A Letter to My Son Rhetorical Analysis
Racism links back to the days of slavery. Black people are always regarded as inferior in American history. However, the topic of racism generates controversies since it is sensitive. Many authors have used different techniques when addressing this issue so as not to raise any biasness against any group of people. However, racism todays seems to differ from that of the slavery era. Traditionally, the structure of racism links with segregation and slavery. Therefore, these structures elongate how racism works within our societies. Segregations led to the differentiated roles of white and black people within any given setting. However, with the rise of the civil rights movement, racial interactions were accepted lawfully while racial segregation became illegal. However, with these developments, racial structures took a diverse turn hence becoming covert. In his book Between the World and Me, Tu-Nahusi Coates discusses how the “new racism” operates after the period of civil rights. Furthermore, Coates uses A Letter to My Son to describe the redefining of racial structures to uphold a white privilege in America. Therefore, this analysis focuses on Coates’ use of a letter and ‘the body’ to attract attention audience.
Letters are considered a more personal and convenient way of sending messages regardless of their content. With racism being a sensitive topic, both the readers and Coates himself, the use of letters is the most convenient way he could have penned down his personal experiences without raising any issues. The culture of the black society gives all men the responsibility of nurturing all children even when they biologically do not relate. Therefore, when Coates says, “What I told you is what your grandparents tried to tell me” he is trying to pass down black generational teaching that even though things are tough, the most important thing is to find a way of living. Coates exposes his vulnerability through the letter, and he fears now that his Son is not going to be with him. Coates’ is not just writing this letter to his Son. Coates is aiming at a white audience; he wants to speak to the perpetrators who kill and destroy yet go unpunished. “And you know now, if you did not before, that the police departments of your country have been endowed with the authority to destroy your body” Coates speaks of the reality of the American society. Severally, we have seen cases of black people being killed or wounded or convicted for the crimes they have not committed. The people who should fight for justice are fighting against ‘the body’. Therefore, the use of a letter gives Coates the ability to express his sadness, anger, vulnerability and experiences as a black man and a father in America.
The body is just a physical structure of human beings. Coates used ‘the body’ when expressing the aspect of ‘new race’ in the American context. What differentiates white people from black people is their physical attributes, and that is what the privileged in society are destroying. “Sell cigarettes without the proper authority and your body can be destroyed. Turn into a dark stairwell and your body can be destroyed” Coates is describing circumstances in which black people are killed on the streets without any proper justifications. Similarly, currently, news of black people mysteriously dying or disappearing relates to this line. People have witnessed brutal killings in broad daylights, with the perpetrators going scot-free without facing any trials of persecutions.
Furthermore, Coates woes for his Son by saying “When I was your age the only people I knew were black, and all of them were powerfully, adamantly, dangerously afraid.” His body makes him live with fear; Coates is afraid of what his Son’s life is going to become. Being black in America is a death sentence, and ‘the body’ could be killed or destroyed at any moment. He further recalls instances as a child where his father punishes him in the park, and it is better than the police doing the same. “I knew that my father’s father was dead and that my Uncle Oscar was dead and that my Uncle David was dead and that each of these instances was unnatural,” Coates’s life is surrounded by death; he is warning his Son that his body might be the cause of his death, the question of African American death is not a matter of how? When is the right question? A letter to my Son uses “the body” to illustrate the only crime of black Americans; this is the genesis of racism. Without “the body’ then there is no need to live in fear.
To conclude, the shifting racial structure links to the definition of racism as an individualized act of violence. How racism is adopting current policies, practices, and norms leads to past outcomes while the offender does not explicitly appear to be racist. Coates, in his letter, narrates personal experiences of his life as a father is fears for his teenage Son and other teenagers. White privileges continuous to dominate American societies while black people continue to live in fear of losing their bodies. “They made us into a race. We made ourselves into a people” to them African Americans are just “black” from the time of slavery, black people have always been an inferior group. However, our forefathers and the fathers before us have fought hard to give us names in the great historical books.
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