I Just Wanna be Average Essay
Social identity can shape the way we think about our goals and dreams. When living in a unsafe neighborhood and being influenced by a culture of violence one goal is to stay alive. When growing up in a society with low expectations and a lot of nonsense happening can cause someone to just want to be average or have a normal life. In I Just Wanna be Average, Mike Rose is a son of southern Italian immigrants who moved to southern LA in hopes of living the American Dream but they don’t get what they’d hope for. In the neighborhood where Rose grows up there’s a lot of poverty and low expectations, at first causing Rose to have a unnatural set of priorities. In Rose’s early life he went through a lot and forced him to focus on stuff you wouldn’t normally do as a kid.
Comparing Rose to Coates there are many differences in their early life. For Rose his family they had to work with what they could just like when he says “used my mother’s engagement ring as a down payment, and moved to 9116 South Vermont Avenue, a house about one and one-half miles northwest of Watts. The neighborhood was poor, and it was in transition.” “pg. 12” When Rose says this it shows his struggle that his family is going through right away and later on in this paragraph he says that all types of people live there like some old retired white guys, the young black people moving in from Watts, and then some immigrant Mexican families were even moving in. This states how much money his family has along with what they were working for. For Coates when he was growing up he was going through some similar stuff as Rose, just like when Coates said that sometimes he couldn’t afford to eat some nights. This shows how Coates and Rose had some similar struggles in their early lives. Both of them had different people around them when they were growing up and different types of people to talk to and learn from. But they also had different forms of violence in their areas. For Coates his neighborhood was much worse then Rose due to where Coates grew up. In Baltimore at his time of growing up it was very unsafe. Coates made this clear when he said “The boy with the small eyes reached into his ski jacket and pulled out a gun. I recall it in the slowest motion, as though in a dream. There the boy stood, with the gun brandished, which he slowly untucked, tucked, then untucked once more, and in his small eyes I saw a surging rage that could, in an instant, erase my body. That was 1986…” pg. 19″This means that in his neighborhood there was a lot of gun violence and gang violence. It had to have been pretty bad if they gave a little kid a gun in order to protect himself. Then in Rose’s neighborhood there was more drugs and kids doing stupid things in order to get in trouble. This is shown when Rose says “But the anger and frustration of South Vermont could prove too strong for music’s illusion; then it was violence that provided deliverance of a different order. 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…..” pg. 17″This shows what would happen in Rose’s neighborhood compared to Coates if you look at the way they spoke about there neighborhoods you would know right away that Coates was a lot more harsh and violent then Rose. They both did suffer from violence in their early lives Coates just happened to be a lot worse.
The both of them have had an encounter with the American dream and they both were wrong about it. For Rose his mother had said “it was nothing she was told” that nothing she was promised so much and none of it came true. For Coates it was when he was talking about the block parties, the barbeques, the driveways, and stuff like that. He realizes that the world is nothing like that and he was lied to. They both realize this pretty quickly causing them to view the world through there neighborhoods instead of what they make of it.
In conclusion Coates and Rose had very similar lives but in different ways they both had something that was worse than the others. But in the end they both came out on top and turned their lives around and didn’t let there social identities get the best of them. When comparing their lives they both had equally as bad times growing up but some things were better for Rose and the same for Coates. For Coates where he is living and being black was always difficult because of how everyone else was in his neighborhood because everyone was doing drugs or selling them or in gangs. In order to turn his life around he would use a false self in order to keep himself from being shot or beat up after school and to keep the gangs away from him. For Rose he would stay distant from everyone else in order to make sure that he wouldn’t get in trouble like some of his pupils. When Rose would want to stay away from everything he would hide and do some chemistry along with studying the stars. With Rose he had to find away to stay motivated because of the people he was surrounded by a bunch of old drunk guys with no motivation. Coates and Rose both of their identities were shaped by how their society tried to force them to conform to be something they’re not.
Rose, Mike. “Lives on The Boundary.” I Just Wanna Be Average, Penguin (1989): 11-37.
Coates, Ta-Nehisi. “Between The World And Me.” Between The World And me, volume number.issue number (2015): 6-39.