An Analysis of Coates Book Between the World and Me
In the book Between the World and Me, Coates writes a letter to his fifteen year old son in the aftermath of the murders of Eric Garner and Mike Brown. He says to him, “What I told you is what your grandparents tried to tell me that this is your country, that this is your world, that this is your body, and you must find some way to live within all of it. I tell you now that the question of how one should live within a black body, within a country lost in the Dream, is the question of my life, and the pursuit of this question, I have found, ultimately answers itself. (Coates, 2015, pg 15) Coates has to have a more real conversation with his son than I will ever have with a child I have biologically, the reality of living as a minority in America and the reality of having to come to terms with that means in the pursuit of the American Dream. I do not believe that every American gets an equal opportunity at success.
I believe that even though we are living in what’s considered a “post Jim Crow” society, there are still many systemic issues in our country that create a harder journey for citizens who do not possess certain privileges that many have to be able to achieve the same things without having to work harder. When King stated that before people could pull themselves up by their bootstraps, they need to have a pair of boots I believe he was trying to point out that not everyone starts out with the same resources.
I also believe this could also mean that they need to be given the first opportunity to be able to become successful, opportunities that are only given to those that are white and had been taken from the black community. This rings true for his time, especially with the racial relations were at the time, but this can also be applied even farther now in our current day America. Even today, people of color, women, immigrants, the LGBT community, and the disabled are at an incredibly disadvantage. This hasn’t been made any easier by our current administration rolling back more and more protections that had been put in place to help these marginalized groups in the workplace, society, and in school.
I personally believe that equal opportunity in America is a myth. Especially doing research on prior topics about the school to prison pipeline, and the prison industrial complex, especially when it becomes to race, anyone who isn’t white is playing already an incredible disadvantage. This especially comes to being able to make it through public school and successfully graduate, and be able to secure funding to be able to attain a higher education. This is a hard topic to discuss thoroughly without going through the entire system of race and poverty and how it can lead to an increased risk of crime, inability to graduate, and even things such as a lack of access to stable home lives and accessibility to I do believe that anyone has the chance to achieve what they want to do, but it depends on if they are able to put in the work they need to to get there if they are already living at a disadvantage.
I find it important question for everyone to ask and evaluate within themselves about what their privileges are and how that might have gotten them to where they are easier than their peers. In high school I participated in an exercise that helped make this real for everyone. Everyone stood in a line, and we were asked to step forward if we identified with a certain trait or statement that was said. This included being white, a male, a two parent home, straight, never worrying about when we’d eat. We were also asked to take a step back for another statements. This included being a person of color, identifying under the LGBT spectrum, being a victim of sexual assault, and living in a single parent household.
This was an incredibly eye opening experience for myself and my classmates to see tangibly how some people are held back in life, and others are naturally able to get ahead. The only way I feel that change can happen in America is if more people take inventory of the ways that they are able to get ahead with little effort, and help advocate for those who can’t. I understand that I am afforded certain privileges as a white, female passing, person of the country. I don’t face discrimination every day from the people I work for and the police force of my city as I walk down the street.
I also understand that my ability to go to school in a timely manner has been hindered by the fact I grew up in a single parent poverty ridden household and had to care for a sick father, and was the victim of an abusive relationship that all set me back from my goals. I had to drop out of school multiple times to care for my father and work full time, and then again when he passed away to figure out life as a newly 18 year old adult. For example, a lot of my friends who grew up in stable homes were able to go the “traditional” route of going straight into a four year right out of high school without working and graduate on time. I’m working on my degree to become a social worker so that I can use my experiences to help advocate for people who aren’t in a place to advocate for themselves. I think that if more people tried to think critically about their lives and where they are, and then tried to do something about it, we could start to create a systematic change in our country.