Between the World and Me

Summary

Part III, pages 136-152

Summary Part III, pages 136-152

Summary: Part III, pages 136-152

In the final part of his letter, Coates visits Prince Jones’ mother, Dr. Mable Jones. Dr. Jones was born into poverty in Louisiana, the same place her ancestors had been enslaved. At four years old, she recognized the same disparity between herself and the rest of the world which Coates has explained in his letter. Coates briefly wonders whether Samori first senses the gap after the Michael Brown shooting.

Determined to break her family’s cycle of poverty, Dr. Jones decided to become a doctor. She integrated her high school, and while, at first, the white children teased her, by the end, they made her class president. Dr. Jones received a full scholarship to Louisiana State University and became the only black radiologist she knew, which didn’t bother her at all.  

Coates describes Dr. Jones as a reserved, polite woman with impeccable composure. He can see an ironclad determination in her eyes, which reminds him of his own grandmother. Even when talking about Prince’s death, her eyes well but tears don’t fall. He likens her to photos of black resisters in 1960s sit-ins. Their eyes remain fixed on the horizon, as if they are summoning some greater power to remain stoic. Dr. Jones speaks about her church, a main source of her strength. Coates wonders whether he has missed out on something by not believing in God. 

Dr. Jones speaks of Prince, whom she calls Rocky after his grandfather. Prince was smart and made friends easily, even as he went to private schools with Dreamers. He was the only black student at his magnet school in Texas. Dr. Jones gave him and his sister all the things she didn’t have, including vacations and cars. But Prince always loved traveling over material things. Dr. Jones wanted him to attend an Ivy League school, but he only applied to Howard. He wanted to feel normal, not be used as a symbol or diversity parable.  Dr. Jones describes Prince’s death as being physically painful. She says she expected that the police officer who killed him would be charged. Prince’s sister is currently pregnant with a son, which scares Dr. Jones. She knows that nothing can protect his body, because one racist act is all it takes to destroy a black man.  

After going back to his car, Coates thinks about how much Prince’s family invested in Prince, only for it to disappear with his death. He remembers the photos from the Civil Rights Era, where black people allowed themselves to be tortured. He used to think it was shameful, but now thinks it is simply true. He says that perhaps the hope of the movement is to awaken the Dreamers so that they realize what they have done to the world. Coates describes going to Homecoming at Howard. He again sees the wide diaspora of black bodies. Coates feels as if he melts into them and no longer has the “birthmark of damnation.” He describes it as a joyous moment of black power beyond the Dream.  

Coates’ final pages for Samori are about black power and the conversion of Dreamers. Coates feels the power in that joyous moment at Howard and believes it is what drew Prince Jones to that university. Black power is the view of America that comes from struggle and invites an understanding of the country as it truly is. It is also a deep understanding of how fragile bodies and the Dream are. Even the Dreamers can feel black power because, to feel their deepest emotions, they turn to music by black artists.