INVISIBLE CHAINS: “If you’re black, you were born in jail” -Malcolm X. This quote stood out to me because like Ta-nehisi said Malcolm never lied. That quote truthfully explains how we are jailed to the oppression of having dark skin. With that comes the daily fight against the power of the “other color.” – CN
“You must never look away from this. You must always remember that the sociology, the history, the economics, the graphs, the charts, the regressions all land, with great violence, upon the body.” (Coates, 10)
Q. Historically, institutions have been established to control and castrate black bodies. How can we learn from the past to rectify current conditions leading to the same predicaments?
The Body – Pillage and Plunder
“It must be said that the process of washing the disparate tribes white, the elevation of the belief in being white, was not achieved through wine tasting and ice cream socials, but rather through the pillaging of life, liberty, labor and land; through the flaying of backs;the chaining of limbs; the strangling of dissidents; the destruction of families; the rape of mothers; the sale of children; and various other acts meant, first and foremost, to deny you and me the right to secure and govern our own bodies.” (p. 8)
Q. How does Coates connect the visceral idea of the body to the notion of pillage and plunder? And how does this, in turn, relate to his idea of the Dream?
“This is your country, that this is your world, that this is your body, and you must find some way to live within the all of it. I tell you now that the question of how one should live within a black body, within a country lost in the Dream, is the question of my life” (p. 11-12)
“We are all our beautiful bodies and so must never be prostrate before barbarians, must never submit our original self, our one of one, to defiling and plunder…The missing thing was related to the plunder of our bodies, the fact that any claim to ourselves, to the hands that secured us, the spine that braced us, and the dead that directed us, was contestable” (p. 36-37)
Q. What are the ways that people can be invisibly chained? And then, how does this idea of invisible chains connect to the notion of disembodiment that Coates describes?
The Fear of No Escape
“The police departments of your country have been endowed with the authority to destroy your body. Resent the people trying to entrap your body and it can be destroyed. The destroyers will be rarely held accountable. The destroyers are merely men enforcing the whims of our country, correctly interpreting its heritage and legacy.” (Coates, 9)
Q. Where is our/the escape from this hindering tyrant of “Institutionalization”?
Robbery of Time
“It struck me that perhaps the defining feature of being drafted into the black race was the inescapable robbery of time, because the moments we spend readying the mask, or readying ourselves to accept half as much, could not be recovered. The robbery of time is not measured in lifespans but in moments…It is the second chances for them, and twenty-three-hour days for us” (p. 91)
Siphoning of Essence
“This need to be always on guard was an unmeasured expenditure of energy, the slow siphoning of the essence. It contributed to the fast breakdown of our bodies. So I feared not just the violence of this world but the rules designed to protect you from it, the rules that would have you contort your body to address the bock, and contort again to be taken seriously by colleagues, and contort again as to not give the police a reason. All my life I’d heard people tell their black boys and black girls to ‘be twice as good,’ which is to say ‘accept half as much;” (p. 90-91).
The vision of Healthy People 2020 is “A society in which all people live long, healthy lives.” How does the BLM movement fit in with that vision?
“I always thought I was destined to go back home after college–but not simply because I loved home but because I could not imagine much else for myself. And that stunted imagination is something I owe my chains” (p. 85).
Q. How is a ‘stunted imagination’ part of invisible chains? How does one’s imagination become stunted?
“Disembodiment is a kind of terrorism, and the threat of it alters the orbit of all our lives and, like terrorism, this distortion is intentional. Disembodiment. The dragon that compelled the boys I knew, way back, into extravagant theater of ownership. Disembodiment. The demon that pushed the middle-class black survivors into aggressive passivity, our conversation restrained in public quarters, our best manners on display, our hands never out of pockets, our whole manner ordered as if to say, ‘I make no sudden moves’ “”(p. 114).
Q. Why is the black body so vulnerable in America?
Q. What is the best way to preserve your black body?
Q. Who in particular is out to destroy the black body? Why?
Two hundred fifty years of slavery. Ninety years of Jim Crow. Sixty years of separate but equal. Thirty-five years of racist housing policy. Until we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole. – Ta-Nehisi Coates