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Throughout American history there have been many achievements and accomplishments that set America apart from the rest of the world, but what society fails to notice is the racial oppression and violence that the blacks have endured throughout history and today. In the essay, Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, and the poem, Between the World and Me by Richard Wright, the authors both use language to convey a message that how America’s history has been violent against blacks and how it hasn’t changed much. This is seen in the way both authors approach the ideas of how blacks have been mistreated through history and how many Americans today cover the facts of the past up. But in comparison of each other, the essay written by Coates accounts for how the oppression and unjust treatment of blacks have led to a loss of innocence amongst the black youth versus in the poem where Wright is accounting for the loss of faith in a higher being.
In the essay, Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, the author uses his writing to his son to convey the messages about how the black population is facing hardships such as oppression, dissimulation of the mistreatment of blacks, and the loss of innocence amongst the youth of black Americans. Coates writes about the oppression of blacks in America through lenses focusing on the past and the future. In the essay he uses slavery to show the reader that the oppression in the past was focused on white Americans committing violent acts against slaves in order to institute fear within them to gain power and control over them for personal gain. This idea is portrayed by this quote, “And so enslavement must be casual wrath and random manglings, the gashing of heads and brains blown out over the river as the body seeks to escape.” (Coates, 15).
In this quote Coates is describing the different forms of torture and punishments that the slaves would be put through in order to show us, the readers, that the hardships of the past for blacks were filled with violent acts. Coates also goes on to writing about how the treatment that the blacks received in the past are still in effect today through administration of the police and not white slave owners. “The destroyers are merely men enforcing the whims of our country, correctly interpreting its heritage and legacy. This legacy aspires to the shackling of black bodies.” (Coates, 4). In this quote Coates is writing about how the law enforcement today is focused on enforcing the old ideologies of America, slavery and inferiority, onto the blacks through the destruction of black lives and black bodies. In addition to the hardships that the black community faces through oppression, the black community also is put through the concealment of America’s mistreatment to blacks. This idea is portrayed in the example where Coates recollects of when he was talking to a journalist and it goes like so:
When the journalist asked me about my body, it was like she was asking me to awaken her from the most gorgeous dream. I have seen that dream all my life. It is perfect houses with nice lawns. It is Memorial Day cookouts, block associations, and driveways. The Dream is tree houses and the Cub Scouts. 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. And knowing this, knowing that the Dream persists by warring with the known world, I was sad for the host, I was sad for all those families, I was sad for my country, but above all, in that moment, I was sad for you.
This recitation of the encounter with the journalist by Coates shows us that even though the history of black mistreatment is everywhere; many people would rather ignore it and enjoy living the dream life, not worrying about how they got there or how others are affected by their actions. Another place where Coates shows a concealment of mistreatment is revealed to us by this quote: “They were rebelling against the history books that spoke of black people only as sentimental “firsts” — first black four-star general, first black congressman, first black mayor—always presented in the bemused manner of a category of Trivial Pursuit. Serious history was the West, and the West was white.” (Coates, 10). In this quote Coates is reporting how the Americans don’t equally represent blacks throughout history and the when a black person makes history they are put into the “category of Trivial Pursuit” and not into textbooks where everyone can learn about them. The final hardship that the black community faces, according to Coates, is the loss of innocence amongst the black youth in America.
This idea of loss of innocence is laid out by Coates writing about his youth life being raised in Baltimore. “To be black in the Baltimore of my youth was to be naked before the elements of the world, before all the guns, fists, knives, crack, rape, and disease.” This shows a loss of innocence because Coates is being exposed as a kid to bad influences in his life that other kids are not being introduced to and this shows how the black youth of America are not being sheltered from harmful elements of the world. In similarity to the last point, another place where Coates demonstrates how the black youth looses innocence is shown by this quote: “The boy with the small eyes reached into his ski jacket and pulled out a gun.” (Coates, 6). During this encounter Coates describes to the reader how when he was only in 6th grade there were boys like him carrying around guns and threatening people and this shows a loss of innocence because a kid growing up should not have to go through the stress of not knowing who might kill them every day. After analyzing the examples from Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, it is seen he uses writing to convey messages about how the black population is facing hardships such as oppression, dissimulation of the mistreatment of blacks, and the loss of innocence amongst the youth of black Americans.
In the poem, Between the World and Me by Richard Wright, the author uses his writing about a person finding a body of a tarred black man to expose the oppression and unjust treatment of blacks, concealment of history, and the loss in faith. Wright portrays the oppression of blacks during the past through the way he writes about how a black man was being tortured by his white captors, and when the he was trying to talk the whites was watching him angrily and chanting for worse things to happen as seen by this excerpt from the poem:
The gin-flask passed from mouth to mouth, cigars and
cigarettes glowed, the whore smeared lipstick red
upon her lips,
And a thousand faces swirled around me, clamoring that
my life be burned….
And then they had me, stripped me, battering my teeth
into my throat till I swallowed my own blood.
My voice was drowned in the roar of their voices, and my
black wet body slipped and rolled in their hands as
they bound me to the sapling. (Wright, 33-42)
This quote shows that the idea that unjust treatment and oppression of a black man amongst the white captors was prevalent because even if he tried to speak they would give no consideration to what he says. This relates to the Coates essay because Coates uses examples of how blacks who are oppressed do not have a say in society in the past and in the present and Wright connects to Coates by agreeing with him how blacks are being oppressed and they have no say as seen by the guy who struggled to stay alive. Likewise the author also portrays to us the history of blacks being tortured has been hidden away and concealed from anyone knowing through this quote. “And one morning while in the woods I stumbled suddenly upon the thing, Stumbled upon it in a grassy clearing guarded by scaly oaks and elms And the sooty details of the scene rose, thrusting themselves between the world and me…. There was a design of white bones slumbering forgottenly upon a cushion of ashes. ” (Wright 1-8). This quote, under close analysis, shows us that the narrator stumbled upon the remains accidentally and the author uses the phrase, “thrusting themselves between the world and me” (Wright, 5-6), to show that the narrator suddenly gains a new level of understanding that the rest of the world shelters away when he comes across the remains.
This relates to Coates because in the Coates essay he talks about how the history of black mistreatment and torture is hidden away and disregarded through American history. The final idea that the author portrays throughout the poem is the idea the loss of faith. This loss of faith is seen in multiple places throughout the poem and here is one of the places. “here was a design of white bones slumbering forgottenly upon a cushion of ashes. There was a charred stump of a sapling pointing a blunt finger accusingly at the sky.” (Wright, 7-10). This quote is symbolic in the way that the charred sapling next to the remains is pointing accusingly to the sky which can be seen as a reference to how the guy who was burned to death accuses the heavens above for letting him die in agony and pain. The next place where a loss in faith can be seen is in this excerpt: “Now I am dry bones and my face a stony skull staring in yellow surprise at the sun….” (Wright, 53-54). This is described as a loss in faith because as the guy dies he dies looking up to the sky in surprise of his death and how the world can be so cruel and unjust to him and as he looks up the sun just looks back him without any emotion. This is in comparison to the Coates because in the essay Coates talks about the loss of innocence in kids and how it happens so early in their life that it changed them forever. This is different than Wright because Wright instead talks more about the loss of faith in the guy who is dying because of the horrific experience he is put through. In conclusion the poem, Between the World and Me by Richard Wright, exposes the oppression and unjust treatment of blacks, concealment of history, and the loss in faith amongst blacks.
In conclusion the essay, Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, and the poem, Between the World and Me by Richard Wright, both use language to convey a message that how thought America’s history the black community is affected negatively by the white washing of modern day society. This is shown to us in the way both authors approach the ideas of how blacks have been mistreated through history and how many Americans today and in the past cover the facts of the past up. But in comparison of each other, the essay written by Coates accounts for how the oppression and unjust treatment of blacks have led to a loss of innocence amongst the black youth due to exposure to bad influences as children versus in the poem where Wright is writing about how the unjust treatment and oppression has lead to a loss of faith amongst blacks. This similarity in shared ideologies across the writings of Richard Wright and Ta-Nehisi Coates goes to show how the society today should look back at history so that the oppression and racism against the black community can be thwarted from continuing on into the future.
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