Several ideas from Coates’s book Between the World and Me will be explored as part of this task. The first definition would be based on an in-depth exploration of the relationship between human body vulnerability and oppression, the various ways in which human bodily vulnerability is spread across the world, and finally some of my own encounters with vulnerability and oppression.
A synopsis of the novel “Between the World and Me.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote the book Between the World and Me in 2005. Spiegel and Grau released the 176-page book in July of 2015. The book was written as a letter to a teenage son. It touched on different aspects related to symbolism, feelings ant the harsh realities that are associated with a black person living in the United States of America. The book records some of the events he experienced in Baltimore as a young person.
He mentions vividly how people were treated in school institutions, how the police treated the blacks, and how the blacks were disciplined in the streets. He mentions some of the things that the blacks underwent and how they will continue struggling against ill- treatment. Coates recalls violence against black people and the atrocities committed against the black people. He explained his experience when he was growing up in a poor community that was always oppressed by the whites. In his writing, he disagrees with Martin Luther King Jr. idea of integration and optimisms. In his book, he continues to mention the privileges the black people were denied, for example, the right to vote, the right to be free from oppression (Coates 34).
The relationship between vulnerability of the human body and oppression
Vulnerability refers to the state of being weak and without protection. It results in someone being hurt physically or emotionally. Oppression refers to the cruel or unfair treatment of a group of people. In his book, Coates quotes that the things we experience in this world are directly related or linked to our body. This means that the things that happen to our body will affect how we respond to them. For example, when one is hurt or cut by a knife, the body will react to the pain that the sharp knife has caused. This pain will intern lead to one expressing a particular feeling. The feeling might be expressed in the form of a shout, cry or shock. Different people react differently to what happens to their bodies. This means that we are vulnerable to different things that affect us (Hurst 195).
Based on his book, Coates begins by describing how when he was young, he often saw black youths fighting against the white youths along the streets. This was as a result of the blacks feeling looked down upon by the whites. There was a weak relationship between the black and white folks; this made the blacks vulnerable to the whites. As a way of defending their rights, they would switch codes as a way of identity to protect themselves. Based on the fact that they were oppressed from every corner, they resulted in a fight. Fighting in the streets brought pain to their bodies. Others struggled to the extent of killing one another, while others left fatal bruises on their enemies (Bartholomae and Petrosky 40).
According to Judith Butler, there is a strong connection between awareness and violence which leaves individuals under vulnerability. She continues by saying that violence has something to do with the vulnerability in the sense that they are directly linked. When violence is used either as a form of defence or protest, it leads to severe damage of the individual. The individual can be physically or emotionally hurt. For example, if a husband decides to beat his wife due to marital problems say infidelity, the wife will be emotionally and physically unstable. The pain inflicted on her body will force her to make a choice to either stay or leave. Whenever pain is inflicted in one body, the resulting effect might lead to hatred, anger or isolation. Butler continues to explain that vulnerability is the door that exposes us to others through our actions and how we behave.
Judith Butler continues to say that a mindfulness of someone vulnerability can lead to no- violent responses. In his comments, she suggests that one can counter the tendency to react to vulnerability by denying it through fantasy mastery. This means that one can choose to ignore the idea of vulnerability by brushing it off the mind. It might be a way or ending conflicts but not the best way of solving problems (Bartholomae and Petrosky 43).
A good example is if Coates would have decided to watch his black youths beaten up and then choose to brush it off. The idea of him not taking any action would have solved the problem of racial discrimination and oppression of his fellow brothers and sisters. She suggests ignorance as another way of avoiding vulnerability of the body. With this type of defense, one can just assume that violence exists, therefore making it a critical approach to solving depression and vulnerability issues. Instead of ignorance being a solution, it leads to depression since the problems linger within the mind and might reoccur soon hence causing emotional pain.
Different ways in which human physical vulnerability is distributed across the globe
The human physical vulnerability is not a country problem but a global issue. It affects everyone living on planet earth just because people don choose when to be vulnerable, instead, they can choose how to deal with vulnerability. In India, according to trusted resources, two teenage girls were subjected to vulnerability when they were brutally raped and later on hanged on a tree because they had left their homes to help themselves in a nearby bush. According to the article, violence in Pradesh and India led to oppression of the poor women and girls in that neighbourhood. This was a type of vulnerability that was recorded in India as a form of caste oppression. This kind of vulnerability was as a result of the India government failing to provide an everyday right: a clean toilet. According to The National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, 67% of women from this region faced sexual harassment. This kind of oppression was as a result of the women being forced to use openly defecated fields, forest areas, railway tracks, garbage grounds and other dangerous marginal areas. This catastrophe was as a result of India poor sanitation (Santos 24).
There are different types of vulnerability that affect different people in the globe. One of the types is the physical vulnerability. This kind of vulnerability is caused by physical traumas that lead to experiences like fatigue, hunger, pain and tension. When one undergoes such a type of vulnerability, they tend to be aggressive and defensive. The tendency of one showing signs of fear, anger, and grief is likely to be high. For example, countries that are prone to earthquakes and other natural calamities always live in fear of the unknown because of the pain the disaster causes to them and their loved ones (Santos 52).
The sub-Saharan part of Africa experiences frequent drought and famine. This state leaves its inhabitants in search of water and food. This situation that affects them may lead to malnutrition children who may end up dead if they don access adequate food supply. Cases of drought and famine are unavoidable because one cannot choose when it will rain and when it should not. According to the Red Crescent Societies, food crops were destroyed in 2014 due to drought and famine that affected the sub-Saharan part of Africa. It is estimated that women and children were the most affected by the famine and droughts.
The other type is the personal vulnerability. This type is associated with a person feelings. It can be divided into two groups that are primary sources and secondary sources of personal vulnerability. The primary sources of personal vulnerability include tensions between an individual physical needs for survival and culture, the individual needs and resistance from insecurity, and tensions between unprecedented factors. This type of vulnerability affects how people treat one another and how they accept other people’s different behaviours.
In South Africa, there are different causes of vulnerability to their citizens. One of the factors is an increased level of poverty, unemployment and an increased number of people infected with HIV/AIDS. In a country like South Africa, the poor individuals tend to adapt faster to environmental disturbance and low income. This means that a bigger percentage of them can only access less from the society gives. A larger percentage of the poor people live in Soweto, which is the second biggest slum in Africa. Poverty tends to make people vulnerable in the sense that they do not have access to most of the core needs an individual requires (Hurst 198).
Research shows that in the United States of America, African-American students who were requested to identify their race when undertaking a test consistently scored lower marks than the blacks who were not asked to disclose their race. In another study in the same state, it was discovered that men passed math test more than women irrespective of the race they belonged. This two research shows that people can be oppressed and marginalized because of their color, race or gender in different parts of the world. This makes them vulnerable to their surroundings (Santos 32).
Experiences of my vulnerability and oppression
Life might be stressing when we want things to go well with us. There are situations that happen to us that make us vulnerable and oppressed. Sometimes we cannot control how people behave around us. Good and bad things happen to us depending on our environment and situations. I remember one day when I was new in school. I had not known the rules of the school and neither did I have a close friend. I remember walking to the classroom all alone. On the way, I was stopped by three huge boys who wanted to take my bag for no good reason. I came to understand later that they were bullies in the school.
They snatched my bag and injured my knee. I was thoroughly beaten and left to bleed on the ground. No one came to help me. I painfully lifted myself from the ground and headed home straight. My parents could not understand why I was bleeding. My neighbour kept making fun of me because I was limping. I felt physically and emotionally disturbed because of how I was treated at school and home. The fact that I could not respond physically to the insults I got in school made me feel depressed, and I lost confidence in myself. I struggled with forgiving them, but with time as I grew up, I learned to let go.
Conclusively, it is clear that vulnerability and oppression affect all people. The effect of the degree of oppression varies with different individuals. The level varies from physical to emotional state. From the above statements, it is evident that when people are looked down upon, or when they are oppressed, they tend to react to the situation. People react differently to the circumstances that they go through. According to Coate, people should awake from the slumber of injustice.
In his book, Coates emphasizes the great need for justice. When his college friend Prince George was killed, he developed a hunger for equality. This event radicalized him to fight for black people’s rights. He did not understand why a black police officer killed his fellow black man and yet the people who empowered the officer to kill were black. He could not understand why the politicians were unconcerned about the murder of their fellow people.
Coates has many questions that he poses to the government concerning the evil happening in his society. However, he was unable to provide solutions due to the corrupt governance at that moment. It was hard for him to experience freedom in a country that looked down upon the blacks.
Bartholomae, David, and Anthony Petrosky. Ways of Reading: An Anthology for Writers (10th Edition). New York, NY: Springer, 2008.
Coates, Ta-Nehisi. Between the world and me. Text Publishing, 2015.
Hurst, Samia A. “Vulnerability in research and health care; describing the elephant in the room?” Bioethics 22.4 (2008): 191-202.
Santos, Boaventura de Sousa. The rise of the global left: The world social forum and beyond. Zed Books Ltd., 2013.