The Horror of Black History Month
Coates’ purpose of writing this book was to convey the struggles of being of African American descent during his time. He wrote of a fear filled childhood where beatings were prevalent and oppression was glorified. Coates described: “ Two years later, he beat me for threatening my ninthgrade teacher. Not being violent enough could cost me my body. Being too violent could cost me my body. We could not get out. I was a capable boy, intelligent, well-liked, but powerfully afraid.” This quote defined the life of a boy who got punished for every road or every opportunity he took. Regardless of what happened, he was a boy who was punished for those things. Coates takes a liking to guns describing them as something honest: “ I was attracted to their guns, because the guns seemed honest. The guns seemed to address this country, which invented the streets that secured them with despotic police, in its primary language — violence.” When it came to Black History Month he questioned why his race was glorified and glamorized for being nonviolent during times of oppression, struggle, and abuse. His confusion stemmed from his belief that black people loved all the terrible things done to them shown in films: “ They seemed to love the men who raped them, the women who cursed them, love the children who spat on them, the terrorists that bombed them.” Under land claimed through murder and slavery he did not understand why they accomplished what they had through nonviolent means. He stated: “ Why were only our heroes nonviolent? I speak not of the morality of nonviolence, but of the sense that blacks are in especial need of this morality.” He thought of himself as “politically conscious” as he was curious about the things that his parents believed in, what had happened to his people in the past and why things are the way they were. He wanted to make a change. Coates admired Malcolm X to the point where he wanted to embroider a portrait of him wearing a suit and holding a gun onto a flag stating: “The portrait communicated everything I wanted to be — controlled, intelligent, and beyond the fear.”
Coates describes good intentions as a hall pass through history. He explains that “good intentions” is a way of justifying everything that has happened up until now. He states: “ The point of this language of “intention” and “personal responsibility” is broad exoneration.” It is the only way for people who have done wrong, to feel as if they were doing something right whether or not they were going about that intention in the right way. However, in Coates’ mind intent comes second before the actions. He exclaims: “ Forget about intentions. What any institution, or its agents, “intend” for you is secondary. Our world is physical.” We make mistakes and we mean well however, history was built on this very belief and we’re only repeating history if we stick to it.
The dream is a utopia. It is a wonderful place for everyone except the people whose bodies were used as the foundation. Coates describes: “ 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.” It is a place where people can be happy because others suffered. It is a place of the future not of the past and not everyone can be truly happy because there were those that suffered for it. The dream can be interpreted in various ways for people at my community partner site. Some may think of the dream as an education beyond high school, income, or even just being within the presence of their families. Everyone has their struggles regardless of what you want in life.
I believe that the dream has motivated me to be a good character in life. Regardless of the choices I have made, I always believed that if you were a good person, you’ll end up somewhere great. Coates critique has made me reflect on what it was like growing up in an educational setting as a Filipino American and my reality could very well come close to his. Coates describes: “ The boy with the small eyes reached into his ski jacket and pulled out a gun. I recall it in the slowest motion, as though in a dream. There the boy stood, with the gun brandished, which he slowly untucked, tucked, then untucked once more, and in his small eyes I saw a surging rage that could, in an instant, erase my body.” I remember growing up in my school, we were taught what to do if someone unknown had entered in our campus and I recall there were two times where they were armed. At the time I did not really know what was happening but worst case scenario, any of us could have been moments away from death.