Literary Analysis Essay on Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Published: 2021-06-22
667 words
3 pages
6 min to read
Middlebury College
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Between the World and Me is a 2015 book authored by Ta-Nehisi Coates as a letter to his fifteen-year-old son. It derives its inspiration from a 1963 James Baldwin work, The Fire Next Time. Ta-Nehisi writes about the realities and challenges associated with being black in the United States of America. He reiterates that racist violence and disregard for black life was woven into the country in its infancy and has been fortified throughout history, explaining to his son that Black Americans were enslaved longer than they have been free. Coats describes white dominance as an indestructible and infinite force, a perpetual struggle that cannot be outrun or evaded by people of color living in America. This paper explores the work Between the World and Me, analyzing the crucial highlights and themes Coates seeks to sensitize his audience about.

The book begins with Coates recall of talk show where he is asked to educate the world about his take on racism and American history. He explains the difficulty of this task because of the immense gulf that exists between the audience he is asked to address and the world of black people. Coates reveals instances in which people romanticize reality in a way that blinds them from acknowledging the truth. This encourages society to fail to acknowledge injustice, empowering it to thrive. Ta-Nehisi expounds on the fluid nature of the white' identity, revealing that Jews and Catholics among others were not initially considered as white people. He argues that the birth of the idea of being white was birthed through the oppression of blacks, by denying them freedom of their bodies as evidenced by slavery. The violent killings of Eric Garner, John Crawford, and Renisha McBride are highlighted as examples of police brutality towards black bodies (Coates 9). Coates sees this unhidden evidence of racism as unavoidable and urges that children of color should not be protected from this truth or oblivious as white children.

Ta-Nehisi gives an account of his youth, growing up in gang-ridden Baltimore. The general fear of the police and the streets that black children experience growing up in this neighborhood is distinctly brought out by his fear. Throughout the book, he explores the various ways that black people deal with this fear of physical harm to their bodies by disguising it with performances of toughness. He draws attention to the shared fear of a trip-wired system together with a crippling we cannot get out' mentality, pointing to the inadequacy of religion and education in curbing this fear (Coates 29). Coates maintains that education can be endowing, but the public teaching in places such as Baltimore is a form of a metaphorical prison meant to keep black children in check.

The American dream is a clutch Coates describes as damning and physically disfiguring. He writes, "Historians conjured the Dream. Hollywood fortified the Dream. The Dream was gilded by novels and adventure stories." Coates described Dreamers as those who continue to ascribe to the lie at the expense of black people. He explains the dream, "perfect houses with beautiful lawns. It is Memorial Day cookouts and drivewaysThe Dream smells like peppermint but tastes like strawberry" (Coates 11). The passage highlights the rarity and unattainability of this Dream by most Americans echoing the inaudibility of class.

Between You and Me ends with a story about the wrongful killing of the son of Mabel Jones, a black woman who worked hard to break from poverty, providing her children with comfortable lives (Coates 136). This goes to indicate the far-reaching hand of race-related tragedy beyond the status quo. Coates insists that the disheartening legacy of the past can never be rid of altogether, failing to provide any false consolation or hope to his son. He is skeptical that equality or freedom will ever be a reality for people of color living in America. Nonetheless, he encourages his son to struggle not for the dreamers- but for wisdom and the memory of their ancestors.

Works Cited

Coates, Ta-Nehisi. Between the World and Me. 2015. Internet resource.

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