March 1, 2019
Our social identities aren’t shaped by ourselves, they are shaped by the people around us. From Coates to Rose they both were shaped by their neighborhoods but both in two different ways with similar outcomes. Coates was shaped by the violence surrounding him and his parents fear of seeing him consumed by the drugs and violence of the streets. Coates parents were especially scared for him, Coates parent’s used physical lessons to try and point him in the right direction, “I remember watching him in a kind of daze, awed at the distance between punishment and offense. Later, I would hear it in Dad’s voice—“Either I can beat him, or the police.” Coates parents did what they had to do to ensure he wouldn’t become a statistic, it was difficult to grow up black because in the decade Coates was a child, blacks were still suppressed, discriminated against and targeted simply because of their difference in skin color, Coates adds “Maybe that saved me. Maybe it didn’t. All I know is, the violence rose from the feat like smoke form a fire, and I cannot say weather that violence, even administered in fear and love, sounded the alarm or choked us at the exit.” Coates childhood wasn’t your regular childhood, in his tough neighborhood you had to grow up quickly or you were very likely to join or be killed by the streets. Coates experienced in the social aspect when trying to create his personal identity, group violence, personal fear and physical abuse these all shaped Ta – Nehisi Coates into the man he is now.
Mike Rose had a similar but different experience growing up. Rose parents moved from Italy to American in hopes of starting a better life for themselves, when Rose parents first came to America they lived on the east side of America. His mother and father opened a spaghetti house in Pennsylvania that was successful up until the railroad had stop production in the area then the shop had gone bankrupt. Rose says, “My parents managed to salvage seven hundred dollars and, on the advice of the family doctor, headed to California, where the winters would be mild and where I, their seven-year-old son, would have the possibility of a brighter future. Rose had a easier childhood, it was a dreamy childhood but he had the chance to be a kid longer, he was lucky enough that his parents would buy him stuff to stimulate his creativity such as a chemistry set he received on Christmas one year, “One early Christmas they got me a small chemistry set. My father brought home an old card table from the secondhand store, and on that table I spread out my test tubes, my beaker, my Erlenmeyer flask, and my test tubes, my gas-generating apparatus.” Rose had a childhood that wasn’t filled with fear of being jumped or being caught in gang violence because he didn’t fit the criteria so the gang members in his area left him alone. It was much easier to grow up light skinned, being light skinned during this time meant you weren’t discriminated against, suppressed or targeted. That doesn’t mean he didn’t have dangers lurking around his neighborhood.
The types of danger in Rose neighborhood were similar to Coates but they weren’t targeting Rose, if anything happened to him it would have most likely been an accident. There was one story Rose was telling about what he experienced in his neighborhood, “One night I watched as a guy sprinted from Walt’s to toss something on our lawn. The police were right behind, and a cop tackled him, smashing his face into the sidewalk. I ducked out to find the packet: a dozen glassine bags of heroin.” Rose came in contact with drug not only with this situation but with the people that were living with him at the time, one of the guys name was Lester, “… Lester, the toothless cabbie, who several times made overtures to me and who, when he moved, left behind a draw full of syringes and burnt spoons.” Not only did he have drugs around him he also had an old man asking for sexual favors.