In America the black body has been subject to countless struggles, on one hand the black body struggled with being the subject of ridicule and despise, and on the other hand the black body has been an essential part of the American economy since the institution of slavery. In Ta-Nehisi Coates book Between the World and Me he talks about the black body as never being able to experience the ‘American dream’ because the dream is flawed, but this flawed dream taught us to survive and is now destroying its only Dreamers.
What does it mean to be a Dreamer? According to Coates he describes “Dreamers” in Between the World and Me, as the White Americans who would rather stay in a fantasy world instead of waking up to the reality that they have forced black people to struggle for hundreds of years. Their reality is veiled, and they constantly cover up that they have been the enforcers of an unjust system, only now using the idea of the ‘American dream’ as the basis that all men are created equal and anything is possible. But the ‘American dream’ has been a nightmare for African Americans in this country, Ta-Nehisi Coates states that “The Dream thrives on generalization, on limiting the number of possible questions, on privileging immediate answers.” This is true as America was founded on the destruction of other people and their culture. When the first Europeans stepped foot on this land they murdered 50 million native inhabitants of the Americas, they enslaved 11 million Africans and established a country that only allows Europeans and their descendants to prosper as long as the ‘dream’ he describes exists. When Coates outlines solutions for the dreamers he paints a bleak image for black people by stating that “the dreamers will have to struggle themselves, to understand that the field for their Dream, the stage where they have painted themselves white, is the deathbed of us all.” Coates is wrong in this implication because the day the Dreamers gave civil rights to minorities, was the day they sealed their own fate not black peoples. They destroyed themselves because of “white guilt” and the guilt they had for the destruction of so many people and their cultures. If the country is based upon the destruction of people, how can it survive by empowering people? Coates talks about how much the black population was worth during the Civil War, saying that “our stolen black bodies were worth four billion dollars, more than all of the American industry, all of American railroads, workshops, and factories combined…”, the country has been accumulating wealth ever since and now how can these Dreamers survive if they no longer have free labor, and the value of these “stolen black bodies” are now equal to that of white. They never had the intention of giving black people control and equal power, instead their guilt only allowed them to give the illusion that America was now fare, and everyone is equal. It’s almost as if their guilt would not allow them to outright say that they hated us anymore, but the hate that they have for the darker peoples of the world never vacated, and now we see this with the election of Donald Trump.
The Dreamers are dying off and they are calling for a savior, so they vote for Trump their “great white hope”, and some even outright say that they want a race war (Atomwaffen a neo-nazi hate group founded in 2015 based out of Florida has a mantra calling for “Race war now,) because they feel that the war they have waged upon not only the black bodies in America, but every other indigenous people is becoming a lost cause. In an article by the Washington Post titled “Death predicts whether people vote for Donald Trump”, there is a direct correlation between the increase of the white population’s mortality rates and whether they voted for Donald Trump. This correlation began to happen right after the crack era and the privatization of prisons, so while they tried to take our black bodies from ever seeing the outside world, they were destroying their own world from the inside. They have in a sense tried everything imaginable to destroy black and indigenous people, from slavery to genocide to population control to lynching’s to mass incarceration. And this is where I find error in Coates’s solution, he has it correct in the sense that the Dreamers must learn how to struggle to understand ours, but what he has failed to realize is that it no longer matters because as black people have endured, the Dreamers have sped up their own demise. Coates talks about us like we are hopeless, and that the destruction of our race will go on forever, he says “Plunder has matured into habit and addiction; the people who could author the mechanized death of our ghettos, the mass rape of private prisons, then engineer their own forgetting must inevitably plunder more”. This may be true as long as the powers that be remain in power, but the destruction of the white race by the white race correlates directly with their failure in destroying us. He says that there is nothing we can do and that it is hopeless, this may be absolutely true, but all black people had to do was survive and reproduce. Media constantly creates the narrative that black people are violent and that we are killing ourselves in droves. Although this is correct in some instances, the vast majority of the black populations mortality rate has been plummeting while our dreaming counterparts have been increasing significantly since the 90’s. These Dreamers are killing themselves faster than they can reproduce while black people prosper. So how in the world through all the things black people have witnessed and experienced have we prospered? It almost doesn’t make logical sense, but it may be that our struggles made our bodies resilient, and we now know that our bodies are worth more than we were told previously by our slave masters, such as the rise of black power and love with words like “Love yourself and your kind. Let us refrain from doing evil to each other, and let us love each other as brothers, as we are the same flesh and blood… Your black skin is the best, and never try changing its color”, coming from Message to the Blackman in America in 1965 by Elijah Muhammad. The act of loving thyself was not always something we understood, after being taught that because of our skin color we are lesser than, we are ugly, we are different, we are abnormal, constantly reminded us of our past and what this country has done to us and our ancestors. So, what does it mean to live in the greatest nation on Earth just to know that it doesn’t appreciate what you’ve done for it? When someone does something for you for free don’t you look out for them? Don’t you help them, say thank you and maybe return the favor? America has done the complete opposite for its most loyal workforce, they spat in our faces and destroyed our bodies (literally). And instead of picking up arms against the country, black people have picked up arms for the country in every war since its founding. The Dreamers must understand this, they have to understand that without black people this country would cease to exist. So partly they must understand our struggle, and more importantly they must understand that loving us and what we’ve done for this country is more necessary than fabricating a race war. If they understand this then we can help wake them up from the fake dream they have been living in for so long.
The Dream Coates details in Between the World and Me is only experienced by those who want to remain asleep, black people cannot dream because we have long ago been awoken by the same system that allows others to remain asleep instead of awakening to the reality of the world. But the dream is to be free and empowered and if the paradigm of power is being shifted in black people’s favor, then the shackles that have been placed upon us for generations will be unlocked.
Written by Sulayman A. Abdul-Khaaliq
- Coates, Ta-Nehisi. _Between the world and me_. Spiegel & Grau, 2015.
- Guo, Jeff. “Death predicts whether people vote for Donald Trump.” _The Washington_Post, WP Company, 4 Mar. 2016, www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/03/04/death-predicts-whether-people-vote-for-donald-trump/?utm_term=.60e989aeddc1.
- Jr., Henry Louis Gates. “How Many Slaves Landed in the US?” _The Root_,www.theroot.com, 6 Jan. 2014, www.theroot.com/how-many-slaves-landed-in-the-us-1790873989.
- Muhammad, Elijah. _Message to the Blackman in America_. The Final Call Inc., 2012.
- Ostler, Jeffrey. “Genocide and American Indian History.” _Oxford Research Encyclopedia_of American History, 8 June 2017, americanhistory.oxfordre.com/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780199329175.001.0001/acrefore-9780199329175-e-3. PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, www.pbs.org/opb/historydetectives/feature/african-americans-in-combat/.