the weight of pretending pure

[An excerpt, a conversation, from a novel by Ta-Nehisi Coates about memory, connection and the heart of the Underground (Railroad)]:

“We can’t ever have nothing pure,” Robert said. “It’s always out of sorts. Them stories with their knights and maidens, none of that for us. We don’t get it pure. We don’t get nothing clean.”

“Yeah,” I said. “But neither do they. It is quite a thing, a messy dirty thing, to put your own son, your own daughter, to the Task.* Way I see it, ain’t no pure and it is we who are blessed, for we know this.”

” Blessed, huh?”

“Blessed, for we do not bear the weight of pretending pure. I will say that it has taken some time for me to get to that. Had to lose some folk and truly understand what that loss mean. But having been down, and having seen my share of those who are up, I tell you, Robert Ross, I would live down here among my losses, among the muck and mess of it, before I would ever live among those who are in their own kind of muck, but are so blinded by it they fancy it pure. Ain’t no pure, Robert. Ain’t no clean.”

  • Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Water Dancer

*Refers to owners who gave their own children, born to enslaved mothers, into slavery.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *