The Bodily Struggle
Coming to terms with our own bodies has been a struggle for each and every person who has ever exist. “I’m too skinny”, “I’m too fat”, “I’m weak”, “I’m too short”: each one of these examples that are bolded describe the imperfections perceived by the container and/or others. Let’s add one more, “I’m black”. Damn… Yeah, I know. Some may think that this crosses the line, but it’s a truth that is as clear as day. Some do see it as an imperfection because of all the violence, discrimination, subordination, and enslavement attributed to “black” people. That’s why there are some that see people with black skin as less qualified when it comes to a job, or even a threat when they walk by. In Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates goes over his experiences, dwelling within a “black” body, to expose the thoughts he encountered growing up. Directed at his son, he tells of his childhood, witnessing the violence that is associated with blacks. But, all of this violence risen from fear. A fear of bodily harm, “disembodiment”. That’s why there is the fighting, the music, and the persona. They all offer an “armor against the world” that protects their body. In order to be safe, Coates immerged himself in this culture as a protection. “To survive the neighborhoods and shield my body, I learned another language…” “I recall learning these laws clearer than I recall learning my colors and shapes, because these laws were essential to the security of my body.” (23–24) In school, he questioned the significance of Black History Month, noting that their “heroes” were the only ones to be nonviolent. Although there were “good intentions” behind celebrating the suffering of African Americans, it only lays new cement over the potholed/bumpy road that America has built. But Malcom X was honest, and that’s why Coates favored him. Malcom X provided the world with the full disclosure of the truth. More importantly, when Malcom X left prison, he emerged with the power to make his body his own, without the violence that he had almost fell to. Coates sought after this power of freedom, which lead him to discovering his own Mecca, Howard University. Here, he saw many educated blacks all around him, all studying different subjects once thought to be limited to those of greater authority. He described what he saw as, “listening to a hundred different renditions of “Redemption Song,” each in a different color and key.” (41) Like Malcom X, Coates constantly read and wrote, discovering new knowledge and theory. But often, these discoveries would be shot down by the discoveries, reformatting his thought. Coates also met people, specifically those he has come to love, each teaching him something new about becoming their own body. When Coates’s son came to be, he was made aware that his own power would allow him to protect his own body, as well as those in the rest of his new family. This idea gave him the ability to harness his power. Samori was the name of his son, named after one who struggled for the right to his own body. Which brings us to the intention of this writing. Coates wants Samori to own his body, to know that actions speak louder than words, and to be aware that he will also be responsible for the acts of other black bodies that will always be assigned to him. What does the last part mean? Although Samori might not grow up to be like other blacks, the violence will still be attributed to him due to the color of his skin.
The intentions to do good(Black History Month specifically), are often a load of bullcrap, offering a reimbursement for the inconveniences that were experienced. In the case of African Americans, the slavery, segregation, and violence directed at a people was unjustified, so Americans try to cover up the truth. Like I said before, it only lays new cement over the potholed/bumpy road that America has built. “It does not matter that the “intentions” of individual educators were noble. Forget intentions.” (33) This “hall pass through history” is a sad apology for what has happened. If I may change what was said by Coates (in a very unprofessional and explicit way since this is a reflection), fuck intentions.
The Dream. An idealistic lifestyle filled with the feelings of success, leisure, and happiness. But this idea is conveyed readily to fill the hearts and minds of America that “America is Great!” Is it really great? Not everywhere. It is not perfect. At my community site, the Dream is success in college and greater education. This dream can be attained, but it won’t be made available without any blood and sweat (not literally, but hard work). The students there are told of the Dream, and what is great is that the site fully discloses the secret behind this Dream. Hard work needs to be put in.
In my life, good intentions and the Dream have played large roles, but I have come to a consensus. Good intentions are bullcrap, and the Dream offers a goal. Good intentions unforgivingly target those that the good intentions are meant for, which does more bad than good. I remember in high school that whenever anything about Asian culture was brought up, I would be looked at, smiled at, and eventually I felt as if the lecture was turned and directed at me. Of course they included me for good intentions, but it felt like harassment. Remember, that I was the only Asian kid at my high school, and it sucked. Ah, perfect! The Dream ties in here as well. When I moved to Truckee, I did not have any friends and I suffered greatly from isolation issues. The Dream, for me, was to be happy and have friends like I did in Sacramento. The goal. But along the way there were many roadblocks whether it be the rednecks calling me zipperhead(coined for the way a Viet Cong’s head would split after taking a bullet to the head, Vietnam yo…), chink(self-explanatory), or plainly Asian(sad that they had to call me that, found myself questioning their intelligence whenever they called me that), the need to defend myself in woodshop by intentionally making things to protect myself when I was around school, or the quiet lonely lunches.
Coates has shed light on a new way to look at things in everyday life that is truly influential. It gives me the drive to appreciate my body, and strive to achieve the Dream. As a side note, this book is really great and has been the only book that I find myself not being able to stop reading. I never read, nor do I really enjoy it, but this book offers an influential message that I truly appreciate.