[Between the World and Me]
"My only Mecca was, is, and shall always be Howard University" (39). --Ta-Nehisi Coates
In this section of Between the World and Me, Coates discusses Howard University as a Mecca and place where he encountered diverse groups of black people and began to really deepen his knowledge or what we'd call "consciousness."
What scene or idea or description from the section captured your attention most? Why or how so? Provide a page number.
On pages 39-42, Ta Nehisi Coates, describes the great power of black diaspora that The Mecca exuberates as he describes his experience on the Howard University Campus. He states that he "saw the vastness of black people across space time" (41). The author is notifying the reader of the amazing parts of a 20 minute walk across campus.
From this, we, the readers, understand that the author is extremely conscious of the benefits of being enrolled at an all black university. Furthermore, we can all get a sense of how connected blacks are with the past power figures, since the author continues to reference individuals such as Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, and Lucille Clifton.
One of the most vivid images Ta Nehisi painted in my head in this section was when he says "I was made for the library, not the classroom. The classroom was a jail of other people's interests. The library was open, unending, free" (48). I could really visualize what he said, and I could also relate. I too hate being in a classroom. I would much rather be in a library or even my room studying, rather than sitting at a desk listening to a teacher lecture and tell me what is and what isn't. I feel as though there is so much more to be learned about a subject and one's self when that person does the research themselves.
When Coates is describing exactly what made up The Mecca on pages 40-42, my attention was really drawn in as he was describing his emotions during his walk through campus. He did a fantastic job of showing the foundation of The Mecca, and why it was such an emotional experience for him to finally be walking in his ancestors and role-models' footsteps. He also seemed to be portraying an emotion of finally being in a place of comfort. Howard University seems to be a place where Coates, for the first time in his life, felt that he could speak freely about his observations of the world, or anything that came to mind. It seems to be the place that allowed his mind to grow and mature.
On page 42, there were two statements that caught my attention. One being "...the power of domination and exclusion is central to the belief in being 'white'...without it white people would cease to exist." This quote spoke to me because after pondering its meaning, I came to the instantaneous conclusion that it is true. Without the selfish urge of power and domination, there would be no racial separation that segregates all of us. The second quote, which also relates to the first, was also on page 42. "We did not choose our fences." This simple quote probably stood out the most to me. There is so much underlying truth in the simplicity of these six words. This quote acknowledges the simple fact that race is not a conscious decision, which many people seem to believe is true. We were born into life without our input, and this small fact still isn't acknowledged.
Ta Nehisi caught my attention most when he described reading history books as uncovering answers. As Nehisi describes on page fourty-seven, "I went into this investigation imagining history to be a unified narrative, free of debate, which, once uncovered, would simply verify everything I had always suspected" (47). This had originally attracted all of my attention because I thought about during the world wars and even now with dictators. The dictators, would change their history books to make their nation seem great, so that nationalism would sky high and support many of the ruler's decisions. The scene that Nehisi described just put me into the mind of an aspiring learner within a nation ruled by a tyrant who would change history, and leaving people in confusion because it may not be clear the way it is changed. I think the way Ta Nehisi went into his investigation would help the world in the end by unifying one history book of the world without bias. It could potentially open myopic points of view created by the bias history books out in the world today.
The Yard at Howard stuck out to me the most while reading. Africa isn't a monolith and we can further see this by Coates experience in the Yard. It becomes evident when Coates says "The one drop rule that separated ...the result is a people, black people who embody all physical varieties"(42-43) that good things can come from horrible situations. Comparing Howard to SIUE, while numbers clearly play a difference, you can still see so much diversity throughout the black population here.
The thing that caught my attention was on page 45 when Ta-Nehisi Coates described the power of Queen Nzinga who ruled central Africa and that he wanted power like her. I'm pretty sure he didn't want power to make others do his bidding, just powerful enough so that people will listen to him and not take him as not serious. He wants the power to make an impact to the people that he is around. It takes power to change the world.
What caught my attention was on page 41. Ta-Nehisi Coates stated "There were Ponzi schemers and Christian cultists, Tabernacle fanatics and mathematical geniuses. It was like listening to a hundred different renditions of "Redemption Song," each in a different color and key." In this section he notices how so many people of different cultural background can coexist in harmony in one place and it truly amazes him. I feel that is how SIUE is because we have so many foreign students and events that allow for us to see what makes their cultures so unique compared to ours.
On page 42, Ta-Nehisi Coates said, "Sometimes this power is direct (lynching), and sometimes it is insidious (redlining). But however it appears, the power of domination and exclusion is central to the belief in being white, and without it, "white people" would cease to exist for want of reasons." He is speaking about "White America" and how it only exists because of the domination of our bodies. This stood out to me because there is a lot in the media about racial pride, like the "black lives matter" movement. It supports the idea that the key to balance and power in the world is based on self-awareness and not in oppression of others.
This was just as enrapturing as the beginning as it goes into more personal experience and observations. The way he described the different groups of people and how they changed made me feel as though I was right there. He said, "There were scions of Nigerian aristocrats in their business suits giving dap to bald-headed Qs in purple windbreakers and tan Timbs." He also mentions the other people who join in the yard like California girls who become Muslim, ponzi schemers, Christian cultists, etc. He brings to life all the different races and cultures that exist within Harvard as it monopolized most of the black talent.
What caught my eye about this section is how Ta-Nehisi Coates painted a picture how Howard University is. While describing "The Mecca", Coates says, "The Mecca is a machine, crafted to capture and concentrate the dark energy of all African peoples and inject directly into the student body"(40). I've never visited Howard, but from all of the things I have heard about it, this is definitely the way I pictured it. Coates, over several pages, says many names of the powerful alumni that have made an impact on history, which contributes to "The Mecca" that Howard is today.
What caught my eye, as a reader, is how Coates creates a moment of realization on page 40 where he says "I first witnessed this power out on the yard...I saw everything I knew of my black self multiplied out into seemingly endless variations." This is a powerful statement because it is a moment where Coates realizes there is a world of opportunity. The brotherhood and the success he saw from the black men of stature on the yard became an instant inspiration to him.
This reading was quite intriguing considering all the topics that were touched by the author. I felt that he was very supportive of the African American race as a whole. I liked how on page 42 the author spoke on what his fellow peers were studying at Howard University. He described the future work fields and careers that students were pursuing at Howard University. I was also interested in how much he wanted to see other members in his face be successful as well.
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