Dreaming of a Better Dream

A Critical Reflection on Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me

Dear Dad,

One thing I really enjoy about you is how we are able to talk about social issues and the latest news. I also like how you still buy and read the newspaper when you can even though you can just check the news on your iPhone 6 plus. When you asked me what I was reading a couple days ago I gave you a short summary about what the book was about. The book, Between the World and Me, is actually a letter by the author, named Ta-Nehisi Coates, to his son, Samori. Since the book was written from father to son I was inspired to write this letter from daughter to father. The author explains to his son the American Dream, but states how this dream is not easily attainable due to their skin color. Coates explains the history of racism the United States tries to overlook and uses examples of recent events that prove that racism still exists. Coates references the deaths of individuals, such as Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin, due to police brutality. I remember me, mom, and you talk and mourn the deaths of the many Black individuals who were murdered by police, while the police officers that committed the crime get acquitted from the charges. Coates states, “And it is so easy to look away, to live with the fruits of our history and to ignore the great evil done in all of our names” (9). Many Americans wish to overlook the horrendous acts committed against African-Americans. This book has instilled more frustration I have with this social injustice. The first step to solving this issue is awareness and a realization of its effects today. Thank you for always being kind and open to whomever you meet. I would like to thank you and mom for teaching me compassion. Choosing to live and work in San Francisco has given us an opportunity to live in a diverse community where we are able to meet different people and appreciate our differences.

I remember asking you why you decided to come to the United States and you told me because you learned about the American Dream. You told me how you wished to live in America because you knew that you can make a living here and earn money through hard work. In Coates’ writing he states how the American Dream is deceiving based on how the Dream does not give a fair chance to everyone. Coates states,

“I have seen that dream all my life. It is perfect houses with nice lawns…And for so long I have wanted to escape into the Dream, to fold my country over my head like a blanket. But this has never been an option because the Dream rests on our backs, the bedding made from our bodies” (11).

Coates uses great imagery and symbolism to convey how the Dream is only a dream and how the Dream was created by having individuals at the bottom, specifically African-Americans as slaves. Coates also references the history of racism as “race is the child of racism, not the father. And the process of naming ‘the people’ has never been a matter of genealogy and physiognomy so much as one of hierarchy” (7). The way Coates words this statement is powerful and truly explains how race derives from racism due to labeling and possible discourse. Race was deemed due to superiority and inferiority of the perceptions individuals had in the past rather than research and genetic tracing. Coates states,

“‘To do evil a human being must first of all believe that what he’s doing is good, or else that it’s a well-considered act in conformity with natural law.’ This is the foundation of the Dream — its adherents must not just believe in it but believe that it is just, believe that their possession of the Dream is the natural result of grit, honor, and good works” (98).

Coates explains how ignorance is the cause of this evil and prejudice in this country. With education and awareness to the inequity the black community experiences, reform can be made. This awareness to inequity regarding impoverished communities can relate to my community partner, Kids Club. If individuals were more aware of the struggles and socioeconomic statuses of these families, people can develop empathy. Just like Coates and the black community, other marginalized individuals need to be understood and shown compassion. Coates states, “I would not have you descend into your own dream. I would have you be a conscious citizen of this terrible and beautiful world” (108), as advise to his son. This book further emphasized the importance of staying informed regarding laws and current events. I am glad that you embedded the need to not only watch the news, but also start a discussion regarding current events.