- Jul 2015
fear lived on in their practiced bop, their slouching denim, their big T- shirts, the calculated angle of their baseball caps
These clothes often are stereotypes of urban bodies for black youth. In contrast, I would say that the opposite response of polo shirts, bow ties, and conforming attire that many black boys wear in an effort to fit in with the dominant culture--through assimilation--is also a form of fear.
The question is unanswerable, which is not to say futile.
Is the answer undefined because respect for our common humanity has no specific path? Each person must find his or her own terms of connection with every individual since we combat tendencies in varied ways when we encounter our differences.
Perhaps, when we struggle to define difference as either weakness or strength, we open the door for the challenge of racism and other social inequities. Perhaps difference, when counted as a necessary glue--a common bond--to elevate humans to being more collectively than who we are individually, is what we grapple with because we see it as isolating when we should see it as our hope for attaining our greatest human character once we see difference as a function of our collective wealth--our interdependence on each other--rather than our independence to stand in contrast to one another.
legacy = heritage = systemic inequity = cloaked hoods reminiscent of the hoods worn by KKK and their ideological superiority
the police departments of your country have been endowed with the authority to destroy your body
I am hesitant to place this broad sense of authority on the police department. I do not think it is a department; instead, I believe it to be people cloaked in masks of justice Some believe in a false image of of others based on color: they see color and not a person, an image and not a heart, a stereotype and not a son or a daughter.
When the person in uniform starts seeing problems and not people, they take on the systemic, divisive heritage of inequity that manifests itself in racists, sexists, social hierarchies that destroy the humanity in all of us.
the Dream rests on our backs
If a people's wealth, being, or privilege is based on standing on the backs of others, the struggle or jeopardy of the situation is that they are living on uncertain time--a time that will disappear once those who are on their backs eventually stand straight. For those who stand on the backs of others, they have not known true work for what they have attained since they have not earned what they have by their own efforts--at least not on the basis of their own grit and determination that emerged from their personal character of inner strength and resilience. They must live lives continually wondering when the dream will end, when the property will be returned to those who have rightfully fought for what is in the hands of a usurping group.
A usurped dream is a delusion, a farce, a hoax, that survives on borrowed time, terms, and values. For those who benefit from its ongoing perpetuation, the dream is more of a pending nightmare.
I would have you be a conscious citizen of this terrible and beautiful world.
I am not a cynic. I love you, and I love the world, and I love it more with every new inch I discover. But you are a black boy, and you must be responsible for your body in a way that other boys cannot know.
A powerful lesson .. a truth in America ... and a gift from a father to a son that all that comes before leads to ...
Never forget that we were enslaved in this country longer than we have been free. Never forget that for 250 years black people were born into chains—whole generations followed by more generations who knew nothing but chains.
I saw this reference in a review of the book ... amazing to think about ...
I have raised you to respect every human being as singular, and you must extend that same respect into the past.
A great lesson ...
I, like every kid I knew, loved The Dukes of Hazzard. But I would have done well to think more about why two outlaws, driving a car named the General Lee, must necessarily be portrayed as “just some good ole boys, never meanin’ no harm”—a mantra for the Dreamers if there ever was one.
How did we all get hooked into that show and its underlying narrative?
But my history professors thought nothing of telling me that my search for myth was doomed, that the stories I wanted to tell myself could not be matched to truths.
What? Is that true? or perception of the past?
Why are they showing this to us? Why were only our heroes nonviolent?
Interesting ... and this is what we show and explain in school today, too, right? Peaceful protest ...
I knew that my portion of the American galaxy, where bodies were enslaved by a tenacious gravity, was black and that the other, liberated portion was not. I knew that some inscrutable energy preserved the breach.
This seems to be the center of this whole piece, in my opinion.
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. The law did not protect us.
This was the reality of despair. Or is the reality of despair. How do we fix this? How?
There is nothing uniquely evil in these destroyers
I don't agree. Maybe not uniquely. But evil, nonetheless.
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 the all of it.
Man. Powerful moment. I can see him. I can see his son. I see the shadows of history. And even in the sadness, I see something .. a glimmer. Perhaps, as a father, I am projecting. So be it. This is one of those moments, the lesson that will linger.
I was sad for you
This phrase makes the political so personal, as he intends. It really hits the heartstrings .. and I feel like I am intruding here, don't you? As if I shouldn't be reading this talk between father and son ... as if annotating in the margins is infringing on that bond that the writing is creating. Or is that me?
And I remembered that I had expected to fail.
This is a sad commentary on our times, when such an articulate man either can't find the words, or has the words but know they won't matter. Or something else I am not privy to.
JUL 4, 2015
Hard not to relate this piece to another great statement of African American experience: Frederick Douglass's 1841 speech “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?”
lose my body
I'm just trying to imagine how it might make Coates son squirm to have his dad talk to him about his body. I guess I'm squirming a bit too. I'm expecting to hear about racism, but here I'm being asked to think about a body.
- Letter to My Son
- son and father
- Ta-Nehisi Coates
- letter to my son
- public letters
- white supremacy
- African American literature