Quote 2

It began to strike me that the point of my education was a kind of discomfort, was the process that would not award me my own especial Dream but would break all the dreams, all the comforting myths of Africa, of America, and everywhere, and would leave me only with humanity in all its terribleness.

This quotation is from Part I, page 52, where Coates discusses attending Howard University. After spending innumerable days in the library trying to find answers to all his questions, he realizes that his questions cannot be answered at all. The process of learning, more often than not, just leads to more questions, theories, and opinions. Coates enters the library believing that if he could just read enough, he will find a streamlined explanation of black history starting in Africa and concluding with how white America is destroying black culture. Instead, Coates finds the authors arguing with each other, and it puts him in a state of mental chaos. Similarly, when he finds poetry and starts interacting with other poets, they constantly challenge each other’s ideas. Furthermore, his teachers force him to analyze his words and thoughts instead of providing easy answers.

Coates has already spoken of the Dreamers who have a nice, tidy view of America in which they can proclaim the greatness of their country. Of course, this has never resonated with him, but while in college, he makes his own romantic Dream about Africa. He envisions Africans as nobility who were severed from their homeland. He has a mental trophy case of black heroes who were the pillars and innovators of their society. But the more he is challenged at Howard, the more Coates realizes he cannot regard all black people as noble in the same way that Americans who pay attention cannot regard all white people as noble. So, he realizes that the point of his education is to see the world as it really is, not to find concrete answers to all his questions. At the very least, he must recognize that no race or history can be regarded as wholly good. For Coates, education is about seeing the world realistically even when that means realizing that so much of humanity is terrible and confusing.