We Were Eight Years in Power
Ta-Nehisi Coates
Contributed by Andrea Barraza

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Chapter 6
Summary

In this chapter, the author details how many white people were less willing to support Obama’s presidency. For many years, whites believed that blacks did not have the ability to take over leadership of the country. This is clearly brought up as Coates discusses an existing notion which suggested that “human resilience and intellect will be a match for any problem” (282); this notion was a belief which mainly happened to exist among white supremacists. Historically, the author points out that many white people believed that they are able to deal with the problems they experience without necessarily seeking for the insights of blacks. This notion does not take into considerations the fact that some problems cannot be dealt with without the inclusion of the ideas of all people in a society. The author suggests that the practice of white people sidelining African Americans on major issues pertaining the country played a huge role towards advancing the concept of white supremacy. The existence of this notion led to a long-lasting problem that led to the negligence of the roles played by African Americans in the US society; who had to inherit the challenges that came with the slavery in their ancestry. However, black people needed to hold onto the hope that they could rise above the burden of slavery that appears to be around them have their contributions in the US society recognized.

Coates also gives a story titled “The Case for Reparations” which details the tribulations that Clyde Ross, an African American born in 1923, with regards to the series of mistreatments he was given over time as he fought in many cases about his property. Apparently, there existed many laws on property ownership, such as houses, which Ross contested against but he lost. Ross appeared to be a victim of the Jim Crow system, especially in the Mississippi area where black people were mistreated as they owned property such as houses and lands, and the laws always went against them. Additionally, many black people lived in Mississippi and were subjected to harsh living conditions as human killings take place more often. Coates points out that, “Between 1882 and 1968, more black people were lynched in Mississippi than in any other state” (Coates 301). This demonstrates the challenges that black people experienced in the past especially as most of them were deliberately and strategically settled in particular set areas. These places never provided a home for them but only ended up being a place where they could be exposed to some form of harm. The author also notes that most of the black farmers in Mississippi lived in debt. For this reason, they often lacked the capacity to provide for themselves and their families in addition to being denied the chance to attain the dreams in life. These mistreatments made them lack the ability to go on with their activities, such as farming in Mississippi, implying that they were only left with the choice of leaving a hard life. However, the author suggests that Obama had worked to ensure that there was equality in the country and if, for instance, people were rich or poor in any way, the unsegregated America of the Obama era saw poverty spread across the country, with no particular bias toward skin color, and thus, it didn’t feel like only African Americans were subjected to poverty.

Analysis

The chapter nicely describes the high level of inequality that existed in the American society, especially with regards to the mistreatment of African Americans by White Supremacists through unfair laws. While the effects of slavery and segregation of black people had far-reaching consequences, much of the post-slavery pain that black people faced has been swept under the carpet (Coates 296). The author also demonstrates how, over the years, black people have always been deemed to be less important and less valuable as compared to their white counterparts. This chapter, also, demonstrates the need for continued adoption of that presented black people as individuals who play an important role in the American society. It demonstrates how the success of people such as Obama has helped in uplifting black people in the society, in the present and recent times.

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