We Were Eight Years in Power
Ta-Nehisi Coates
Contributed by Andrea Barraza
Chapter 7

Chapter Seven focuses on the seventh year of Obama’s presidency as the author describes how the American story had never before been one for triumph but, “a majestic tragedy” (Coates 326). While white people came to the US for freedom, black people had never experienced any kind of freedom in the country. The author points out the fact that, that although pilgrims ran from their land to the US in search for freedom, the eventual state of affairs in the land which they were running to only turned out to be a sad state of affairs. Coates suggests that being black in America could, similarly, be living a life of being plundered in everything. Over time, black people appeared to have much lesser opportunities for growth than the whites. Black people were never accorded an opportunity to access anything or situation that they would enjoy as members of the country. On the other hand, white people either benefitted or engaged in the said plunder.

The chapter also details the effects that mass incarceration on black families that existed in the past. He provides a story regarding Daniel Patrick Moynihan who came from a broken home after his father deserted his family when he was 10 years old. For this reason, Moynihan’s family had to face a bitter end of poverty. The story relates to the situation of the “tangle of poverty, remarriage, relocation, and single motherhood” that many back people faced without help from the relevant government institutions (Coates 328). Thus, it shows the general effects that the move had in reducing the quality of life of Moynihan. Mostly, blacks have historically felt the brunt of being alienated in a country they term as their home. In the seventh year, Obama focused mainly on building bridges and ensuring that there would be better interaction between African Americans and other races. This would ensure that African Americans had a chance to feel that the US is their home and enjoy the freedom that the country offers them.


Details provided in the chapter are an indication of a pipe-dream of a free America to the African Americans. The author details some of the various challenges and disadvantages that black people were exposed to especially with regards to unstable families, in comparison to the families of white people, which often most appeared to be strong and stable. The story of Moynihan happens to be a classic example of the different challenges that an unstable black family are was likely to face in the America of that time (Coates 327). For instance, the problem of single parenting was a major social challenge that many black children faced. Such challenges could, often, hinder their development whenever they tried to advance their lives in an effort to attain better outcomes and standards. The Obama administration called for the criminal justice system to establish ways in which it could enhance the rehabilitation of criminals. This would help to keep families together as people who would have undergone rehabilitation could have a chance to go back to their families and stay with them and thus creating more stable families.

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