This is a post about the work “Letter to my Son” by Ta-Nehisi Coates and it’s relation to the book “Native Son” by Richard Wright.
I think Ta-Nehisi Coates goes into great debts about what it meant to him growing up in a black community and how that was completely different from what it meant to grow up in a white community. The simplest difference was life or death.
Coates uses his own experiences to connect with his son, explain to him how his childhood was about his parents trying to keep him out of trouble, meaning trying to keep people (such as cops) from thinking that he himself was trouble. Coates also details ideas about how when learning about Black History month in school, students were taught about Black leaders and their movements, however he also points out that though those movements accomplished many social and political goals, the didn’t quite achieve the equality of blacks’ and whites’ opportunities.
I really like how he points this out, we study Black History month, the sacrifices and nonviolent movements that led to the end of lawful segregation and move opportunities for black people, however it stopped there. Many races and ethnicities today are confined to different parts of the country, different parts of a city, between different lines. These confining borders only serve to restrict the opportunities and experiences they face. Furthermore, Coates points out how certain communities have to face the “streets”, where drug dealers, gangs, and all forms of violence are prominent. Even if children that grow up in these areas are allowed an opportunity to get out, their community represses them with different forms of violence and death.
One of the main words that struck me was how he wrote “They made us into a race. We made ourselves into a people.” It’s like he is pointing out that before they was no concept of race until slavery and oppression took hold, by white people around the world. It wasn’t until that point that race had been in existence. He goes further to say, that despite separating people, Blacks rose up and were able to display that they weren’t just a race, a category of humans that were inferior, they are a group of people that have their own culture, ideas, and beliefs that make them equal to anyone else.
Coates goes further in depth about the inequality between blacks and whites economically, socially, and politically and how that affects the opportunities and the situations they face in life. He lists series of crimes committed against black people specifically for their race, and how the controversy has struck the nation.
Relating this to “Native Son” by Richard Wright
I think in many ways Coates’ words and ideas relate directly to Wright’s words in the novel. Wright presents a setting of the Black Belt of Chicago in the 1930s and how this setting limits the Black people. Wright describes how Blacks are unable to buy houses anywhere else, because they are not sold to them, in addition to this, the Blacks face higher rent that whites would. Wright speaks out about how this segregation and oppression of blacks has led to them not having a chance to achieve much in their lives, leading them to scour the streets for survival.
I would say that Wright’s discussion of the conflicts that Black’s faced in the 1930s is what was faced before Coates’ time period right after civil rights. The presentation of how before and after the civil rights movement indicates that though things got better, the specific issue that opportunities were still limited during Coates’ childhood, during the setting of the novel, and even today indicates that this strive for racial equality is not finished. Where Coates presents his childhood to his son, and discusses the tragedies that have struck his race during his son’s childhood, he compares how things were bad during his childhood, things were worse pre-civil rights, but he also shows that things are still not where they need to be today.
When analyzing both “Native Son”, and “Letter to my Son” I think it’s important to look at the the time periods, and conditions presented in both works, and the message of how equality still has yet to be achieved. I also feel it necessary to those in the class that are neither black nor white, to look at the situations presented in both cases and think back to whether in their own history of their country or people, and whether they have faced similar problems. The issues presented by both works only detail issues of equality between Blacks and Whites, but I think in throughout the history of the world, oppression has been a major issue between groups of people, and when looking at these two works though you might not be white or black, being able to relate in another aspect makes the arguments and ideas clearer.