Between the World and Me

by Ta-Nehisi Coates

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In Between the World and Me, who is able to experience "the Dream"?

Only white people (with rare exceptions) are able to experience the Dream. The Dream is based on excluding black people and on denying the fact that black people don't have the same opportunities as white people.

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Coates states that (with very rare exceptions) the Dream is only for white people. He calls it the Dream, rather than the American Dream, because it is not meant for all Americans. He describes it as

perfect houses with nice lawns. It is Memorial Day cookouts, block associations, and driveways. The Dream is treehouses and the Cub Scouts. The Dream smells like peppermint but tastes like strawberry shortcake.

The Dream is based on excluding and exploiting black people. This was done openly during the centuries of slavery, and following that, it was openly continued during the years of racial apartheid that legally kept white people and black people segregated. Now it is enforced through the ease with which black people can by killed by the police.

Part of the Dream for many white Americans is the denial of racism and the exploitation of black people. To live the Dream is to believe or pretend to believe that the United States is a land of opportunity for all races. Many white people living the Dream, Coates says, will heartily endorse and say they agree with the sentiments of Martin Luther King Jr. while, at the same time, voting against policies that would actually help King's vision become a reality. By believing the false narrative that anyone who wants to can get ahead, white people can justify black exclusion from the Dream. On the other hand, some white people are openly racist, such as some of the police officers who kill black people.

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