Between the World and Me
Identifying With The Author in Between The World And Me
A big piece of perusing and encountering Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates rotates around the capacity to identify with Coates. Coates’ motivation at the back of composing data lies in the ongoing flood of law requirement mercilessness on African American individuals, such as the homicides of Trayvon Martin, John Crawford. This particular inspiration of Coates’ is facilitated by his situation as a dad, which shows itself since the guide accepting structure as a notice to his adolescent tyke.
Coates shares stories, both individual and other’s happening to other people, to get the reader to see the world through his very own eyes, and help the reader understand what it’s like to be Black in the United States of America. Coates invests an extraordinary idea of energy discussing his time at Howard School, his younger years, his kid, and his perspectives on late killings. This thought of making substance remarkable can be used by Coates with his procedure of making the perusers to encounter a distressing and tragic truth of unjustified homicides depicted in an unpleasant manner not regularly observed on TV or in papers. This strategy used by Coates raises the perusers have hell with not understanding probably some sort of level.
In the long run, Coates’ talk of far reaching stories, and the way this individual paints those in the tales as people, as opposed to features, makes his contention increasingly powerful, in light of the fact that he makes the perusers to sympathize with him, yet likewise those associated with his accounts, for example, Knight in sparkling defensive layer Jones or his very own child. In the depiction of Ruler Jones, Coates expressed ‘His face was lean, darker, and excellent, and over that face, I saw the open, simple grin of Sovereign Carmen Jones’ (77).
In the event that Coates had staying out such contacting and instinctive records of numerous occasions, Coates’ motivation of tutoring would fall hard of hearing on numerous ears, particularly white perusers. In any case, something Coates either neglects to acknowledges or disregards is the way that compassion needs to moves both courses in his composition. Coates’ failure to confine from his own self and step far from his, albeit advocated, outrage conceivably harms his validity. The measure of resentment in his talk and absence of individual identifying dissuade a few perusers from endeavoring to keep a receptive outlook or pursue Coates’ point of view.
When composing the contrast among highly contrasting youngsters, Coates referenced ‘Nobody told those little white kids, with their tricycles, to be twice as great. I thought their folks guiding them to accept twice to such an extent’ (91). Coates’ threatening vibe towards kids and his suppositions of how white guardians bring up their youngsters can just make offense, in view of how genuine parenthood is to generally guardians. Coates tends to make speculations about white individuals all in all, all while requesting white individuals to quit making speculations about dark individuals overall. This sort of twofold standard can masterminded Coates’ logical circumstance up for disappointment, since it gives Coates’ notoriety space to seem off base and his contention too much one-sided.
When talking about President Obama, Rollert raises Obama’s writing in The specific Daringness of Expectation, explicitly, ‘to contemplate race, at that point, requires we all to see the world on a split presentation … to recognize the transgressions of the prior and the difficulties of the present without getting to be captured in pessimism or despondency.’ Coates’ ‘injury of dreadfulness’ harms his capacity to keep up a non-critical viewpoint, which is apparent in his record of the exercises on 9/11 by expressing ‘my heart was cool. I had awful occurances all my own.’ Besides, his defamation of ‘the ludicrous display of caution hails, the machismo of fire fighters, the spent saying. Truly it all.’ Despite the fact that Coates could reserve each option to be furious, his anger should never mean trivializing such a tremendous occasion in US history that such a significant number of individuals feel exceptionally about. His pessimism towards 9/11, alongside how regularly he condemns the value of the Assembled announces Dream, may obstruct the capacity of certain guests to understand Coates, on the grounds that they themselves may start to feel shelled.
Coates’ entire reason depends truly on his perusers’ ability to sympathize. Coates wants every one of his guests to feel for your pet, since it is his most obvious opportunity with regards to persuading his guests of his discussion. At whatever point Coates starts to base the line of what precisely is and isn’t hostile, this influences his odds of every one of his perusers sympathizing with him. Helpfully, it has a case of how this negative talk used by Coates impacts a peruser’s viewpoint. In The New York Times article ‘Tune in to Ta-Nehisi Coates While White’, writer David Streams states ‘Yet the conveying challenge of your book is your dismissal of the American Dream.’ Rivulets’ own association with the American Dream, explicitly the movement of his predecessors, prompted his discontent with Coates’ perspective on the Fantasy. In any case, this leads back to the contention that Coates’ book is a book that requires compassion and an isolates viewpoint. Streams’ article’s title first indicates this slip-up, on the grounds that Coates did not need this to book to be perused ‘while white’. In Rollert’s ‘Sympathy is a Benefit?’, Rollert contends ‘A limit with respect to sympathy depends not just on an eagerness to venture into the shoes of someone else, yet the capacity to step far from yourself.’ Rivulets not just has a reluctance to venture into the shoes of Coates because of Coates’ pessimism, yet additionally is reluctant or unfit to segregate from his very own self. This failure prompts Rivulets confounding the general purpose of Coates’ guide, going insofar as to be bigot himself.
The Problem Of Racism in Between The World And Me
The Nostalgic Perspective of History
In Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, the author begins the novel by recalling an instance in which a talk show host asked what it meant to “lose his body”. Unbeknownst to the host, this particular question was a tired one. Coates expressed disappointment at this disconnect of not only the host, but also the audience because to him, the answer to the question could be blatantly found in U.S. history. In order to explain this complex concept of one’s body, Coates structures the novel in the form of a letter to his son, Samori, by reflecting upon his own past experiences.
The problem with most (white) Americans is that they look back at history in an idealized way, a perspective that makes them more comfortable. However, nostalgia is not history. Coates states that this nostalgic perspective of history is harmful because it facilitates the injustices from history to persist which, in turn causes harm to black bodies. After the murder of Mike Brown, Samori was deeply effected by this injustice, but Coates made no effort to console his own son because he believed that comforting him with false optimism would be worse than facing reality.
The Childhood of an Afro-American Kid
Coates first looks back at his difficult childhood in Baltimore. He described the teenagers in his neighborhood as “extravagant” in the way they dressed and acted; all of this was to hide their own vulnerability and acted as a distraction from the real dangers of white America. In Coates’ memory of Baltimore, parents would beat their kids, the education system was immensely flawed, and the police did nothing to protect African American children. As a result, these children lived in fear because all the authority figures in their lives did not protect them the way they are supposed to. Drugs, violence, or crime was used as a means of being in control of themselves and escape from their unwarranted fear. Similarly, the Civil Rights Movement generation of African Americans experienced constant fear from not only white segregationists, but also the presence of the United States government looming over them.
Although laws and acts were passed to supposedly protect the rights of all citizens regardless of their skin color, the U.S. government did little to nothing to enforce these laws; progress was achieved by the strength, number, and perseverance of the black community. This lack of governmental support all throughout history has hindered African Americans from achieving the Dream, as Coates describes it. The Dream is to have the ideal American life: white picket fences, cherry pies, and the 4th of July or dignity, social status, security, and even privilege.
Consequently, a lot of Civil Rights activists began to reject Martin Luther King Jr.’s doctrine of nonviolent action because they grew tired of the constant humiliation and violence endured by African Americans and became frustrated with the movement’s stunted progress. Thus, notable figures such as Stokely Carmichael and Malcolm X started the Black Power movement. As a man who grew up only knowing crime, poverty, racism, and violence, the Dream was essentially unattainable for Coates and many other African Americans like him. That is why Coates really resonated with Malcolm X’s realistic beliefs of having the right to protect their body. Although some may argue that Malcolm X’s words were bleak and uncomfortable, Coates associated his honesty with intellectual freedom.
When pursuing the Dream, it is always at the expense of minorities, specifically African Americans. Although there is nothing inherently wrong with wanting opportunities, safety, and happiness, Coates warns that racial inequality in the U.S. makes these desires not entirely innocent. When Coate’s wife, Kenyatta, was pregnant with Samori, he worried about the security of his wife and son; they had very little money and did not have any furniture. When Kenyatta’s mother visits them, she urges Coates to take care of Kenyatta. At this moment, Coates realized he not only had to look after his own body, but also his family’s. Coates recalls a time when Samori was a toddler and was walking slowly. Suddenly, a white woman pushed him physically and verbally to go faster. Horrified by this woman’s actions of potentially hurting his son’s body, Coates verbally retaliates. Forgetting that he was no longer in Baltimore or Howard University, these cutting words left his mouth without hesitation, and the result of this could have been bad as he was threatened to be arrested by a white man, another threat towards his body. The statement “I could have you arrested!” almost acts as a violation of his own body; this stranger was threatening him to take and destroy his body like many others in the past.
Throughout American history, the bodies of African Americans have always been threatened whether it was by slave owners, white supremacists, the government, or total strangers; all of these people are “the Dreamers”. Even if the comment by “the Dreamer” was not racially charged, the history of the plunder of black bodies will always remain and it will be taken in that context. This event was another pivotal moment for Coates, as a father, because he will not always be there for Samori to protect his body.
Perhaps that is why Coates refuses to raise Samori as innocent as possible. As Samori grew older, Coates could see that he enjoyed the abnormal amount of security of his body. This unusual security inadvertently leads to Samori’s emotional reaction to the acquittal of Mike Brown’s murderer. This response was exactly what Coates did not want to happen, but it did. Although it may have taken this one incident to make Samori realize the true nature of the Dream, these crimes are universal and incessant.
Coates also reminisces about somebody whom he admired at Howard University. His name was Prince Jones. According to Coates, Prince lived up to his name; he was a born-again Christian, handsome, warm, and generous. Even though Coates did not know him very well, his death made an extreme impact on his life. On his way to see his fiancée, Prince Jones was murdered by a police officer. The officer claimed that Prince attemped to run him over with his car but it was revealed that he was known to be dishonest and incompetent; additionally, he was looking for a suspect that did not look like Prince. In the end, the officer was acquitted. Coates ponders what would have happened if he had been in Prince’s place. Prince was the model of an upstanding person from an affluent family. Unfortunately, these respectable characteristics were not enough to save him from his unjust death.
In Part III of the book, Coates visits Prince’s mother, Dr. Mabel Jones. Like Prince, Dr. Jones was a respectable person. She had humble beginnings but her ferocious determination allowed her to attend Louisiana State University on a full scholarship, served in the navy, and become a radiologist. However, she had her experiences with racism. These opportunities allowed her to protect Prince’s body as a child and even provide him with various opportunities. But her attempts at giving Prince’s body security failed. Like the fate of Solomon Northup from 12 Years a Slave, the free black man who was abducted and sold into slavery, Prince’s life was treated like something disposable by “the Dreamers.”
My Opinion on the Book
As I read Between the World and Me, I also listened to the audiobook narrated by Coates. I did not expect to enjoy this book as much as I did due to the subject of the writing. What I mean by subject is that I thought I would not enjoy it because I would not be able to relate to the author. And I didn’t. Coates provided great insight on what it meant to be a black child, father, and man in America. I also had no idea what it meant to “protect your body” and how much it affected everyday life for African Americans. Although the end of the book was left with very little optimism, I think it is more of a letter to Samori about determination of truth rather than hope. Even after the death of Mike Brown, Coates refused to comfort Samori in order to show him the truth of what it means to be African American (though this truth is dismal). The death of Prince Jones was a moment that really struck me as unbelievable. I was in awe and horror at the complete neglect of Prince’s murder and the lack of persecution of the officer. In class, we learned that essentially, African Americans could never “catch a break”. Immediately after slavery was abolished, African Americans were left without reparations, faced Jim Crow laws, suffered the most during the Great Depression, and experienced years of segregation and discrimination. All of these events history set the foundation for the African American struggle of protecting their bodies.
The Summary Of Between The World And Me By Ta-Nehisi Coates
The Dangerous Life in PG County
Coates found himself a father at twenty-four years old. He named his son after Samori Touré, a man who fought against French colonial rule in West Africa.
After dropping out of Howard, he moved to Prince George’s (PG) County in Maryland. PG County was (and still is) notoriously dangerous. The police officers were known to use excessive force, and despite many FBI investigations, the violent were rarely reprimanded and almost never brought to justice. One night, Coates was pulled over by a patrolman who asked for his ID; though the officer let him go, that didn’t always alleviate the fear Coates felt. PG County policemen were unstoppable and could kill him at any moment.
The Death of Prince Jones
That September, Coates read an article in The Washington Post about yet another police shooting: a friend of his, Prince Jones, was shot dead by an officer who claimed that Jones had tried to run him off the road — but Jones had done no such thing. Earlier that day, the police officer had been tasked with finding a five foot four, 250-pound African American drug dealer. Six foot three and 211 pounds, Jones didn’t fit the description in the slightest; yet the officer followed him all the way from PG County to Northern Virginia and shot Jones just yards from his girlfriend’s home. This devastated Coates. He began researching the history of police brutality in PG County. He grew angrier and angrier. Finally, he moved his family to New York City just two months before September 11, 2001.
Coates in New York
In New York City, Coates slowly established himself as a writer. He worked as a freelancer, earning very little money, gradually building up a portfolio while his wife supported the family. One day, at a screening of Howl’s Moving Castle, a New Yorker became impatient and pushed Coates’s son, rushing to get by. Coates nearly got into a physical fight defending his son. This was dangerous, and a white man even threatened to call the cops on Coates. From this, Coates learned that New York City, despite all its diversity, was still a white man’s town. Harlem was being gentrified. White people lived the Dream, pushing black families out of their neighborhoods.
Around that same time, Coates became obsessed with the Civil War. He took his son to see Petersburg, Shirley Plantation, and other Civil War sites. He understood that the South, like America itself, was built on the backs of slaves who picked cotton and fueled the economy. He saw the lasting effects of this injustice in everything: in his childhood in Baltimore, on his son’s face when Eric Garner was killed, and in the anger and shame of a man being evicted from his home in Chicago. Coates shadowed the sheriff’s officers as they conducted the eviction. He saw the devastation himself and understood that the same force that killed Prince Jones was demarcating and policing the ghetto: it was the Dream and the Dreamers maintaining their illusion of perfection by keeping black people down.
Coates in France
Inspired by his wife’s photos of Paris, Coates and his family traveled to France, where he found that the Dream didn’t apply France didn’t have the same dark history as the United States (though it did, of course, engage in the slave trade). In Paris, Coates didn’t feel the pressure of being a black man in danger, a victim of the Dream. Part 3 In the final section of the letter, Coates recounts his visit to Dr. Mable Jones, Prince’s mother, a kind, reserved woman who rose up out of poverty and gave her children everything: fancy cars, family vacations to Europe, excellent educations. She told Coates that Prince went to private schools his entire life; he made friends wherever he went and could probably have gotten into an Ivy League school. He chose Howard against her wishes. Coates writes, ‘I thought of the loneliness that sent [Prince] to The Mecca, and how The Mecca, how we, could not save him, how we ultimately cannot save ourselves.’ The Dream is still strong, and it has empowered the Dreamers to plunder not just black bodies but the earth itself. Coates ends the letter with twin offerings, one of hope and one of fear: the hope that one day Dreamers will wake up and become aware of the destruction they have caused, and the old fear of the ghettos that reminds Coates of how vulnerable his black body is. He writes all of this to his son in the hope that it will help Samori grow into a man who understands the world around him.
The Experience Of Black People in Between You And Me
The Question during the Talk Show
Coates begins with directly addressing his son Samori, in which he describes a time in which he was speaking on a talk show and was asked to describe the meaning behind the term “what it means to lose his body” (5). The book allows us to see what it was like being a black man who was trying to live an American life, and I would agree with Coate’s description of a black person’s life in America at that time.
The primary theme in the book is bringing attention to the experiences that black bodies in America had to endure and had no choice in becoming accustomed to; a system of culture and injustice which was inherently intent on controlling the black bodies. Coate’s moral senses are that the dichotomy between the host’s world and the world as Coates sees it is the reason why he believes he was “summoned” to speak (5). Coates believed that the host was asking why Coates felt that the “white American progress” was created by looting and violence (6). In Coate’s defense, he feels that the answer to this question is already embedded within the white American history, and I would agree with Coates that as a result of the “whiteness” that America was displaying resulted in the growth of America.
The Dream Built Through the Oppression
Coates goes on to say that white Americans worship democracy, however, in the past, this has allowed the Americans to infringe on the very democratic values through the “torture, theft, and enslavement” although this event wasn’t just confined to America (6). For Coates, the American devotion of “democracy” to the “people of the government” is that the problem lies with “the people of the government” trying to figure out exactly what is meant by “people”. Part of this problem is that “people” feel that they understood the meaning of race, believing that it is a “defined, indubitable feature of the natural world” (7). For Coates, race is the child of racism, and a process of naming “the people”, however, this definition did not include black people (7). What most American white people have failed to realize is that their achievement to their whiteness came through the “slavery, rape, sale of children, free labor and pillaging of life”, all for the “person” to be denied their right to govern their own body (8).
Coates’ son Samori is 15 years old during this writing and Coates acknowledges that his son has witnessed violent and racist deaths of the black people around him (9). These killings have shown that the white American police loathe the black people around them and it was clearly shown that no matter what, black people of America will endure unavoidable racism and that black people’s children would not be protected in the same manner as those of the “white” communities in America.
Soon after the host asks Coates about hope, it is at this time that Coates realizes he has failed in conveying his message (10). Coates observes white families out in the community after leaving the TV studio, although Coates feels sad, he finds himself realizing that the white families are living in a “gorgeous dream” (11). For Coates that dream has all the desirable features of the American culture which only the “white” society could achieve because the dream was been built through the oppression of the black people and the white people could not connect the relationship between the dream (the oppression) and reality of which the dream was created on.
Samori soon learns that the killers will not be punished for the killing of Mike Brown, in which Coates isn’t surprised however Samori is. Coates chooses not to comfort his son because Coates feels that this would provide a sense of false hope to Samori in which Coates feels giving false optimism is wrong and that Samori needs to understand the reality of what the life of a black person is.
Coates elucidates a contradiction within the identity of the American. For Coates, the American dream is linked to freedom. Coates believes that one can only truly be free if they conclude to believe in the myths of the American dream, individuality and religion. This raises the question of what does being free mean? For Coates the true meaning of freedom is an unanswerable definition, however, just the journey in trying to answer this question would be a form of freedom all in itself. Coates scrutinizes all kinds of different paths that black people had to endure throughout his letter to his son. The risks and fear of being black alone in America had put individuals in situations that required them to conceal their vulnerabilities, therefore creating a situation of a role of toughness and fighting just to hide their vulnerability of being a black body in white American society (15).
The Atmosphere of Constant Fear
This was further ingrained into Coates by his father Paul. The history of the beating Coates endured from his father, along with his generosity for helping raising Samori was a way in which many black families attempted to protect their children from the danger of the white world around them including the anti-black violence from the police. Coates acknowledged that subjecting their black children to harsh punishments didn’t mean that the parents loved their children any less, it was a way of keeping the black person in a state of constant fear, because all authorities that were created to protect and keep children safe were actually the very source of the violence itself and it surrounded them every day. Coates recalls, “My father was so very afraid. I felt it in the sting of his black leather belt … my father who beat me as if someone might steal me away because that is exactly what was happening all around us. Everyone had lost a child, somehow, to the streets, to jail, to drugs, to guns.” (15, 16) For Coates, his opinion of the education system that the black children were receiving from the Baltimore school system was just a way in which the “white” systems of authority were able to control and suppress the black children of the community. Therefore, in Coate’s opinion, the school system pretty much became a symbolic prison, which was put into place to keep the black child from growing and developing.
For Coates the escaping of the oppressive environment was unimaginable, and Coates reminds us just how America was in its restrictiveness and threats on the life of the black children. Coates addresses how the black community had been tortured by the hands of their oppressors the “white people”, and yet government officials had yet to take any accountability on their part. What seemed to start as slavery turned into a fear, a fear of being sold, a fear of being murdered, fear of being raped, which has ultimately transformed into a loss of identity and hopelessness. As Coates described, his brain was too preoccupied with fear and survival when it “should have been concerned with more beautiful things” (24), and his feelings of always having to protect his body which was an “unmeasured expenditure of energy, the slow siphoning of the essence” (90). He argued the “the dream” for White America is “their need to be white, to talk like they are white, to think they are white, which is to think that they are beyond the design flaws of humanity has done to the world” (146) is the very reason for the never-ending perspective of the black community, which has caused the black “bodies stowed away in prisons and ghettos” (151).
Coates realizes the pressure that his son Samori will be under just by being a young black person, and yet his dreams for the life of his son are fundamentally tarnished by his fears of what society or specifically the “white” person will demand from his son. Although Coates has fears about the future outcome of his son’s life in the world as Coates sees it, Coates does inspire Samori to love the world that he is in which will allow him to survive and flourish.
Coates does a great job of establishing himself within the walls of racial oppression of American society. How Coates describes the events of slavery, police brutality, education and even parenting of black children all within the elements of oppression, are very important lessons for us, as this has further our understanding of the identity of black people in the 21st century. As a result, our political, economic and cultural outcomes have been able to move beyond the typical stereotypes with having a better understanding of what it means to live in our current society as a black person.
Between the World and Me: a Poetic Analysis
TP-CASTT: Between the World and Me
Title: Upon reading the title, I interpreted it to mean that the poem would discuss secrets that a person had which only the world would know. It is a common idiomatic expression to say that your secrets are safe with different inanimate objects because they simply cannot tell anyone else yet it lifts the burden off of your chest quite a bit.
Paraphrase: I walk through the woods and stumbles upon a startling scene which comes between the present state of affairs and me. There is a skeleton on the ground, which is also burned along with the tree it crouches below. Clothing is scattered about and there is evidence of a man who once lived. I find myself peering into the life once lived. I see the bones come to life, to put on a play, a final act of the painful concluding moments of his acting career. I see the scene as though I was there; people come from all about as though it is a social gathering. I feel the hatred. They tear away my clothes and beat me pugnaciously. I screamed in agony but could not be heard for lack of care. I am feathered and tarred, humiliated, and my only relief is knowing death is finally near as I am doused in gasoline. They burn me but they do not know that they have truly set me free from this horrid world of pain and suffering. Now I lay here for all eternity under this tree, waiting for somebody to stumble upon me.
Connotation: The author creates a buildup of suspense within the first stanza through his use of phrases such as “stumbled suddenly upon the thing” and “stumbled upon it” rather than simply telling the reader what “it” was. This causes the reader to wish to continue and to find out what “it” was. Throughout the poem, the author takes care to describe his scene with the most rectifying imagery through phrases which includes “a design of white bones slumbering forgottenly upon a cushion of ashes” rather than simply stating “there was a skeleton which had been burned. The imagery in this poem adds the horrific scene being sculpted in the mind’s eye of the reader which helps convey the tragedy which took place. There is an allusion to a deity of some sort in the line “a charred stump of a sapling pointing a blunt finger accusingly at the sky” as though the gods were responsible for what had occurred. The author juxtaposes the scattered belongings of the victim “vacant shoe, empty tie, tipped shirt” with those of the onlookers “butt-ends of cigars and cigarettes, peanut shells, a drained gin-flask, and a whore’s lipstick” giving the first glimpse of the way in which the man was murdered, a social event. “The sun died in the sky” is the beginning of the gruesome description and signifies a changing point in the story. In the third stanza, the speaker becomes one with the deceased and begins to experience what occurred in the closing moments of his life. The fourth stanza brings to life the witnesses of the scene and embodies just how casually they were gathering to destroy a life, “the gin-flask passes from mouth to mouth, cigars and cigarettes glowed, the whore smeared lipstick red upon her lips.” In the final stanza of the poem the speaker experiences the tragedies of “battering my teeth into my throat,” “skin clung to the bubbling hot tar,” and “cooled by a baptism of gasoline.” These are all prime examples of the insightful imagery which the poet utilizes to convey the appalling scene to the reader. In the final moments of life, the poet demonstrates how helpless the victim was as he “clutched childlike” to “death” as he begged to be taken away from the pain.
Attitude: The poem begins in rather ebullient manner as the speaker wanders through a sunny day in the forest. However, it quickly takes a turn to become more macabre as it depicts the scene of the death and tragedy. Surprisingly, despite the tragedy, the speaker remains quite phlegmatic throughout the poem as he describes what is occurring but not in a vengeful or angry way. He is disgusted with the events but hardly shows it and prefers to allow the reader to simply gather the facts from their reading rather than attempting to force his own outlook on the calamity on them. The narrator being uninvolved emotionally leaves more room for the reader to become involved, allowing the poem to have a grander impact.
Shifts: There are two shifts in the poem. The first shift takes place after the first stanza when the “sooty details of the scene rose, thrusting themselves between the world and me” as the poem changes from a typical stroll through the wilderness to one of mystery. The next shift occurs in the third stanza going into the fourth as the speaker is so taken aback by the scene that he relives the memories of the final moments by becoming one with the skeleton.
Title: The title represents the scene which has so unexpectedly come between the speaker and what is currently happening in the world. He is now too preoccupied with the scene to pay any attention to the world around him.
Theme: The theme of the poem is that tragedy should not be a social gathering. The poet left out specific descriptions of who the deceased was so as to allow the message to be had by anyone who would read this poem, without bias. The world should not be accepting of lynching’s and death in the morbid way that it is currently.
TP-CASTT: The Fish
Title: I read the title of this poem to be an obvious indication that there would be some form of Man vs. Nature conflict within the poem. Furthermore, I imagined a particularly significant fish because it is not simply “a” fish, but rather “the” fish.
Paraphrase: I held the prize catch in my hands; he was truly defeated. The most sagacious fish of them all had fallen without a fight to my mighty fishing rod. The fish was obviously an elder and indubitably grander than most, he was simply done fighting. He had struggled all his life and now merely wanted to rest. He wore the bouts that he had won with the plethora of fisherman he had faced as though they were prizes, but ones which he no longer seemed to treasure as he once did. I felt a sense of accomplishment overwhelm me in that moment. However, upon looking around me, I realized that this sense of accomplishment was worthless when there was so much beauty to be had in my surroundings. The fish was not truly what I desired, so I released him.
Connotation: The author quickly sets up the scene of a man in a boat with his hands on his greatest prize in the first four lines of the poem. Then, suddenly, the poet throws a curveball into the mix by stating “he didn’t fight” which is incredibly abnormal for fish, especially one of such size and character. These two parts juxtapose the amazing accomplishment with the ease of which it was accomplished due to the willingness of the fish to be caught. The speaker then goes into immense detail and imagery about how the “brown skin hung like strips like ancient wall paper” and it possessed “frightening gills, fresh and crisp with blood.” Through the use of this imagery, similes, and much more the poet is able to depict to the reader the sagacity of the fish which has been caught and further the question of why the fish did not fight. The poet brings in the common idiomatic expression of “going into the light” signifying death in the line “it was more like the tipping of an object toward the light” as the fish ignores the fisherman to simply accept his finality as a reality and await his long deserved fate. The poet compares the fish’s many successful escape attempts to “medals with their ribbons frayed and wavering” in a simile which sets up the deeper meaning of the poem as being the fact that prizes are not all there is in life. The speaker is then enlightened by this fact, which allows him to feel the victory, not of catching the fish, but rather of having an epiphany that he was wasting his life chasing useless accomplishments. The last eight lines of the poem begin a new outlook for the speaker as he admires the world and the beauty around him, manifested in the form of a rainbow coming over all of the normal objects which are actually extraordinary. The entire poem is a type of bathos as the whole poem leads up to the short and simple line of “And I let the fish go” which is a large anticlimax, when looked at from a purely literal standpoint. However, when the deeper meaning is taken into account, the final line of the poem can be seen as the first action in a string of events which was cause by the epiphany which will forever change the fisherman’s life.
Attitude: The poem begins with an ignorant tone, one of shallow thinking and simple justification. However, the speaker is quickly awestruck by the sagacity of the fish which he has caught and is placed into somewhat of a spell of wonder at the wisdom behind the fish’s eyes. The poem quickly comes to a tone of realization and epiphany as the speaker becomes of aware of the false dreams he has been chasing uselessly all his life.
Shifts: There are three shifts in the poem. The first takes place in line five when the speaker realizes something strange is happening and states “He didn’t fight.” The following shift occurs at the point when the speaker begins to admire the fish for its wisdom and something different about its character, “I admired his sullen face.” The final shift occurs when “victory filled up the little rented boat.” However, this is not victory in the normal sense but a sense of knowing that he has truly learned something through this experience with the fish.
Title: The title now suggests an abnormally important fish which was able to change a man’s life.
Theme: The theme of this poem is that impressiveness is not everything in life and that simply seeking popular accomplishments all your life will leave you feeling as though your life was not full at the end of it, just as the fish feels. The author juxtaposes between the timeworn, experienced fish and the fledgling, fresh fisherman to emphasize this point by showing that the young may still realize this dilemma and avoid growing old without doing what is meaningful to them if the change their ways now.
A Comprehensive Analysis of Between the World and Me, a Book by Ta-Nehisi Coates
In Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Coates recounts his life in the United States to his son by providing him a letter in which he conveys how life is and the hardships faced when living in a black body. The overlying theme in the novel that portrays such a lifestyle is the disembodiment of African Americans through American social structure. American social structure causes blacks to live in fear and causes them to be skeptical of America. Being disembodied means to be detached from your own body. It causes individuals to feel stood against; to feel useless; to feel as if they are not a part of the world. By encompassing around the theme of disembodiment, Coates is able to show the destruction of the black community and teach his adolescent son the realities of being black in the United States. In this paper, I will be providing examples on how the black communities were disembodied through exploitation and how it led to their destruction.
American social structure has created fear to arise in black communities due to the injustices they face and the social stigma inflicted upon them. Coates displays this when he first mentions the idea of police brutality. He states, “The destroyers will rarely be held accountable. Mostly they will receive pensions…All of this is common to black people. And all of this is old for black people. No one is held responsible” (Coates, 2015, 9). Black communities should not be used to this idea of inequality and injustice when it comes to American policies. They have to deal with these issues to the point where they already know who the case is going to favor; whites. Not only is this police brutality, it is racial discrimination. Blacks are disembodied and pushed aside. “[It] is a kind of terrorism, and the threat of it alters the orbit of all our lives and, like terrorism, his distortion is intentional” (Coates, 2015, 114). Their voices are always left unheard. America is known to be a country of equal protection, but in cases of African Americans, they are not. Laws do not protect them as they should and blacks are aware of this unsettling nature. Coates demonstrates this when he states, “The law did not protect us. And now, in your time, the law has become an excuse for stopping and frisking you, which is to say, for furthering the assault on your body” (Coates, 2015, 17). Police officers tend to escape from any legal issues regarding the treatment of civilians. Police do not have the right to administer any harm upon someone during an investigated scene initially. They have set rules to follow and officers tend to abuse this authority they have over citizens. It creates the police system to be unjust and violates its dictum in “keeping people safe”. This further leads to disembodiment, as blacks feel unwanted with such mistreatment. They are fearful of whites and authoritative abuse. Furthermore, Coates also mentions how he had to “adapt” new ways to survive and not be disembodied in the streets. He had to learn to protect himself and “shield [his] body” (Coates, 2015, 23). Coates “memorized a list of prohibited blocks [and] learned the smell and feel of fighting weather” (Coates, 2015, 23). As a concerned black man, he had to be prepared and had to know where aggression took place. He also wrote to his son, “When I was about your age, each day fully one third of my brain was concerned with who I was walking to school with, our precise number, the manner of our walk, the number of times I smiled…I practiced the culture of the streets, a culture concerned chiefly with preserving the body” (Coates, 2015, 24). He is aware of every step he takes and of his appearance. He knows how other African Americans see him, and how white people see him. This concern also shows the way fear ran in the everyday lives of African Americans. Coates is aware that racism is not gone, and he wants to protect his son. Even as an adult, Coates had to deal with disrespect when a white man yelled at him, “‘I could have arrested you’” (Coates, 2015, 94) for defending his son to walk wherever he wants. White people are aware of the divide between races and choose to take advantage of it. Blacks lack the chances in life that other ethnicities obtain and because of this, their lives are surrounded by fear. He “confess[es] that [he is] afraid. And [has] no God to hold [him] up” (Coates, 2015, 113). Coates uses these instances to show the brokenness of the black community to teach his son about the realities of life in a black body. He wants to prepare his son for the unreasonable but encourage him to move forward without fear despite such hardships he will face.
Not only has fear arose in black communities living in the United States, but the American social structure has also led blacks to be skeptical of the nation. The United States is seen as a country that protects everyone and is home of the American Dream, however, it fails to convey this aspect. This nation has created a history of destroying black bodies and minds. Coates refers to it as a “system that makes your body breakable” (Coates, 2015, 18). He reminds his son, “Here is what I would like for you to know [son]: In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body – it is heritage” (Coates, 2015, 103). People never realize the truth behind America given its viewing as an exceptional country and because of this, American never accepts their offenses. It is not the nation Coates expected it to be. Instead, he sees it filled with hatred and crime. He states,
America believes itself exceptional, the greatest and noblest nation ever to exist, a lone champion standing between the white city of democracy and the terrorists, despots, barbarians, and other enemies of civilization… And it is so easy to look away, to live with the fruits of our history and to ignore the great evil done in all of our names. But you and I have never truly had that luxury (Coates, 2015, 8-9).
Due to this disillusionment, black communities in the United States have become skeptical about America. If it were to follow its standards then African Americans would feel accepted and would be treated as a part of the world. Coates also disputes about American schooling and how it has false misperceptions as well. “I loved a few of my teachers. But I cannot say that I truly believed any of them…I sensed the schools were hiding something, drugging us with false morality so that we would not see, so that we did not ask: Why-for us and only us-is the other side of free will and free spirits an assault upon our bodies?” (Coates, 2015, 26). Coates’s questions were never answered given that others were never concerned with curiosity. Americans were taught what they had to be taught excluding concerns and overlooking reality, portraying America with this sense of disbelief. Coates only wants what is best for his son and informs him that he is:
“…a black boy, and must be responsible for [his] body in a way that other boys cannot know. Indeed, [he] must be responsible for the worst actions of other black bodies, which, somehow, will always be assigned to [him]. And [he] must be responsible for the bodies of the powerful – the policeman who cracks [him] with a nightstick will quickly find his excuse in [his] furtive movements…[He has] to make peace with the chaos, but [he] cannot lie. [He] cannot forget how much they took from [them] and how they transfigured [their] very bodies into sugar, tobacco, cotton and gold” (Coates, 2015, 71).
Coates does not want his son to grow up facing these lies and does not halt to recount the actualities of what he will eventually approach. He says, “I did not want to raise you in fear or false memory. I did not want you forced to mask your joys and bind your eyes. What I wanted for you was to grow into consciousness. I resolved to hide nothing from you” (Coates, 2015, 111). Coates does not want his son to grow up believing that the idea and dream of America is “just”, so he reminds him of the truth and how it has cost black bodies.
Growing up in a world of hate disembodies an individual, and this is exactly how Coates and black communities feel in America. They do not feel the need to be there and feel empty apart from everyone else given the mistreatment they face from authority and other races. Ta-Nehisi Coates focuses on the theme of disembodiment in the American social structure to further illustrate how it has destroyed black communities and to disclose the realities of living in a black body in the United States to his adolescent son. By doing so, he is preparing his son for the injustices and oppressions that he will ultimately have to become reconciled with and encourage him to move along forward to live an untroubled life that is not bounded with fear.
The Themes of the American Dream, Racism, and White Privilege in Between the World and Me, a Novel by Ta-Nehisi Coates
In the novel Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates writes to his son about such serious issues as the American Dream, racism, and white privilege in order to teach him how to survive in the world. He uses words that are complex, but rather inspiring, trying to describe his understanding of the world through his personal experiences and the experiences of other people. Ta-Nehisi Coates tells his story using specific narration in order to create a message of empowerment to his son, and as a mother, I will have shared that information with my child or children as well, because it is crucial for them to struggle through life and still thrive when I am not there to guide them. In the long run, my children, like Coates’s son, will be prepared and will be successful at what they do.
Throughout the novel, Coates discusses the concept of struggle and how it has impacted him. Specifically, at the beginning of this novel, he discusses the struggle of the African American community and how as a “ body” they continue to be bashed and belittled. However, in this section of the novel, he discusses in detail about the concept of the struggle through the experience of Dr. Jones. In this quote “There was no one else in the house.. [the] Christmas tree was still standing at the end of the room, and there were stockings bearing the name of her daughter and her lost son, and there was a framed picture of him — Prince Jones — on a display table” a meeting with Dr. Jones is pictured with a detailed description of a living room. He notices that there are pictures of her children, along with the one with her son who was killed by a police officer (Coates 136). This quotation shows such concepts as emptiness and hopelessness. As he walks into the living room to see that “no one else [is ] in the house,” this demonstrates a lonely presence of Dr. Jones’s life ( Coates 136). However, there is a stronger message that outweighs this lonely presence – a lesson, which learns that obstacles should not be in the way of living life. As the “Christmas tree was still standing.. bearing the name of a daughter and lost son” it shows that no matter they are no longer in Dr. Jones life physically, she continues to celebrate and live her life in remembrance of them ( Coates 136). The purpose of this message is to tell that struggle is necessary to move forward and in order to do that you have to embrace it. I would have similarly discussed this point the way the author did it, but with the personal experiences of my mother for she has been impactful throughout my entire life.
With this, Coates also uses Dr. Jones character to discuss the benefits of struggling and how this has impacted her. It is reflected in this quote “I felt [a power] in the presence of Dr. Jones. When she was in second grade, she and another girl made a pact that they would both become doctors, and she held up her end of the bargain. But first, she integrated the high school in her town. In the beginning, she fought the white children who insulted her. At the end, they voted her class president … [and] it brought her so far into their world” he discusses that the unspeakable strength she has been demonstrating since the childhood resonates with him and that she is a role model who will teach his son her strength and how he should carry himself. Specifically what this quote teaches readers and Coates’s son, in particular, is that it shows the importance of strength and ways how to overcome obstacles that may stop a person from giving all of their full potential to what matters to them most. As he describes that sticking to your “end of the bargain” it will make you a powerful individual for yourself and you would have “fought…who insulted” you ( Coates 139). Learning from the example is necessary to see things from a different perspective other than your own, especially those who are influential to you. Besides teaching my children about struggling through my mother’s example, I would also use my personal story to discuss the impact on struggle and how this has made me successful.
Body Paragraph: Communication
As it is important to direct these messages to readers and to the people that are influential, it is also important to maintain such relationships that can allow the teachings to inspire the listeners. Understandably, as Coates discusses these concepts, he makes the mistake of not discussing them with his son. Through the quote ”I have never asked how you became personally aware of the distance [between races]…but I know that it happened to you already, that you have deduced that you are privileged and yet still different from other privileged children, because you are the bearer of a body more fragile than any other in this country. What I want you to know is that this is not your fault, even if it is ultimately your responsibility” he confesses that he has made a mistake about not discussing him of what he knows about racism. However, he also discusses with his son the fact that because he is now informed about this, he reassures him that this is not his fault and he should not even be burdened by this (Coates 137). This is beneficial for teaching concepts like this to those you care about because it shows the importance of honest communication between families to maintain good relationships. As he notes that he has “never asked” him about the dark concepts that exist, he understands that this would have been essential to understanding his son’s approach to the world and these concepts ( Coates 137). Although he explains that he made this mistake, he also shows compassion toward his son as he explains to him that he is the “bearer of a body” ( Coates 137). Ideally, I would have already established friendly and honest relationships with my children because they are my everything and it is just a fundamental thing to do. However, maintaining this relationship is something I would learn from Coates because he is able to discuss with his son about these concepts openly and for him to be able to do that creates a bond between father and son.
Coates’s carefully selected diction and organization of Between the World and Me is beneficial for me to teach my children the same way like Coates teaches his son about the world and what he has learned from it. This reflective piece is taken from his own experiences and the experiences of those he feels his son will lead by example. As a mother, I would like to have my children learn through my reflections and the others I care about the rules of life.
The Vile Effects of Fear in Between the World and Me, a Book by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Introduction & Abstract:
In the book Between the World and Me, author Ta-Nehisi Coates works to explore the long spanning violence in the United States and progresses to provide advice on how victims can respond to it. In the form of a letter to his teenage son, author Ta-Nehisi Coates acts to inform about the risks, dangers, and social skews that follow being an African American in the United States. His message to his son conceives a belief supported by firsthand accounts, as well as current events involving police brutality, that being black in westernized (or western-ruled) hemispheres of society is a disability, a danger to a black individual’s wellbeing, and a prohibition to a black individual’s societal prosperity. This is nevertheless due to the root cause of overarching fear.
The violence he observes in his memoir relates to acts of aggression within the black community throughout the history of the United States, yet even more so the violence ensued on African Americans throughout the country’s lifespan. From the violence ensued on the slaves of America’s beginning days, to the police brutality and injustice that persists presently, Coates evokes the message to his son, and the reader, that violence is the core cause of America’s upbringing, and even more so its sole existence. Violence is America’s legs, its back and support. Coates supports that America, or more precisely, white America, built on the work of African slaves, is a proven product of man labor, and is still reliant on mistreatment of man in another form. This present reliance is the violence, brutality and murders of African Americans by national security. A security proving itself to be false. With this violence against innocent African Americans, white America’s presumed safety is kept active; its safety against the fear that power ensued by a false hierarchy could be vanquished.
In turn, these acts have, since the presence of African slaves and their mistreatment, brought forth an additional fear. This other fear is weighted on the backs of African Americans, and similarly causes violence within its own population. African Americans, out of fear of losing their own selves, have exhibited violence and aggression, threatening and fighting, through different communal and familial areas of their own population. Coates exhibits these points to his son throughout his book, providing examples in which he has been made aware of this fear-induced violence throughout his life.
As we explore his message to his son, we will textually exhibit the ways in which Coates alludes to this violence and fear, and ultimately how he advises his son (and presumably related readers) to exist in this world that blindly hates him. In Coates’s message to his son, he reminisces a claim made by Malcolm X, in which the Civil Rights leader stated, “If you’re black, you were born in jail.” Coates makes it clear that he shares this view, explaining that to be black in the United States, is to have lack of protection over your own body.
Violence & Aggression in America: What it means to be White and Black:
First off, Coates makes note of this fear and violence, having been ignited by the slavery of Africans, when he starts off his message. He depicts to his son a recent interview he was involved in, and within this interview profoundly states that the answer to why he believes that the United States is built on violence, noting that the reasoning is simplistic, and rather common sense. To Coates anyone could review history and see the way in which the United States has been built entirely on a violent hierarchy that has left black people worse off than white people. This is indicated by Coates when he exasperates the sadness he felt when asked why he thinks this way. Coates’s mannerly displays how simple it should be for all Americans, whether white or black, to see the reason. The enslavement of Africans is not uncommon sense, and has not gone untaught in academic institutions. Coates explains this, beginning, “the host wished to know why I felt that white America’s progress, or rather the progress of those Americans who believe that they are white, was built on looting and violence. Hearing this, I felt an old and indistinct sadness well up in me.” (Coates)
It is not made clear of the exact reasons for Coates’s feelings, until further within the section. Coates simply states, “The answer is American history,” yet subsequently makes aware of his reasons for explaining that white Americans have purposefully walked blindly of the obvious truth that America was built on the backs of African slaves. And while their democracy permits them to walk in the face of truth, their democracy has also granted them superiority for being white, and thus has allowed them to remain blind to this specific truth. Coates proclaims this explaining, “There is nothing extreme in this statement. Americans deify democracy in a way that allows for a dim awareness that they have, from time to time, stood in defiance of their God. But democracy is a forgiving God and America’s heresies—torture, theft, enslavement—are so common among individuals and nations that none can declare themselves immune.” (Coates)
While Coates’s writing is not distinct here, and it cannot be made evident that he is absolutely discussing slavery when he says “enslavement”, and white Americans when he says “Americans”, further analysis of instances in his writing will allow us to see this. Subsequently, Coates begins to explain the fear within white Americans; the fear they had of losing societal power and pride. This is the cause for the violence that attributed to the upbringing of America. Coates explains that the hierarchy ignited by the early Europeans was unnatural, and rather ensued out of a desire for power and pride. Europeans created a belief that white skin is superior to black skin, yet prior to this the only rational view/reaction to difference in color was indifference to difference in color; an oxymoron. Coates reminisces this oxymoron when explaining, that “the process of naming ‘the people’ has never been a matter of genealogy and physiognomy so much as one of hierarchy. Difference in hue and hair is old. But the belief in the preeminence of hue and hair, the notion that these factors can correctly organize a society and that they signify deeper attributes, which are indelible—this is the new idea at the heart of these new people who have been brought up hopelessly, tragically, deceitfully, to believe that they are white.” (Coates)
Coates further explains that the concept of being white is only a force to ensure power among American’s original inhabitants, explaining that there are rational subcategories to white. These rational subcategories were recognized as separate entities, without any affiliation to whiteness, prior to the deceitful hierarchy. Coates claims this when noting, “These new people are, like us, a modern invention. But unlike us, their new name has no real meaning divorced from the machinery of criminal power. The new people were something else before they were white—Catholic, Corsican, Welsh, Mennonite, Jewish…” For the first time in his text, Coates prominently makes clear that the enslavement that built America was specifically that of the Africans. He alludes to the imprisonment, mistreatment, rape, and murdering of African slaves, and the inferior outlook the white Americans had on them when explaining, “the elevation of the belief in being white, was not achieved through wine tastings and ice cream socials, but rather through the pillaging of life, liberty, labor, and land; through the flaying of backs; the chaining of limbs; the strangling of dissidents; the destruction of families; the rape of mothers; the sale of children; and various other acts meant, first and foremost, to deny you and me the right to secure and govern our own bodies.” (Coates)
With the creation of white Americans, came African Americans, or black Americans. And with the abusive outlook on black Americans, came a fear within white Americans. Prior to this, of course, Africans were made into subcategories. This fear is based on the belief that white Americans (from their point of view), without the presence of African slaves to drive the country, and with the potential progress African Americans could make given a freedom from enslavement and unequal rights that eventually followed, white Americans would lose their status of superiority, their false identity. The identity of white Americans relies on their hierarchal status, not their true ethnicities (whether it be Jewish, Welsh, Catholic, or other). Which in turn, as Coates explained, was originally started with belittling the societal status of the original African slaves.
Today, with the social progress of African Americans at a greater chance of becoming a common phenomenon, white Americans, specifically part of national security, have worked to find any cause to murder black Americans. Coates makes note of this when explaining to his son how American police are heavily exhibiting such strategy. Coates alludes to several unjustifiable cases involving police brutality and innocent African Americans, them being murders of innocents Eric Garner, John Crawford, Tamir Rice, and Marlene Pinnock. He writes, “I am writing you because this was the year you saw Eric Garner choked to death for selling cigarettes; because you know now that Renisha McBride was shot for seeking help, that John Crawford was shot down for browsing in a department store. And you have seen men in uniform drive by and murder Tamir Rice, a twelve-year-old child whom they were oath-bound to protect. And you have seen men in the same uniforms pummel Marlene Pinnock, someone’s grandmother, on the side of a road. And you know now, if you did not before, that the police departments of your country have been endowed with the authority to destroy your body.” Coates make the claim here that police have been given the authority to willfully profile black Americans, and kill them on their own misguided discernment.
This long spanning violence against black Americans has in turn created an additional fear, specifically within the black American population. It is rational for fear to be the response to learning that your essence and citizenship (exhibited as “body” by Coates) are instantly endangered the moment you are born. This concept has been apparent within the black community, and displayed via Coates’s own experiences. Coates explains to his son that growing up he experienced parental aggression, and communal tension. Within his community, parents would express violence via threatening their children. Black children experienced beatings by their parents simply for making nonsensical mistakes. The source of this beating, Coates notes, is the fear the parents felt over the possibility of losing their children to the engulfing police brutality. The beating was done to keep black youths disciplined from delving too far from the safety and presence of their parents. From participating in activities that would make the vulnerable to the sight of the racists system. Coates makes this known when writing to his son, “My father was so very afraid. I felt it in the sting of his black leather belt, which he applied with more anxiety than anger, my father who beat me as if someone might steal me away, because that is exactly what was happening all around us.” (Coates)
Coates further displays this violence has left such strong fear throughout the African American population, and in turn followed through with a fear within youth individuals. This complementary fear was present in the ways in which black youths presented themselves. Coates emphasizes that black youths posed themselves with aggressive personality as a way to protect their vulnerable bodies. This in turn, extended to a violent culture within black communities, a culture that would be dismissed by privileged white American onlookers as the fault of those involved. This violent culture ensued by youths’ fear of losing their bodies involved an aggressive persona, captivated in persistent attitudes of anger, constant fighting with each other, proving who “owned the streets” they lived on, displaying who was the more powerful force over the others around them.
All of these things are symptoms of the fear of white America, that it may lose the power and pride it gained simply from its false belief system. A false belief system that has successfully been disseminated nearly worldwide. A greed for power, in a world where the concept of self-image has been blown out of proportion. Coates depicts this when he tells his son, “The violence that undergirded the country, so flagrantly on display during Black History Month, and the intimate violence of ‘Yeah, nigger, what’s up now?’ were not unrelated. And this violence was not magical, but was of a piece and by design.” (Coates)
In response, Coates explains that his son’s only choice and possible way of life, is to bear the burden of fear. With police brutality increasing, it becomes only rational for his son, and other black youths, to bear the fear and precision of being targeted. There is no other option, but to bear it, and upon doing so the African Americans, early slaves and later citizens who struggled generations earlier, will be valued for having struggled themselves. Coates explains, “I urge you to struggle. Struggle for the memory of your ancestors. Struggle for wisdom. Struggle for the warmth of The Mecca. Struggle for your grandmother and grandfather, for your name. But do not struggle for the Dreamers. Hope for them. Pray for them, if you are so moved. But do not pin your struggle on their conversion. The Dreamers will have to learn to struggle themselves, to understand that the field for their Dream, the stage where they have painted themselves white, is the deathbed of us all.” (Coates) Coates proceeds to note that the struggle is not to please or abide by the white American belief system for white Americans, but rather for the generations of black Americans who have struggled in the same manner. Rather, respond to the racism ensued by white Americans by praying and hoping that they’ll change and voluntarily think rationally instead of hiding from the truth. In order for this to happen, white Americans will have to struggle themselves, come to harsh terms that they’re given identity has been a lie, humble themselves, and forfeit the value they place on self-image, power, and pride.
An Analysis of Ta-nehisi Coates’ “Between the World and Me”, and Oj Simpson’s Experiences
Identity and the Black American Experience :
An Analysis of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ and OJ Simpson’s Experiences
The black American experience is quite complicated. It takes many forms, but the oppressions black people face all stem from similar roots. One of the most important points that Ta-Nehisi Coates makes in his book, Between the World and Me, is that white America depends on black oppression for their success and progress. We consider ourselves exceptional, the melting pot of the world, a diverse and post-racial society. However, none of this is really true. Coates challenges our belief that we are exceptional. He outlines what it is like to be black in America in an attempt to relay to his son what his experiences have been and what he should expect. While Coates speaks to his son, and America, about his experiences, OJ Simpson has had a quite different experience with race. He saw himself as exempt from blackness because he was embraced by white America and made into a star worldwide. While on the surface, OJ Simpson may seem like the exception to Coates’s point, I would argue that he is not. His success spoke to the black community and for the black community. Had he not been twice as better than his white counterparts, he would not have been half as successful. In America, we glorify black athletes because they further our own causes, while simultaneously abusing black bodies and justifying it because of our necessity to hold them to a higher moral standard. We can see how this plays out when we dig deeper into what Coates is saying and how OJ attempted to separate himself from this.
Ta-Nehisi Coates’s book Between the World and Me was written to be a letter to his son about being black in America. He reflects on his childhood, struggling to understand his identity through the context of the streets and the school, neither of which he felt he really belonged to. “Unfit for the schools, and in good measure wanting to be unfit for them, and lacking the savvy I needed to master the streets, I felt there could be no escape for me, or honestly, anyone else” (27). He coined the term dreamers for people in America who believe themselves to be white. Dreamers are the people who always seem to find justification for the forcible control of black bodies. They justify the treatment of black bodies by considering black people to be of a higher moral necessity to be nonviolent and peaceful, even amidst violence perpetrated towards them (32). Black identity is not something that black people have had the opportunity to define, because it was defined before they were born. “To be black in the Baltimore of my youth was to be naked before the elements of the world before all the guns, fists, knives, crack, rape, and disease” (17). Coates is attempting to relay to his son how he navigated this system which defined him from birth, and how he found himself in it. His world was changed when he met black people from around the world. It meant that what he was told that he was, by the schools and the streets, is not all there is for black people. He learned new meanings of love. He learned that his own oppression did not mean that he and other black people were incapable of oppressing others. His worldview shifted, then, and he now wants his son to know all that is possible for him as a black boy in the diversity of the world. “I wasn’t so much bound to a biological ‘race,’ as [I was] to a group of people” (119). Black people were not bound by the skin and physical features they had, but by the culture they shared, including their shared oppressions. Living in America, his son will still be exposed to the schools and the streets. Though, the world is vast, he must still be especially cautious of how he behaves around police, because they will not see him as a brilliant, worldly, open-minded kid, but as simply a black boy in America, which, to most, is that same identity that Coates asserts America created for black people. He found that while the world was vast and black men and women shouldn’t feel limited, the world, namely the white world, has relied on their oppression for centuries. “‘The two great divisions of society are not the rich and the poor, but white and black,’ said the great South Carolina senator, John C. Calhoun. ‘And all the former, the poor as well as the rich, belong to the upper class and are respected and treated as equals.’ And there it is—the right to break the black body as the meaning of their sacred equality” (104). Racism is not the same as it was in the past, it is more subtle, less obvious, but it is there. And it will remain as long as white people depend on black oppression.
While Coates is giving voice to the majority of the black community at a time when they can still not rely on society to respect and protect them, OJ has a very different, albeit, not totally separate, experience with identity, particularly in regards to what it means to be black in America. OJ believed himself to be exempt from the black experience in America. He was even pleased when a white woman referred to the black people surrounding him as “n*****s” but seeing him as superior to them (00:36). He lived in a completely separate reality from other black people. He went to a wealthy white school and was surrounded by white people praising him for his athletic abilities. They didn’t see him as black (inferior), because he was so good on the field. He embraced this notion, saying “I’m not black, I’m OJ.” Later, he got into advertising for Chevrolet and Hertz. He thought that this spoke to his ability to transcend race. Little did he know, he was really being used as a way to gain sales from black buyers, while not losing sales from white people since they embraced him. Though he seemed separate from black America, his presence on television was a major milestone for the black community. He was fighting for their cause, whether he wanted to or not (1:09). Though he said in college that pressure didn’t get to him, we found that it did. He cracked. The attention went to his head and he was abusive to his wives. In the end he murdered his second wife and her lover, and was acquitted. He even wrote the book, If I Did it. He was later sentenced for a separate crime and now resides in prison for robbery and is up for parole in October 2017 (Cleary).
Our society is one in which we abuse black bodies, while glorifying black athletes and celebrities who we benefit from. Coates recalls the mother of Prince Jones telling a story from her youth in which she was sitting at a football game hearing her peers praising the black running back on their own team, while shouting “Kill that n*****!” with her sitting right next to them (Coates 139). We can easily see the parallel between this and OJ’s experience. He supposedly transcended race, which was why he was so successful. This gave him justification for ignoring the violence that his fellow black people were experiencing. He lived in a completely different world, or so he thought. But I would posit that he did not. The only reason that he transcended race was because he benefited white American football. He thrived on the attention he received from white America. To further this, he only had such success because he was better than his fellow white football players. There were likely many black aspiring football players from his time who were good, and possibly even better than their white counterparts, but were overlooked because of their race. There’s a saying I heard in a show that I watch “You have to be twice as good to get half of what they have.” The show was Scandal and it was a black father telling his daughter that she can’t let herself fall behind because white people don’t have to work nearly as hard to get what they want. I think that sentiment is relevant here. It’s a reflection of the idea that black people are held to a higher moral standard. They are held to higher standards in almost every aspect of their life. OJ was not exempt from that.
Though it may seem simple to say OJ is the exception to the point Coates makes, when we really look at each of them and the experiences of black people in America, we can see that he is not the exception. He does not transcend race. White America simply used his talents, while overlooking his blackness. Had he not been twice as talented as his white counterparts, he would not have been half as successful. While he was ignoring the black struggle taking place in his own city, he was also breaking barriers for black Americans. Whether he likes it or not, his blackness affected his experience in America and in the end the pressure got to him and the attention went to his head. In America, we glorify black athletes because they further our own causes, while simultaneously abusing black bodies and justifying it because of our necessity to hold them to a higher moral standard. This is not exceptional.
Between the World and Me: Black Body and Cautious Optimism
Racism and the strife towards a non-oppressive society has been a task attempted by many, ranging from extreme activists, to educators, to the proactive civilian. Such prejudice serves as a confine to those impacted, filtering out opportunities of this alleged “free nation” for minorities. While many individuals go to great lengths to avoid this sensitive subject, it is crucial that the dialogue and discussion persist so solutions and ways to resolve this systematic oppression are discovered and explored. In Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, the topic of racism for African Americans is explored. The book goes into details of how America intentionally “destroys the Black body,” and refuses to acknowledge their oppressive habits that puts institutions in the hands of the White folks. How can a father truly protect his own son from a nation so violent and so hateful? Only through education and encouraging a a mindset of empathy and compassion is how Coates found fitting to prevent a highly plausible reality of his son succumbing to the words of the oppressors.
The first theme that Coates explore is the nation’s intentional ways to oppress the black body, recounting his own experiences of his younger years, “Here is what I would like for you to know: In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body––it is heritage.” Coates does this in attempt to relay to his son the dangers of being black in American, having evidence of how exactly the world is out to get the African American demographic. Destroying the black body is America’s way to firmly establish a power move with white people on top. “…so that America might justify itself, the story of a black body’s destruction must begin with his or her error, real or imagined…”By just having a darker complexion, by just merely existing, can African Americans fear for their lives for having done nothing wrong but just exist as an individual with melanin in their blood. “The truth is that the police reflect America in all of its will and fear, and whatever we might make of this country’s criminal justice policy, it cannot be said that it was imposed by a repressive minority.” This painful truth makes it an arduous task for African Americans to stand against this brutality, yet it is absolutely necessary as seen through Coates deciding to even write this. If he felt it were useless to try to suede his son towards a more knowledgeable future, he would not dedicate the time to write this book to him. In the text, Coates reflects on his own desire to leave the burdens and achieve what he then considered the “American 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.” The concept of the American dream is flawed since it depends on the subjugation and oppression of African Americans, the only way that this “American Dream” can flourish is through the beat down of African Americans. This is not a dream, but a flaw. Why does America constantly reiterate this idea of the “self made man” when it does not take into account the endless obstacles that perpetuates African Americans lack of ability to efficiently climb up the social ladder unlike the white predecessors. Literature can be an outlet for one’s desire, dreams, ambitions, etc. However, in regards to this situation, Coates utilizes this medium to speak an important message of overcoming racial barriers for his son. This book, Coates’ usage of personal anecdotes, grand metaphors, and a cautionary yet empowering diction that allows his message to shine through. “But 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.” Coates’ attempt to enlighten his son of the dangers and woes that comes with being Black in American reflects a tragic, deeper truth of the African American demographic. There is an unerasable burden that is thrust upon them, finding that balance of advocating for racial justice. However, remaining aware that through the institutional sectors that aid in oppressing African Americans, their words of justice and seeking what is right can easily be silenced. There is something chilling, reading the cautionary words said to his own son, “They had worked two and three jobs, put children through high school and college, and become pillars of their community. I admired them, but I knew the whole time that I was merely encountering the survivors…” This structure parallels the racial hierarchy that has been established and continuously reiterated throughout history. The passion and pain that is read throughout Between the World and Me elevates Coates’ impact, giving the opportunity to let his words marinate in the minds of the reader. While Coates’ encourages his son to acknowledge these components that play into being African American, he does not, however, encourage resentment and hostility. Rather he pushes his son towards conducting himself in a manner that is not so easily accomplished, compassion and understanding towards the oppressors. “In accepting both the chaos of history and the fact of my total end, I was freed to truly consider how I wished to live––specifically, how do I live free in this black body?” One cannot truly understand the weight that must be carried unless had experienced themselves.Yet, it is easy to call out the different incidents and experiences that contribute to the mess that is America. However, to not seek answers in the conglomerate of injustices and aggressions is not the path that one should take according to the text of Coates, “It is truly horrible to understand yourself as the essential below of your country. It breaks too much of what we would like to think about ourselves, our lives, the world we move through and the people who surround us. The struggle to understand is our only advantage over this madness.” To reach full fledged liberation from the racial oppression, Coates’ stresses for a transformed dialogue, not filled with hate and desire to supersede the white folk of America. While Coates’ writings may just be one of many African American literature, his choice to write a piece that requires an amazing amount of vulnerability comes to show the dedication to acknowledging and overcoming racial barriers that many African Americans must commit to. “I would not have you descend into your own dream. I would have you be a conscious citizen of this terrible and beautiful world.” As readers, we are able to catch a glimpse of Coates’ perspectives his fears, hopes, and desires for his son. The entire concept of whiteness comes hand in hand with being extremely privileged, benefitting from the exploitation of African Americans. The exploitation of African Americans is derived from the disadvantageous institutions to African Americans, the amount of foreign industries that set their ways to utilize Africa’s dependency in the fiscal hemisphere, and the historical defacing of the demographic’s humanity. With Ta-Nehisi and his words, one can only hope there is movement upwards towards an equal society. The nation should not be complacent in mediocrity but rather should strive for a society where no exploitation takes place, no institutional benefit towards a dominant group but rather all demographics benefitting from services that are meant to assist all individuals. Through Between the World and Me, there lies the possibility of a future not riddled with fear and anxiety but rather purity and the strife towards a more compassionate future.