Between the World and Me Chapter 2 Summary
The chapter begins with Coates being terrified after being stopped, in Washington by a white officer. Washington was known to have racism instances such as innocent shootings and also imprisonment of black people. He is released from his situation, but later on, a similar event results in the death of his classmate, Prince Jones. The author reflects on this death and how it represented fear based on race and the prejudice of the population, specifically the white people. He comments on the memorial service whereby the Christian faith sounded forgiveness and prayer for the officer who was responsible for the death of the prince.
Prince was a respectable person, but the officer who killed him was dishonest. Coates tries to imagine being in his place and having to leave his family. Death makes him realize why his father beat him as a child to instill the fear. He and his family move to New York in 2001, and he feels that he is not in sync with the place. Manhattan was where slaves were auctioned once.
Coates realizes that he might not be able to protect his son completely from the world, and he starts believing that it made sense that black children had to be twice as good. He recalls an incident with a white woman who shoved Samori for moving too fast at an escalator. He was horrified by the feeling of entitlement she had.
Coates sees the saying, “it takes one person to make a change” a myth. This is because racism is not an individual feat but a fundamental force driven by groups. He makes the connection of racism to the American dream in that they both start innocently. The individuals seeking the American dream have to believe in their innocence morally.
Coates takes Samori and his cousin to the Civil war memorial sites to show them the world they have lived in. He shows compassion for the historical figures involved in ending slavery. He wants his son to understand that the American culture will always involve the destruction of the black body. Coates sees that the dream has to occur without the breaking of black bodies to build a fair country free of racism. He wonders whether the vulnerability of life is what makes it special.
Coates visits the mother of a boy who was wrongfully killed by an officer who claimed it was self-defense. They share their views, and the mother says that she was calm, and instead of seeking vengeance, she has taken the path of redemption.
Coates receives his passport and goes to France after his wife convinced him of the many possibilities that she had witnessed there. Coates is afraid, but the journey turns out to be thrilling. He gets sad because he did not go earlier. Coates sees that France built its legacy differently from the US even though their histories were interconnected.
He concludes by saying that the American dream is still being funded by the exploitation of black bodies by the prison system and others.