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“Between the World and Me” Literature Analysis

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    The role of fear comes to play in the lives of black Americans throughout the book Between the World and Me. Ta-Nehisi Coates (2015) states, “The fear lived in their practiced bop, their slouching denim, their big T-shirts, the calculated angle of their baseball caps, a catalog of behaviors and garments enlisted to inspire the belief that these boys were in firm possession of everything they desired.” The author notes how the fear was always close around him such as in his neighborhood and those young boys would dress the way they would in order to hide their fear and give a sense of coolness through their appearance. As well he states the following, “And you know now, if you did not know before, that the police departments of your country have been endowed with the authority to destroy your body. Just like Renisha McBride was shot for seeking help” (Coates, 2015, p. 9).

    This shows the fear Black Americans have towards the police in their everyday lives and if anything would happen they would get killed by them and not be protected. I believe until this day we still see this happening to Blacks and other minority ethnicities and having the fear of speaking up because they know they will not be taken seriously as if they were White. Another example of living in fear is when the author states, “And there was my own insecurity in my ability to protect your black body” (Coates, 2015, p. 94). Coates feels insecurity at the moment he stands up to defend his son and that his body can also be taken. In which it comes to show his fear and lack of protection from the law because simply defending his son can lead him to possibly being arrested for being Black. Coates (2015) asserts, “I felt the fear in the visits to my Nana’s home in Philadelphia.” It comes to show how the fear is always in the lives of African Americans even when traveling or visiting another state. The threat of harm will always follow him and Black Americans around. The author also comes to tell his son in the book, “I am sorry that I cannot make it okay. I am sorry that I cannot save you─ but not that sorry” (Coates, 2015, p. 107). This is a confession showing the fear of a black American father in which he fears that whatever positive values he gives to his son it will not make anything better for their lives. The fact that no matter how hard he wants to make his son be a good person it will lead to vulnerability shown through the color of his skin and his body.

    A positive effect of the fear he experienced in his life was visiting France.

    “It was all that I’d felt looking at those Parisian doors. And at that moment I realized that

    those changes, with all their agony, awkwardness, and confusion, were defining fact of

    my life, and for the first time I knew not only that I really was alive, that I really was studying and observing, but that I had long been alive ─ even back in Baltimore. I had always been alive” (Coates, 2015, p. 122).

    Those doors he references about I believe it symbolizes another world he never believed existed and it was a way out from all the fear in Baltimore. In France, Black Americans did not have any history of brutality by those around them and it was a new beginning for his family and him.

    However, a negative effect is when Coates (2015) implies the following, “I felt that I had missed part of the experience because of my eyes, because my eyes were made in Baltimore, because my eyes were blindfolded by fear.” All Coates ever experienced was fear and never got to experience Baltimore without the feeling of fear. In which this demonstrates how fear was repressed in his mind because he believed Baltimore was all that existed for him as a Black American and those around him.

    The theoretical paradigm I noticed throughout the book was Functionalism. When Coates (2015) references back to the Civil War in which their bodies were worth four billion dollars and the slaveholders were the riches because of their bodies. It did not benefit the Blacks because they were not even considered to be people of the government and kept suffering discrimination by the Whites. The United States of America had one of the highest rates of suffrage in the world which illustrates one of the long terms results of slavery. Until this day we still see discrimination and racism happening everyday.

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