Ta-Nehisi news show host asking Coates about

Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote the book “Between the World and Me” as a letter to
his son, Samari, about the treatment of black people in society. Coates gives
examples of harsh treatments to blacks through his own life experiences. The
book makes the readers analyze and conclude different ideas about the topics
being discussed. Coates takes a literary approach to describing his life as a
black male, in the sense that he is never straight forward with what he is
trying to say. Symbolism is a crucial aspect used to enhance Coates’ book, especially
when describing The Body and The Mecca.

            The
Body is the first symbol that Coates mentions. The book begins with a popular
news show host asking Coates about losing his Body. Coates is saddened by the
question and believes The Body is freedom and believing in oneself. The problem
with losing The Body comes directly from the fact that this white privileged
woman is asking Coates about losing his Body. On page 6, Coates replies to the
host, “The answer to this question is the record of the believers themselves.
The answer is American History” (Coates 6). In early America, there were slaves
who made the American dream for the upper class. Without the blacks as workers
and slaves, America may not have flourished into the industry it is today. Coates
gives an example of his son’s great grandmother losing her body in one specific
moment. On page 16, Coates describes a situation when Samari’s great
grandmother was beat because she calmly asked one of her granddaughter’s
boyfriends to go home because her granddaughter was not there (Coates 16). Samari’s
great grandmother lost her Body, her freedom, and from that point on, she
viewed the world differently. Someone would always need to be by her, Coates
even had to hold her hand as they walked the streets. Another example is when Coates
was sitting in his car, scared for his life, because he got pulled over by the PG
County police. On page 71, Coates explained that there was nothing he could do,
the police “had his Body” (Coates 71). Coates would not be as afraid if he did
not read about all the black people getting killed for no reason by theses
cops. Coates’ best friend from The Mecca was also killed by the PG County
police. I could think of a time when I felt the same way.  On any college campus, there have be reports
of crimes like someone getting raped or jumped. These incidents are always in
my head, especially when I am by myself. If I am walking back from class alone
at night and I hear a noise, I get really afraid and I have my pepper spray
ready. If there were no symbolism, it would be hard to make connections to
Coates experiences. Aside from creating associations with the experiences,
Coates uses symbolism for another reason.

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            Throughout
the book, Coates brings up the phrase, The Mecca. Before discussing the
symbolism of The Mecca, Coates never really says what it is. Mecca is a desert
city in Saudi Arabia. People in Islam pilgrimage to Mecca annually because it
is considered a holy place. Mecca is important to the Muslims for many reasons,
including that it is the birthplace of their holy prophet Muhammed. For Coates
sake, he is most likely referring to the importance of Mecca being a happy and
safe place for people with similarities to travel to. Coates says that his
Mecca is Howard University, where he went to college. Howard University is a
school in Washington, DC. What made this university special for Coates, is that
it is a historically black university. Coates states, “I was admitted to Howard
University, but formed and shaped by The Mecca” (Coates 40). What Coates means
is that the University is just a college like all the rest. The focus was on
people graduating and getting jobs as well as being a part of clubs and groups
like fraternities. The Mecca aspect is the spirit of all the black people
flowing throughout the university, spreading common feelings to the entire
student body.  Coates life has been greatly
affected by The Mecca because he was surrounded by other black people who dealt
with the same discrepancies growing up. Howard University is Coates’ Mecca
because it is his safe place where he can act like himself without being
afraid. The Mecca is also a place that was familiar to him. Coates’ great grandfather
worked there and his brothers and sisters graduated from there. Coates also met
his wife at the university. It was a family tradition to attend the college,
but Coates’ did not necessarily go there to keep the tradition alive. The
experience Coates’ family had at the university made him want to attend. Coates
allows the reader to make their own connections between The Mecca, Howard
University, and the real Mecca. Using symbolism here allows for different
interpretations to be made and discussions to occur. On page 81 of Between the World and Me, Coates refers
to The Mecca again. Coates is telling his son that at The Mecca he met a wide
variety of black people who had different stories to tell, but the end was all
the same. The conclusion is made that being treated differently because you are
black is inevitable (Coates 81). There is no way to stop the racist comments
and actions. Coates’ great grandparents, parents, Coates, and Samari would all be
treated unfairly because they are black. The symbolism used with The Mecca allows
for people to different assumptions about the book, leading to conversation. Symbols
are used to benefit the book, but there are always critics who disagree.

            Many
people believe Coates uses symbolism to the extent where he is creating blurred
messages. Rich Lowry from Politco
Magazine believes that Coates jumps to conclusions and is narrow minded
(Lowry). In the book, Coates talks about his trip to the movies in uptown New
York with his son, Samari. When leaving the theater, a white woman pushed
Samari out of the way and told him to hurry up. Coates evaluated the situation
by saying, “… Someone had invoked their right over the body of my son” (Coates
94). The situation is used to reiterate the symbolism of The Body. In reality,
Coates could have misinterpreted the situation and his reaction is what caused
such a raucous. The theater was most likely crowded, and with everyone leaving
all at once, the woman could have been frustrated and was just trying to get
through. In the moment, this woman may have bumped into a white child instead.
Lowry thinks Coates is over exaggerating so he can get the symbolism of The Body
across to the audience. Ryan Holiday from Observer
also believes symbolism was overused in this book (Holiday). Holiday thinks Between the World and Me is indirect and
the hidden messages can be easily overlooked. This overuse can be shown with
The Mecca. Coates often refers to The Mecca, but he never clearly states what
Mecca means to him. Instead of being straight forward, Coates emphasizes on The
Mecca many different times throughout the entire book so he can get his point
across. Critics like Lowry and Holiday have problems with the symbolism used,
but the book would not be the same without these symbols. Between the World and Me arouses discussions, and the indirect
information allows for more interpretation by the audience. The book would be
deprived of the powerful examples and the conversation aspect if there was no
symbolism.  

            The
Dream and The Mecca symbolize important parts of Coates’ life and improves the
quality of the book. Symbolism is a
way for people to be informed about different aspects of a topic, without being
told what to think. Comparing experiences Coates had to other possible examples
is a way to get the audience to connect with what Coates went through. Symbolism
is a necessity in Between the World and
Me because it turns a life summary into a relatable discussion.