Why did Coates's father beat him with his belt?

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In Between the World and Me, Coates recalls being beaten by his father as a physical punishment for getting into a fight with his school teacher. Coates's father fears that the physical state violence that may fall upon Coates for his actions would be far more severe than the...

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In Between the World and Me, Coates recalls being beaten by his father as a physical punishment for getting into a fight with his school teacher. Coates's father fears that the physical state violence that may fall upon Coates for his actions would be far more severe than the physical punishment that he, his father, uses against his son. Unfortunately, Coates's father cannot see that state violence or parental violence are not the only two solutions to the situation. However, he fears that if Coates does not learn to tread very carefully that he will be beaten or killed by the police, and as such, he feels he must use a strong punishment to teach Coates to fall in line. He is operating from a place of love and from a completely reasonable and fact-based fear of the police. However, he is still hurting his child and continuing a cycle of violence.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates grew up in West Baltimore, an economically depressed and drug-infested community. 

Coates is beaten as a response to an altercation with his school teacher at the time. According to Coates, his father reasoned that the boy could either be beaten by his father or be beaten later by the police—a confrontation that could result in serious injury or death.

In retrospect, Coates understands that his father—like many black parents, especially those from lower-income communities—was operating from a place of fear. He was afraid of losing his son to police brutality—a fate that would have become more likely if he had allowed Coates to remain defiant and unruly in school. He reasoned that, if the boy feared his father's wrath, he would not dare to cause further trouble in school.

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