Black Lives Matter
I think it is so much more powerful that Coates wrote this book as a letter to his son; retelling the history of Blacks. I think he does this in order to show the significance of the realities that people face everyday and the relevance of what African Americans have gone through; they have a rich history and an important story and lesson to tell. Essentially, Coates is writing to his son because he is of age to understand his views on American society and his son has witnessed various incidents that further demean Blacks…
“I write to you in your fifteenth year. I am writing you because this was the year you saw Eric Gardner choked to death for selling cigarettes; because you know now that Renisha McBride was shot for seeking help, that John Crawford was shot down for browsing in a department store. And you have seen men in uniform drive by and murder Tamir Rice, a twelve-year old child whom they were oath-bound to protect….” (pg. 9)
Coates wants his son to understand that fear is what drives him. He must know and be conscious of this and conveys to him that he should not let this beat him down or tame him.
Coates describes how Malcolm X was a representation of what he wanted to be, “the portrait communicated everything I wanted to be-controlled, intelligent, and beyond the fear….” Further, he loved him because he ‘never lied’ and he made it ‘plain, never mystical or esoteric’. Coates admired the Malcolm X’s confidence and fearsome attitude about the world around him. He was the first honest man that was for the people and uncovered the real issues that were going on, and Coates admired this greatly. “Malcolm spoke like a man whow as free, like a black man above the laws that proscribed our imagination.” Coates ‘identified with him’ because he knew that Malcolm X found himself and spoke with mind and body, not letting anyone beat him down for being exactly who he is.
Malcolm X states, “If you’re black, you were born in prison.” This resonated to Coates because he felt exactly like this from day to day, when he had to watch out for himself when walking home from school and his lack of control over his body. He was hopeful that he too could be a free man.
Coates disliked Black History Month for the very reason that violence is showcased and Coates was trying to find answers as to why black bodies were constantly being assaulted and were not protected. This idea of the Black ‘body’ is significant to understand because during the times when Coates was growing up, his body was always in danger. From other Blacks as well as other people because they were seen as inferior. He goes on to describe that American culture has tried to gratify them that they are equal to Whites and that democracy had no meaning to him because it simply did not apply to him and his people. Reading through this book has already been an incredible experience because it gives such a huge insight to a man who grew up with so much angst and fear in a place where he so reluctantly, called his ‘home’.
Intentions are a hall pass to history because despite these good intentions, bodies were broken and enslaved. ‘Our world is physical.’ Meaning that in our world, it is basically every man for himself, especially for Blacks who must stand on their own and defend themselves. Coates conveys the message that Blacks ruin the precious idea of ‘The Dream’.
‘The Dream’ is the ideal America, with ‘perfect houses with nice lawns. It is Memorial day cookouts, block associations and driveways…treehouses and the cub scouts.’ America has ‘good intentions’ for all other people that aren’t White, but these intentions don’t mean anything when the real brutality against other races is being masked. He goes on to convey the message that people must be aware that America prospered on the ideas and benefits of a white supremacy that remains deeply embedded in its culture and institutions.
As a reference to Illich, good intentions do not have meaning if the person acts like they ‘KNOW’ what is good for them. How does America ‘KNOW’ that simply acknowledging the problem is ‘GOOD’ for Blacks? Or that educating them in our institutions will provide them with the understanding they seek about the world? Coates agrees with Illich on this. Good intentions are simply just good intentions. This will not help their cause, nor will it open the eyes of others about the issues that are going on.
This “Dream” that America conveys to the world is the perfect country, mostly seen as the land of opportunity. And this is the exact dream that my parents had for themselves and for me and my brothers. America is said to be one of the richest countries in the world and in other immigrant countries such as the Philippines for instance, poverty is seen on a larger scale. Now with this said, my parents wanted a better life for themselves and for our family that they migrated to the United States and learned how to live as an ‘American’; immersed themselves into the culture and the people and way of life in order to thrive in this so-called ‘perfect and ideal’ country of opportunity. However, without proper experience, immigrants are forced to take medial jobs that they used to do back where they came from and now they must start again and even though expecting ‘better opportunity’, they are sometimes stuck doing the same exact thing but with greater ‘pay’ supposedly. I feel for my parents and now that I am older I value so much the sacrifices that they have made for me and my brothers. As an Asian American, I face similar brutalities as the one that Coate’s describes in his book. And as a child of an immigrant I think I will be more relatable to my fellow peers at Canal Alliance.
As a student, I really value my role as a student. I have thought for a long time now that school has lost its purpose. America sells this idea that going to school and getting an education is the way into being successful. The way the economy is set up, it is hard to get a job without an education. But this isn’t the purpose of school, school is a way for people to LEARN and increase their knowledge about certain things. It’s about experience and learning and school systems have lost sight of this. I am very fortunate to be going to a university and getting a high level education and I take in every single thing and take everything into account. As a student, the skills and lessons I have learned are things I will carry with me into the real world and hopefully impact the lives of people I will encounter.