they have accumulated through black bodies,” Coates said.
Immediately after the statement, the crowd gave a standing ovation for about 30 seconds.
He used this example to segue into the main focus of his talk.
Coates took the audience through a history lesson of the black community’s influence in our country explained how American culture today could not have prospered as it has without slavery. He explains the reasons why blacks live the life they live today.
“I tell people all the time that in America, racism and white supremacy is actually in the constitution, it’s in our founding documents, it’s in our bones,” Coates said. Coates only spoke for about 36 minutes; however, he provided citizens and students with plenty of food for thought after he finished.