Last Reviewed on March 23, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1318
Coates shares with his son that shortly before he was born, Coates was pulled over by the Prince George County police. Various stories of others who had suffered police brutality began to fill his mind, the stories of Elmer Clay Newman and Gary Hopkins and Freddie McCollum. He knew that at this time, this particular police department fired its guns often, prompting the FBI to open numerous investigations, often all in the same week. He also knew that the police chief was rewarded with a raise.
Coates was released without any reason for being pulled over, and a few months later he read about another killing by the Prince George County police. Coates was shocked to learn that the deceased was his friend from Howard, Prince Carmen Jones. Jones had been shot not in Prince George County but all the way in Northern Virginia, having been followed there on a police directive. He was shot only yards from his fiancée's home. The officer claimed that Jones had tried to run him over with his Jeep.
Coates returned to Howard for his friend’s service. Jones’s mother, Dr. Mable Jones, saw this tragedy as a call to move into activism. Others spoke of asking forgiveness for the officer. Many spoke of Jones’s belief that Jesus was always with him.
Coates could find neither forgiveness for the officer nor any higher purpose in his friend’s death. Not a religious man, Coates believes that his soul is the connection to his neurons and nerves and that his spirit is his flesh. Thus, the officer had forever destroyed all that could ever exist of Prince Jones, and Coates did not pray with the other mourners: he “believed that the void would not answer back.”
Coates had never considered living in New York, but when his son’s mother secured a job there, the family moved just before September 11, 2001. Coates looked out on a devastated city after that tragedy and asserted that “Bin Laden was not the first man to bring terror to that section of the city.” He also could not see the difference between the officer who shot Prince Jones and the police and firefighters who died at the World Trade Centers. To Coates, none of them were human.
Sometimes, Coates took the train to Manhattan, constantly in awe of the money flowing everywhere. He was particularly captivated by the white people on West Broadway, coming out of bars with wine spilling everywhere and no police to monitor them. He saw them as “utterly fearless.” As he looked around, he also noted white parents jogging with double strollers and young sons “command[ing] entire sidewalks with their tricycles.”
Coates thought back to his own childhood, in which all black boys and girls were urged to be “twice as good,” which he now interprets to mean “accept half as much.” He understood that no one was providing this same advice to the white children he observed in New York.
Coates recalls the time he took his young son to see Howl’s Moving Castle on the Upper West Side. As his nearly-five-year-old son dawdled along after the performance, a white woman pushed him and said, “Come on!” Immediately, Coates sensed that she was “invok[ing] [her] right over the body of [his] son.” Coates accosted her for touching his child, and she shrunk back. However, a white man rose to her defense, noting that he could have Coates arrested, which Coates further interprets as “I could take your body.” Returning home with many mixed emotions, Coates realized that his greatest regret about his reaction was that he endangered his son through his efforts to defend him.
When the Civil War began, black bodies were collectively worth four billion dollars. The richest men in America lived in the Mississippi River Valley, and they were able to amass great wealth because of the availability of stolen black bodies....
(The entire section contains 1318 words.)
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