The struggle of minorities to achieve equal rights and opportunities has always occupied an important place in American history. Urbanization created sufficient prerequisites for the emergence of an African-American urban subculture. In the United States, enormous changes were taking place in the mass public consciousness, as a result of which the African American subculture entered a new stage of development, solving new problems and developing new ideological forms. However, it was only through a long process that Congress passed civil rights laws prohibiting all discrimination in public places, in the education system, in hiring, and in any institution receiving state funding. Thanks to the civil rights movement, African Americans have a sense of freedom and a sense of self-assertion, and this is much more important than the formal goals for which they fought. Despite all these achievements of the African American community, Coates still struggled to live in the US. The main reason is the fact that there is institutionalized racism, and the reforms simply changed from open slavery to subtle discrimination. He wants his son to understand the land on which he grows, and taught him to see through air promises and falsification of history.
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The first and most important argument given by the author is radicalization and racism. Being born into poverty and radicalization, Coates states that it is important for his son to understand that African Americans are not treated equally to white people. Learning street language and social codes were important to protect one’s own body, and Coates learned that a black person’s life is at greater risk than white people’s. The claims that this radicalization and racism are rooted in highly hateful motives. In order to support the argument, he says: “racism – the need to ascribe bone-deep features to people and then humiliate, reduce, and destroy them – inevitably follows from his inalterable condition” (Coates 7). The author tries to educate his son and the audience that the concept of racism is highly unintelligent because it is based on things that cannot be changed. In addition, Coates that the notion of race is derived from racism and no other way around. He states: “But race is the child of racism, not the father” (Coates 7). It is true that there is simply no plausible reason to categorize people based on their appearance and race. This mere classification is a part of the bigger issue of tribalism and discrimination, which inevitably leads to hate based on unimportant features of the human body.
The second argument given by Coates revolves around being able to survive in a world full of fear. He claims that the roots of this type of environment are due to the goal-oriented feature of modernity. The latter component is most likely to be manifested in the hypocrisy of the American image. The United States acts as a protector of democracy and preserver of freedom, where all people possess equal opportunities for success and prosperity. However, it is not true in practice, because black communities are still in a state of constant fear and distress. The main danger does not come from illegal criminals or armed terrorists, but from law enforcement. They are pledged to protect their citizens from injustice, whereas, in fact, they are the ones who discriminate against and pressure African American individuals. The author writes: “And I am afraid. I feel the fear most acutely whenever you leave me” (Coates 14). The given statement fully summarizes the emotional aspect of this hostile environment, in which many black people reside. He supports the given claim by writing: “When I was your age the only people I knew were black, and all of them were profoundly, adamantly, dangerously afraid” (Coates 14). It profoundly illustrates the fact that this kind of fear and constant distress is widely common among African Americans because the invisible force of discrimination and racism manifests themselves in this aspect.
The author’s main goal is to warn and prepare his teenage son for these harsh realities, which he will inevitably face as a member of an African American community. He also suggests that the fear can be observed among “toughest-looking” black men, who present themselves as extravagant individuals. This means that even wealthier and more prosperous black people are not completely free from the emotional pressure. He writes: “The fear was there in the extravagant boys of my neighborhood, in their large rings and medallions, their big puffy coats and full-length fur-collared leathers, which was their armor against their world” (Coates 14). The author perfectly demonstrates how people’s outside expression can be in a mismatch with their realities, and how the former can be rooted in the latter. There is a sense of rebellious escapism from this fear and many non-African American people would not be able to see the link without understanding the underlying reasons.
The third argument is derived from the previous one, and it is focused on the idea of power. The author attempts to explain how to give fear leads to anger due to the lack of power. He writes: “The crews walked the blocks of their neighborhood, loud and rude, because it was only through their loud rudeness that they might feel any sense of security and power” (Coates 22). It is important to realize the fact that constant pressure and distress can manifest themselves in emotional outbursts of anger. However, the author is illuminating the roots of such rude behavior by stating the reason behind it. In addition, the language of these neighborhoods itself is due to the ramifications of the absence of security. The author states: “To survive the neighborhoods and shield my body, I learned another language consisting of a basic complement of head nods and handshakes” (Coates 23). Therefore, the effects of racism lead to a sequential chain of changes that influence a victim’s language, behavior, and overall security.
In conclusion, Coates presents an outstanding work of honesty and his growth as a person of color living in a nation with big issues on racism. The latter was ingrained from the very beginning of American history. Thus, it is highly important for his son and other African American youngsters to be prepared for this harsh and unwelcoming world of hate. There is a notion that race is something to be accepted, whereas racism is a problem. However, Coates argues that the idea of categorizing people according to their race is a major part of racism, and it is derived from this hateful tribalism.
The concept of the American dream is not applicable for African American people, and therefore it should be regarded with caution and as an illusion. The system of education is also a proponent of discrimination against black individuals, and it is simply designed to make their lives more challenging. In addition, religion does not offer a plausible solution for these problems, either due to the fact that major changes can only be achieved through action and not passivity. The rhetoric in the nation is incorrect because it shifts the focus of the discussion from the real dangers for black people. All African American people should fight for their own dream not due to some great vision or aspiration, but to simply have a decent life.
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Coates, Ta-Nehisi. Between the World and Me. Spiegel & Grau, 2015.