What role does fear play in the live of black Americans as explained in Between the World and Me?

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There is a great amount of fear at work in the lives of Black Americans. Currently, one of the most obvious sources of fear is encounters with law enforcement professionals, which is chronicled in the Black Lives Matter movement. Whether because of discrimination, fear, or some other force, many law enforcement professionals will react violently or with prejudice toward black Americans. This has created a cycle of fear and hostility between black Americans and the police.

In addition to that very obvious fear, there is also an institutional fear that black Americans have to deal with. Additionally, government institutions have systematically disadvantaged black Americans (practices that began with the institution of slavery and persisted in various forms throughout the years). Because of this, black Americans have a deep fear of the establishment.

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Unfortunately, black Americans have faced prejudice and discrimination ever since they came to America. Because of that, modern black Americans have to deal with a lot of ingrained fear: both their own and others' fear of them. Because of prejudice, many black Americans fear the system of government and police enforcement, as well as the prejudice and discrimination.

On the opposite hand, they also experience fear that is directed at them. Because of stereotypes that portray black Americans as violent or dangerous, they get typified and seen as threats. People of other races will show fear and prejudice against them. Black Americans have to deal with fear from both internal and external sources, which makes life very difficult.

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As the "Black Lives Matter" movement has highlighted, many African Americans genuinely fear for their lives in encounters with the police. Numerous examples abound of mainly white police officers who've drawn their weapons and shot dead African American suspects without any obvious provocation. As African Americans are much more likely, on average, to be stopped by the police, such tragic deaths compound the already existing fear that black lives are somehow less important to the police than white ones.

At the same time, many African-Americans live in rundown neighborhoods where crime is rampant, especially drug-dealing and gang-related violence. This leaves many citizens caught in a bind, trapped between people of their own race who commit crimes and the police forces whose job it is to solve them but who are generally mistrusted for the reasons we've already examined.

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Two types of fear play two important roles in the everyday lives of African Americans.

The first type of fear is white fear of blacks. This fear causes white people to react to the simple presence of blacks as though that presence is a threat. It can result in such absurdities as someone calling the police, or threatening to do so, when an eight-year-old black girl is trying to earn some extra money by selling bottles of cold water on a hot day (something as traditionally American as a suburban lemonade stand), or when a black student falls asleep reading a textbook in a dorm common room.

The second type of fear is the one black people live with. It is the fear experienced by people living in poor, violent, racially segregated neighborhoods of being victims of violence, of financial insecurity, of inability to afford medical care, and of generally being unable to go about their daily lives safely. Low-income black people not only fear the drug dealers and criminals in their own neighborhoods but also must fear police as well, given the history of police violence directed toward innocent black people. They do not have the luxury of assuming the police are there to protect them.

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