For your test tomorrow, these are the potential questions:
- How do the legacies of slavery and historical racism in the United States contribute to the contemporary disproportionate imprisonment of African-Americans?
- One of the central metaphors of Between the World and Me is “the Dream,” which Coates never precisely defines. What is the dream, and how does Coates argue that it hurts both white Americans and African-Americans?
- In his criticism of Between the World and Me, Randall Kennedy argues that Coates presents a “caricature” of African-American life, arguing that the book’s “pessimism is excessive, his despair disabling, his fatalism disempowering.” Is Kennedy right? Does Coates let his despair prevent him (and the reader) from seeing solutions to America’s problems with race?
- Coates argues: “At this moment the phrase “police reform” has come into vogue, and the actions of our publicly appointed guardians have attracted attention presidential and pedestrian. You may have heard the talk of diversity, sensitivity training, and body cameras. These are all fine and applicable, but they understate the task and allow the citizens of this country to pretend that there is real distance between their own attitudes and those of the ones appointed to protect them. The truth is that the police reflect America in all of its will and fear, and whatever we might make of this country’s criminal justice policy, it cannot be said that it was imposed by a repressive minority. The abuses that have followed from these policies—the sprawling carceral state, the random detention of black people, the torture of suspects—are the product of democratic will. And so to challenge the police is to challenge the American people who send them into the ghettos armed with the same self-generated fears that compelled the people who think they are white to flee the cities and into the Dream. The problem with the police is not that they are fascist pigs but that our country is ruled by majoritarian pigs.” Analyze this quotation in the context of the entire work. What does Coates mean by the idea of majoritarian pigs and why does he not believe that reforming individual police officers will prevent the violence against African-Americans?
You will be asked to choose two responses from three choices on the test tomorrow. For each question, prepare to offer a clear thesis statement and 2 well-developed paragraphs that demonstrate an understanding of the text and film.
You can even read and/or review an electronic copy of Between the World and Me here.