Growing and Me, Ta-Nehesi Coates effectively argue that

Growing up and going to school
in a predominantly black environment can be no easy task. It strikes
fear in black teens’ hearts to grow up in such a way. While danger may occur to
black people in the streets, it can also happen to anyone. No one is safe in
the streets. The majority of black people have no choice in growing up in an
environment of that kind. Whether it’s because they were born into poverty, or
they didn’t have the proper financial means to move to a more appropriate
environment. They have to deal with what comes with growing up in an environment
full of other black people who are already the minority. They are all at risk
of endangering their bodies and minds. In section one of Between the World and
Me, Ta-Nehesi Coates effectively argue that growing up and going to school in
an urban environment endangers both the black male body and mind.

One of the most primary
components of the text is that the black body is constantly under threat.
Racism, as Coates writes, is an institutional experience. Throughout American
history, both black men and women were shackled, tortured, beaten, raped,
lynched, and sprayed with high power firehoses. Now, such atrocities have
evolved to police brutality and senseless shootings. In today’s era, black
citizens are now being shot for holding a toy gun, shot for listening to loud
music, put in a chokehold for selling cigarettes, arrested and restrained for
trying to enter their own home. Violence is prevalent in a racially divided
America. It is the subtle ways in which the black body must comport itself in
public to avoid negative consequences and or the repressions.

Brutality on the black body is
not a recent phenomenon, Coats dates back through his to show that these
inhumane acts originate from traditional ideologies. Coates not only focuses on
the present, he also immerses the reader back into American History to explain
that slavery was the first and most horrific example of brutality on black
bodies of past victims. He recollects previous stories as well as his own to
give his son advice on how to survive as a black boy in America. He does not
let Samori nor do his readers forget that each slave was a living, breathing
human being with hopes, desires, and fears as well as the fact that American
still has the capacity to hurt them emotionally and physically. He continues to
warn Samori that he should not forget about the humanity of these people or to
look at them only as a stepping stone that brought him to where he is today
because his body is just as expendable as those he may try to step over.


Almost any time a black person
is victimized, their error is put out there for the world to debate “so
that America might justify itself” (Coats 96). There is a devastating
double standard here and many people refuse to recognize it. The policemen and
angry whites who destroyed our black bodies are never held accountable. Their
backgrounds are not raided; their demeanor, gestures, voice volume, and
clothing are not dissected. “The story of a black body’s destruction must
begin with his or hers error, real or imagined.” (Coates 96) Instead,
black people are seen as “deserving” of what can or will happen to
them. Those who wear hoodies, play loud music, sell cigarettes, carry toy guns
are all at risk of endangering their bodies. The people who are tall or looked threatening
or perhaps they had misdemeanors in their past will continue to be a subject of
debate. All in all, these standards would be transferred into the movie that we
see today.

Using Blaxploitation, we would
often see the black brutalized in the same ways as described by Coats in his
letter to his son. In movies presented over the years, we see the black body
displayed as an indestructible hero or the comic relief. Our women are always
displayed as sexual objects where the hero always wanted to save her and escape.

Blaxploitation films would
often attempt to reflect the black experience within a white cinematic
framework. The glamorization of the Ghetto, the funky music as well as the
plethora of black actors and actresses gave Blaxploitation the look and feel of
a black movie presumably written and directed by a black person. However, this
was often not the case. White directors made most of these movies. These
directors took the framework of a white detective/action movie where they
attempted to apply the black experience to it. This was the reason why the
films appealed to the white audience as well. Even though the films were
centered on black people, the tales were familiar to the white audience, giving
them the impression that they were not completely alienated from the
demographic. The movies played on the black people’s need to have a heroic
figure without having them satisfying those needs in realistic terms.


The women in the Blaxploitation
films were always reduced to being insignificant prostitutes or curvaceous
women who flaunted what they had. In some cases where the movie’s main
characters were women, they were still subjected to objectification and reduced
to sexual and insatiable “hot mamas”. In Black Dynamite, for example,
the purpose of the women characters was to supply the men with various sexual
interludes throughout the entire movie. One of the biggest criticisms that many
people seem to have with Blaxploitation films is the constant glorification of
characters that are pimps, drug dealers or prostitutes. This ghetto
glamorization elevated these lifestyles and only served as reinforcement to the
negative stereotypes about black people and the black community. Superfly, for
example, presents you with a drug dealer who sold dope to whites and took on
the mob where he eventually won. Throughout the movie, the character is
constantly pondering leaving the drug business but he continues his business
because of his attraction to the “drug money” and his materialistic
possessions he obtained using that money.


Movies such as these helped to
make the seventies a very prominent time for blacks. However, in their use of
sensationalism and exaggeration proved to do more harm than good. In attempting
to make such movies the artistic aspects of the black experience and culture
were completely lost to the audience. Through these misrepresentations, the
image of blacks was redefined with new stereotypes and generalizations.
Although today we may look back and enjoy some of the better qualities that
existed within those movies, African Americans continue to struggle with the
burden of these images today and onwards.