Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Between the World and Me, Part I: (20 – 39)

[Between the World and Me]

"The streets transform every ordinary day into a series of trick questions, and every incorrect answer risks a beat-down, a shooting, or a pregnancy. No one survives unscathed" (22). --Ta-Nehisi Coates 

In the second section of chapter 1 of Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates begins talking about violence and fear. He also mentions learning codes of the streets in order to survive. For instance, at one moment, he notes "To survive the neighborhoods and shield my body, I learned another language consisting of a basic complement of head nods and handshakes. I memorized a list of prohibited blocks" (23).

What he was learned and absorbed concerning those codes sounded all too familiar in some respects and really caught my attention. What about you? What did you end up focusing on the most while reading those pages (20 - 39)? Why or how so? Please provide page citations. 

17 comments:

Roland Wooters said...

The way Ta-Nehisi talked about everyday fear when he was growing up was something completely new to me. I did not grow up in a community where the thought of walking to school by myself struck fear within me, so reading his memoir on growing up in Baltimore in the 80s and 90s fascinated me. Although I did not grow up in a dangerous community, there was aspects I can completely relate to Ta-Nehisi with.Whenever I was a primary school-goer, there were several years where I felt like school was a prison. My parents used to tell me the exact same thing his parents told him - if I did not do well in school I would end up on the street. Like Ta-Nehisi, I was a curious boy. I often was that the true purpose of school - to keep me off the streets. And I spent so many years trying to analyze that very thought, and never really grasped it. Ta-Nehisi stated , "when our elders presented school to us, they did not present it as a place of high learning..." and I could not agree more (26). I have grown to enjoy school, but I still am weary of the thought of it completely saving me from the streets that consume several black men to this very day. To expand on this, even if I do avoid the streets will I still be able to conquer the constant fear that society is after me? I do not think these questions can be answered, honestly.

Joey Norwood II said...

Ta - Nehisi's description of his everyday life when he was a kid was surprisingly captivating and familiar. His description on page 25 stood out to me in particular. He described how failure to learn the streets could cost you your body now and failure to learn the school system could cost you your body later. The truthfulness of this description attracted my attention, for most young black men and women this balancing scale is often discovered at an early age and rarely mastered without sacrifice.

Joey Norwood II

Wole A said...

When Ta-Nehisi wrote about failing to understand not only the just the streets but the school system as well showed me how I am fighting two battles at once just to survive. Its bigger than just having book smarts you have to be able to excel in all forms of test and trials you face. It really got me thinking of how my knowledge can not be limited to only the four walls of my school that I need to expand my knowledge even more to be well equipped in this society.

Trion T. said...

What Ta-Nehisi said about learning the rules of the street really resonated with me because I am from the south side of Chicago. However I did not go through as much of a struggle as he did because I relocated to Belleville around seventh grade. I always wondered how I would have turned out if I had stayed in the area where murders and shootings happened on that very block, if I would be at the wrong place at the wrong time. At the time I was devastated to be moving, but now I look at it as a blessing because things were truly easier in Belleville.

Jeremy Huckleby said...

Ta-Nehisi description of the culture of the streets is to focus on survival and focusing on "the security of the body". This resonated with me because I know how it is to have your thoughts consumed with the anxiety of avoiding tough situations. He even says "... one-third of my brain was concerned with securing the body... I somehow knew that that one-third of my brain should have been concerned with more beautiful things" (24). Right now I am applying to medical school and I consider my movement from grade school in a poverty stricken area on the south side of Chicago to a blue-ribbon high-school downtown gave me the experience of realizing how much more of my time I could spend focusing on actually learning. Others without this experience don't realize that environment can be a disadvantage but I added this to my medical school applications. Coates thoroughly explained what I wish most could understand.

Jeremy H.

Brian Green said...

Ta- Nehisi stated that " To be educated in my Baltimore mostly meant always packing an extra number 2 pencil and working quietly" (page 25). I agree with her in the sense that when I was growing up, I was told that education was very important, and you had to act a certain way when attending school. My parents told me at school I need to act accordingly, be respectful to all teachers and students, and pay attention while bringing all of the necessary materials to be prepared for class. This stuck with me, and I make sure that I follow those same tactics while I am attending college. I believe that education was the one thing going for most people, and I made sure that I made the most of the opportunity. Also, I focused on this particular part in the book because in Ta- Nehisi's world, eduction was being the good kid in school. I agree with that one hundred percent because that was the same way my parents proclaimed to me, and I made sure that I did not become the student that was always in trouble.

Barry F. said...

While reading these pages, his description of what he had to do to survive in his neighborhood were intriguing and I also had a connection. On page 20, he said "I learned another language consisting of a basic complement of head nods and handshakes. I memorized a list of prohibited blocks." This was similar to my situation living on the south side in Chicago. If I had to walk to the store, I knew there was a "good" side of the street to walk on, walk with confidence, don't pull your phone out, the list could go on and on.
Another part of the reading that caught my attention was the part when he was talking about how he always had questions about current issues. In the hunt for answers, Coates says, "I took these answers to my father, who very often refused to offer an answer, and instead referred me to more books." My mother is a high school English teacher and always sent me to books for answers, so I could form my own opinions.

Rodrick Robins said...

"'The meek shall inherit the earth', meant nothing to me. The meek were battered in West Baltimore, stomped out at Walbrook Junction, bashed up on Park Heights, and raped in the showers of the city jail." (Ta-Henisi, 28)

This quote immediately stood out to me. It showed me why often times, the pro black movement is often associated with an anti-Christian one. I think that the ideas of peace, humility, and turning the other cheek were originally misused by the white slave owner, and that misconstrued usage is now being used to fight against something white. The idea of going against a "blonde haired blue eyed Jesus", I think, is rooted in the description that Amerikkka has created of Jesus, and the message that this Caucasian Jesus holds. I think that the Black community has nothing against Christianity itself, but the constraints and mental chains that have made it into a monster in America, that once upon a time, was used to enslave people of color.

J. Blackburn said...

When Coates started talking about black people in certain films which showed the black community to consider a morality of nonviolence. "The black people in these films seemed to love the worst things in life-love the dogs that rent their children apart, the tear gas that clawed at their lungs, the fire-hoses that tore off their clothes and tumbled them into the streets. ... Why are they showing this to us?" He criticizes the idea of African Americans having peaceful protest even if they are met with violence.

J. Blackburn said...

Also my quote can be found on page 34.

Robert Fullenwider said...

What caught my attention is when Coates was talking about how school was just another path to failure. School was the route for long-term failure, while short-term failure was the streets. Most people tend to hit the street because they view school as "secondary" (33) and they would rather be on the street. On the same page he spoke about how the US had "intentions" of doing well, but at the end is was just an excuse to keep minorities oppressed. This caught my attention because I think about these things all the time. It's a repetitive loop of restraints that needs to be broken.

Kaine C. said...

What caught my attention is how the street isn't his only problem. "If the streets shackled my right leg, the schools shackled my left." (25) I was caught on this because the school shouldn't be another problem. It should be a place to get away from the street life. He shouldn't have to be worried about failing and being sent back.

Jonathan Pittman said...

What stuck out to me while reading was the part around black history month. After the Black Panthers were taken out we haven't been militant regarding any of our views. we've idolized peaceful protest but that wont solve every problem we face. When Coates says "They seemed to love the man who raped ... Why are they showing this to us?"(32) it made me think of black folk constantly have the "Struggle" associated with them.

Jamal Sims said...

On page 32, Coates elaborated on the "non-violent heroes". It primarily stuck out to me because it made me really think about the constant struggle African Americans encountered to gain "peace" and "equality". It also reminded me that we still have a long way to go when it comes to peace and equality of all cultures and societies.

Emmanuel Ogunbode said...

Coates talked about how it was absolutely essential to understand the rules and regulations of the streets. It was just as important to have this knowledge as it was to be book smart because not being street savy could get you killed. This made me realize that being book smart isn't the only thing that matters in life. Even though it is an important part, I realize that being well rounded is more important because it will give me the ability to excel in all aspects of life.

Isaiah Blackburn said...

In “Between the World and me,” Ta-Nehisi Coates says, “My mother and father were always pushing me away from secondhand answers---even the answers they themselves believed.” This passage really stood out to me because most kids rely on their parents as their main source of information. I think that it is amazing how Coates’ parents pushed him to find his own answers and not rely on others to give him the “right answer.” This is especially important today in the age of social media because a lot of information is presented prematurely before all of the facts are known. This makes it essential to research multiple sources to help you decide what you think is true.

Jessie Carter said...

Coates talked about how he had to go throughout his everyday life in a way that defended him against these trick questions. Familiar to me indeed, it especially caught my attention on page 23 where he said, "And I learned that 'Shorty, can I see your bike?' was never a sincere question." This stuck out to me because i remember the time i got my new bike and all my aunt would tell me is to not let anyone see your bike no matter who they were. Luckily i listened to her because they did in fact ask to see it (often). It shows that these "codes" that the author learned are nationwide.