Book Introduction: through first person narratives, Ta-Nehisi Coates reveals the damages to the Black bodies the history and ideals of American have caused. Using powerful language, he engages the audience and tells a great story of living with inequality and finding self strength in the society.
Book Recommendation: this book tackles racism and inequality. By admitting some heart-breaking truth, Ta-Nehisi Coates manages to reveal the nature of the American society. This book is great for American-study lovers and humanity lovers in general.
Racism and the Dream
The American Dream serves as a motivation for people to work hard in the American society, where people believe that their life would become prosperous as long as they make the effort to improve life qualities. In the country of freedom, democracy and even equal opportunities, Americans are inspired by such notion, and the Dream itself has become one of the most important American ideas. In Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates argues that the Dream directly conflicts with racial equalities in the society, as racism is a construction of the Dreamers and is permeated through history by the Dreamers, and racism has a visceral nature in Dreamers’ mindsets.
Coates believes that racism is constructed by the Dreamers who believe themselves to be white, with the goal to “reach the American Dream”. While many believe that racism exists because of the prevalence of different races, Coates argues that “race is the child of racism, not the father”. Instead of being a byproduct of race, racism actually comes before the concepts of race. Coates uses the differences in hue and hair as symbols of racial differences to demonstrate that racism is created by people: “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…this is the new idea at the heart of these new people”. The Dreamers, according to Coates, are people who believed in racial differences and who used these differences to reconstruct the American society to better achieve their American dreams. Coates sadly points out that “very few Americans will directly proclaim that they are in favor of black people being left to the streets. But a very large number of Americans will do all they can to preserve the Dream”. The Dreamers value the Dream more than racial equality or the basic balance of the society, conflicting with the most important goal of the some early colonists, who believed that people should help each other in “brotherly affection”. Starting from the beginning of American history, these Dreamers has built their paths on top of the Black people, as the Dream “rests on our backs, the bedding made from our bodies”. In the book, Coates criticizes the Dreamers for sacrificing the rights of one group to satisfy the rest, when the Dream is only an excuse for not following the “all men are born equal” doctrine.
After constructing racism, Coates holds the belief that the Dreamers also enhance the awareness of racism by taking specific actions throughout history, which includes enslaving African slaves from the very beginning. Not only were the basic human rights of the African Americans deprived from being legally enslaved- but also were their souls and spirits- and this lasted for hundreds of years. According to Coates, “enslavement was not merely the antiseptic borrowing of labor”, it also permeated the idea in American society that all men are not born equal, and that the white people have the rights to privilege themselves upon the people of color. To elaborate on his argument, Coates uses multiple literary devices and pathos to express the rage. Looking back at American history, Coates writes, ” the soul was the body that fed the tobacco, and the spirit was the blood that watered the cotton, and these created the first fruits of American garden”. While creating a sarcastic tone, Coates conveys a sense of anger to the audience by retelling the enslavement story through vivid language. The fact that the Dreamers, at the very beginning of the American history, decided to dehumanize one race to reach “social stability” and “agricultural fertility” was the start of people deliberately stratifying themselves through the differences in skin colors. Starting from the early colonists, the people who wanted to prosper on the land of America neglected and even deprived the freedom and liberty of one group, building the American Dream on the expense of the pain of African Americans.
Over time, the idea of racism and inequality became deeply rooted in people’s minds and became something inseparable to their understanding of America. Ranging from racial profiling, wrong gunshots to daily multiracial interactions, Coates uses multiple anecdote and examples to convince the audience of the damage Dreamers caused to the American society. Using the example of Prince Jones, an African American shot by the police, Coates appeals to the sympathy, agony and anger of the readers and consolidates the idea that ” in America, it is traditional to destroy the black body- it is heritage”. Coates uses some personal examples, through narrating the story to his son, to create an image of the biased American society, where white people genuinely believe themselves to be superior to the rest. From historical facts and racial construct, it has become visceral that racism exists and permeates in the society: it is unchangeable. Interestingly, Coates indicates that the education, one of the most important means of passing down information, also misleads the American crowds to become racially biased.
Unlike the optimistic journalists, Coates offers no solution to the problem. He narrates that no one could save his son from ” the police, from their flashlights, their hands, their nightsticks, their guns”, not even the Dreamers, who created those rules because it is impossible to “awaken the Dreamers, to rouse them to the facts of what their need to be white, to talk like they are white, to think that they are white”. Rather, Coates argues, “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 for us all”.
In the book Between the World and Me, Coates discusses the places in the society the Black people have been put by the Dreamers. Through powerful language and the use of persuasive elements such as anecdote and pathos, Coates builds the argument that the Dream is an illusion and has ruined the lives of all African Americans, who live in constant fear in the society.