Essay Sample on Between the World and Me by Coates: A Reflection on Black Life in America

Published: 2022-12-26
Essay Sample on Between the World and Me by Coates: A Reflection on Black Life in America
Type of paper:  Argumentative essay
Categories:  Race Racism Discrimination United States Social issue Books
Pages: 8
Wordcount: 1971 words
17 min read

Ta-Nehisi Coates's profound book Between the World and Me revolves around an analysis of the contemporary American society. The book is written as a letter addressed to Coates's fifteen-year-old son. The message covers realities, feelings, and symbolism associated with being a black person in America. Coates relates to his childhood period after adolescence and young adulthood as a tool to express the reality of living as a black man in America. The content of the book is passed on to the readers as a guide on how to cope as a young black American.

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Nonetheless, such a summation is surface level. Other than Between the World and Me significantly capturing an epistolary form, it is also concerned about its audience. Leon points how Coates once claimed that he "didn't set out to accumulate a mass of white fans", but then the startlingly wide white readership has evoked the concern: What is the implication of Between the World and Me, an epistle from a black man to a black teenager, convey for a white reader? A straightforward answer regarding Coates's insinuation to the white readers is that the white people, especially the American media needs to realize the significance of discussing the black life through black struggles rather than regularly conversed intrinsic racist American Dream. This dynamic shift is not portrayed as a solution to racism, but it acts as a calling to the white-dominated media on their dissemination of a typically racist epitome, regardless of whether or not Coates implicitly for it or to do so. In this regard, the paper aims to support the theme of systemic oppression as depicted in Coates's Between the World and Me, which tries to develop an understanding of the U.S history and how it is linked with today's crisis.

Systemic oppression refers to oppression and bias built into a system. In his book, Coates explains how Americans have erected a vast empire on the concept of "race." Coates believes that race is a lie and it destroys everyone, but then he also believes that racial discrimination targets black men and women. Coates talks of the history of exploitation subjected through slavery and segregation. He then tries to compare it to today's issues of the black people who happen to be threatened, imprisoned and murdered at very upsetting rates. In this view, Coates teaches his son what it's like to be black and how to find a way to live within a systemically racist society. The son is subjected to harsh realities, and this is aggravated by the fact put across by the father who suggests that the US may not be able to recover from the issues of race because of the appalling past. Such a tone of hopelessness brings about a keen insight into what it means to be an African American in the current society (Anderson 2).

Coates explains about his realization about the absolute truth regarding his place in the world, and he is noted to share the past escapades of discrimination he underwent in bitterness. He goes on further to reveal the lessons he learned while on his academic journey; from Howard University and the changeover from the South side of Chicago to Paris. From the book, Coates advances further into the heart of his topic, stating, "Race is the child of racism, not the father and has never been a matter of genealogy and physiognomy so much as one of hierarchy" (Coates 7). The idea of race as a permanent attribute "is a new idea at the heart of these new people who have been brought up helplessly, tragically, deceitfully, to believe that they are white." From these phrases, Coates is seen to imply that racism is systemic and that tiny hopes exist for altering the system. The author progresses to state his belief that the American dream is an impression that cannot be attained for the majority of the people. Coates makes a solid point which discourses the American dream and explains how it promotes systemic racism and oppression that he encountered during his stay in the United States. As per Coates, he believes that the American dream will forever remain to be a dream unless all structures that express black inequality are publicly acknowledged and resolved (Du Bois et al. 5).

Between the World and Me has also captured the aspect of systemic oppression through the form of slavery that took place in the US. In the book, Coates consistently highlighted the events of slavery, as well as the effects it posted on America. He reveals that slavery served as the foundation for all the success that America boasts about and that white supremacy has remained rooted in its culture and institutions. Coates also makes a point on the idea that blacks in America have been in slavery for a more extended period than they have been out of it. By so doing, the book communicates a lot regarding the systemic oppression that existed in the form of slavery during the early years of growth of the United States.

The theme of systemic oppression is also captured from the part where Coates makes a strong argument to prove the connection between the racial violence, the black murders accruing from police brutality, and the slave-owning Founding Fathers who erased black people from a sense of humanity. From the book, there is a mention of how the whites inherited personal wealth and gained national wealth out of greed during the era of slavery. Furthermore, this acquisition of enormous amounts of wealth happens to be the base from which the whites acquired substantial wealth and political power. Systemic oppression is evident from this because of the inferiority associated with the blacks. This is true because the blacks could not accumulate wealth and that was attributed to the peasant jobs they were entitled to do neither did they have any wealth to inherit because their families before were also subject to the slavery.

Further, in the book, there is another illustration of systemic oppression where Coates explains the complexity of the racism evident in the US today. Coates presents an argument in which he claims that blacks have been discriminated against, and such forms of injustice are projected by the rising number of black crime and mortality rates; this is expressed from Coates's phrase that "Each time a police officer engages us, death, injury, maiming is possible" (Coates 131). This aspect of systemic oppression is evident from parts of the argument he presented; for instance, the War on Drugs during the '80s resulted in the imprisonment of a large proportion of the black population in the United States compared to the white community. It was devastating for the black community because the statistics had earlier depicted that the rate of use of drugs as well as the selling rates was the same for both the blacks and whites at that time. The action was taken by the government to imprison a large proportion of the black community resulted in an imbalance of equality between the black and white communities. Very few African Americans were able to work, vote and even access bank loans. Majority of the blacks were no longer privileged to access the government services because their name had been tarnished. There was a little bit of isolation of the black community by the whites because the whites regarded them as being dangerous. Many of these factors accelerated the incidences of inequality even more and resulted in many unnecessary disparities, such as blacks not being able to buy homes. Such an occurrence could mean a lot to a newborn from the black community because it meant that their future was at stake.

The theme of systemic oppression is developed further in the book by Coates where he disregards the view that the black community is the center of racial violence in the United States. Coates argues that "...the question of how one should live within a black the question of life" (Coates 49). In the book, the author demonstrates how racism manifests via the manipulation, exploitation, and control of black bodies thus resulting in the fragility of the black community in the racist community. Coates associates this fragility of the blacks with the colonialism era during which blacks were regarded as monetary objects. With context from the book he advises his son not to forget "how much they took from us and how they transfigured our bodies into tobacco, sugar, gold, cotton" (Coates 96). From the message put across by Coates, it is realized that systemic oppression was evident because black people were treated as disposable bodies within the American community. Also, form the books, Coates highlights "...perhaps being named 'black' was just someone's name for being at the bottom, a human turned to object, object turned to pariah" (Coates 55).Coates emphasizes on the concept of systemic racism and how it is a primitive act. Since black people were occasionally treated as animals/object, it meant that blacks were prone to be murdered.

Despite the end of slavery in the United States, systemic oppression and racism legacies remain like "terrorism" which is inflicted on the bodies of the black people. Coates further comments that no single black soul will have its body survive because of the traditional history of America linked with destroying the black body. From the writings of Coates, it can be noted that in the past, the black people were tortured, beaten, lynched, raped, and shackled. This implies that systemic oppression is still a concern in American society and that such kinds of mistreatments are still existent. Digressing a little bit into the current life, it can be noticed how cases of police brutality and senseless shootings of the black people are on the rise. Because of the black body, cases of blacks being shot for holding a toy gun have been reported. In other news, blacks have been arrested for trying to enter a white's house or even killed for listening to loud music. All this happens because of the stereotypical thinking associated with the blacks and their lifestyle, and it was well captured in Coates's words where he says "Hate gives identity. The nigger, the fag, the bitch, illuminate the Dream of being white, of being a Man. We name the hated strangers and are thus confirmed in the tribe" (Coates 60).

However, in as much as Coates reveals the theme of Systemic oppression, there is some degree of hopelessness expressed in his book. There has been significant progress experienced which was meant for racial equality over the last fifty years. Therefore the claims that black people have been in slavery longer than they have been out all the same sheds some hope for the future. It is a universal belief that the harder the fight against racism will be, the higher the chances for the American community to attain equality for all. Coates takes this particular standpoint to express his bitterness although in a manner that seems exaggerated. From the phrases he employs throughout the book, there exists a lack of hope to the extreme. Coates uses this technique to create broader dissemination for it will get people talking. The main aim of Coates's inclusion of the theme of systemic oppression is to make the audience understand that racism still manifests in today's society; and that it is a tougher battle now more than ever, because of its relatively subtle nature (Rankine 2).

The counterarguments for the theme of systemic oppression and racism are denial. The ex-mayor, Rudy Giuliani, presents an excellent example by expressing an opposing belief regarding Coates's claims. He believes that policy and policing are fine, and the real issues tend to find root in most of the community activities; he, therefore, believes that there exists no aspect of systemic oppression in the United States.

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