Between the World and Me Essay Questions

  1. 1

    What are the tone and message of the work?

    Coates is more of an instructor than a preacher. His words and tone are not extremely confident or motivating; there is a degree of pessimism and disillusionment that pervades the work. Solace and platitudes are absent. He counsels Samori to struggle and endure however does not pretend it will be simple for him. The work is extremely individual, intimate, and poetic. He connects his own history to a bigger history and paints a nuanced picture of what Samori is up versus. He eschews religion and other false messages of uplift and redemption in favor of unvarnished honesty.

  2. 2

    What does Coates believe is “between the world and me”?

    Coates considers this stirring phrase from his forebearers Wright and Baldwin. Why can’t he get to the Dream? Why is it beguiling but elusive? He comes to see that it is not exactly his race, but the fact that “white” people decided that “blackness” exists: “And I saw what divided me from the world was nothing intrinsic to us however the real injury done by people intent on calling us, intent on thinking that what they have called us matters more than anything we could ever actually do” (120 ). The Dreamers need their “below” in that they need to keep their exalted position by dint of subjugating others. “White” and “black” are artificial constructs, but they were created by the dominant group to obtain and keep power.

  3. 3

    What function does Malcolm X play in Coates’s intellectual advancement?

    When Coates was maturing, he was disenchanted with the Civil Rights Movement heroes who practiced nonviolence. He wondered why their heroes constantly needed to be nonviolent; he disliked their vacant expressions and how they granted let their bodies be ruled over. Malcolm X was a breath of fresh air for him due to the fact that he saw that Malcolm X did not lie and was a real political pragmatist. He did not sugarcoat his message for whites and he certainly did not turn the other cheek. He was fully in belongings of his mind and body and was self-taught in the methods Coates aspired to replicate.

  4. 4

    What are Coates’s thoughts on faith?

    Coates is clearly an atheist, detailing how he was raised in a house without faith by people reluctant to promote what they considered incorrect hope. Coates had no spiritual structure that offered “uplift” or assured redemption. Religious beliefs produces a blindness to the realities of white supremacy; while black Christians hope and wish justice, their bodies are being destroyed. It promotes exploitation, not autonomy. This distinguishes Coates from black leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. and President Obama, and puts him closer to Baldwin and Malcolm X (whose Country of Islam was different from Christianity).

  5. 5

    According to Coates, how can change be achieved?

    Eventually, Coates does not truly believe it likely that things can alter. The Dreamers are too willfully ignorant, too blind, too comfy. They are utilized to ransacking due to the fact that it is their heritage. They will most likely not have the ability to wake into awareness any time quickly. And as for people who wish to bring about this awakening, “this is a myth. Maybe a single person can make a modification, however not the sort of modification that would raise your body to equality with your fellow citizens … black people have not – most likely no individuals have ever – freed themselves strictly through their own efforts” (96 ). All anybody can do is keep up the struggle to stay sane and alive, and not count on incorrect hope or grand imagine noble, solitary heroes.