Between the World and Me

by Ta-Nehisi Coates

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Coates claims that Black parents are often hard on their children. What is his explanation about this claim?

Coates claims that black parents are often hard on their children because they see it as the only way they can get them to compete with their white peers. Many black parents tell their children to be twice as good, which Coates regards as tantamount to telling them to accept half as much. Coates regards this as a double standard, since white children are never told to be twice as good.

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Coates is fiercely critical of the attitudes of some black parents towards their children. In particular, he criticizes them for encouraging their kids to be twice as good as their white peers. As Coates's father used to say to him "Tie-tie, you lose...So don't let it be close". His father meant that it's not enough for black children to be at the same level as white kids; they have to be much better.

Coates finds this attitude wrong-headed, not least because it conforms to a racist double-standard. No one ever tells white children to be "twice as good." Instead of what Coates sees as the perfectionist tendency among middle-class African American parents, he advocates for a frank acknowledgment of children's imperfections. Yes, they will drink, they will get into trouble, they will hang out with the wrong crowd. But none of that is any reason for so many African Americans to wind up in prison or on a slab in the morgue.

Furthermore, Coates argues that it's utterly futile for African American parents to come down so hard on their kids. It doesn't matter how hard they work, how much education they receive, or how well they do in life; they will never be able to escape from racism. There is no secure refuge from racism anywhere in America.

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