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A self-described journalist, Ta-Nehisi Coates reports to his son his experiences with institutional racism in his work, Between the World and Me. Throughout his work, he is able to expose how Whiteness attempts to cover up or glorify its villains. In particular, he quotes John C. Calhoun, a man who in my own AP American History class, is placed upon a pedestal as being a memorable politician, “the two great divisions of society are not the rich and poor, but white and black.” Spotlighting how Whiteness intentionally subjugates the black body beyond its immediate implications, also brings to rise other considerations. The social contract without reference to any particular writer, is an agreement between an individual and their government. The individual gives up liberties in exchange for safety that is provided by the government. As a part of contemporary social contracts, the individual pays taxes to the government in order to pay for the services the government renders to the individual. The element of the social contract in question, is that it is a two-way street between the government and the individual. Since black folk are not given safety from the legal system, it should follow that it is coercive for the government to force black folk to pay taxes. Therefore, black folk ought not to be morally required to pay taxes to the United States Federal Government, its state governments and other municipalities. (104)
In the first part of his book, Coates describes the personal violence that he had to endure from as a result of the laws written and tolerated by the American majority. Growing up in Baltimore, he and his peers were taught by their parents through domestic abuse to be “twice as good” as white children. Their parents believed that if they did not beat their children, they would be by the police or worse. The streets were/are a likely destination for a black child because the schools were/are designed to force them there. The streets were/are dangerous because supposedly “black-on-black on crime” has been instigated by white folk. The drug war was created by Richard Nixon who associated black people with heroin in order to criminalize them. After the forcing black folk to the streets, prison or death is the final destination for them. The obvious conclusion is that America abuses its black citizenry.
The social contact is designed (according to some) to bring folk out of the state of nature so that living a life that doesn’t end prematurely actually becomes tenable. However, when practiced in America, it actually targets and breaks black folk. It overcharges black and utterly deprives them of their liberty, because how can one be free if they have to be afraid of those who are set to protect them? It privileges those who are white. Coates writes about the white folk who are able to safely be intoxicated in public and not be harassed by the police. They don’t feel the fear that is so endemic to the black American. The implication here is that the government has abused its social contract which should lift the black body from its burden to pay for its own enslavement. (84)
Forcing a person to pay for their own enslavement is not justifiable, and a particular kind of evil. However, a rebuttal could be made on numerous ground. One is that because of the tacit nature of the social contract, and that because America is a democratic republic and not a true democracy, individuals cannot voluntarily opt out of the social contract. Another is that institutional racism does not exist, perhaps this argument is most notably made by Herman Cain. The White game rigged to benefit itself is not actually a game is simply life, and black folk simply need to learn to play it better.
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