Growing up in West Baltimore, Coates learns that there are severe consequences that await him if he makes a mistake as the price of error is higher for a Black man. Based on his experiences on the streets, he is able to grasp a understanding of what it means to be black in American society. At the age of 11, Coates stands out in the parking lot in front of 7/11 and watches as a group of older light skinned boys surround each other and one of them pulls out a gun, however the boy does not shoot. Coates realizes, “He did not need to shoot. He had affirmed my place in the order of things”(Coates 19). The boy did not need to shoot as just by pointing the gun was enough for Coates to understand the power dynamic in society.
Those who are light-skinned have more power in society than darker-skinned people as being white is the norm and so the closer one is being white the more power that they have. Black people with darker skin will always be seen at the bottom of the racial hierarchy. Coates recognizes how the white world treats people of color and that their lives can be taken away at any moment. Being a black boy on the streets of Baltimore, Coates realizes that the “price of error” is higher for Black people which impacts his behavior where he needs to be extra careful in every action he takes in his daily. His life is in constant threat, in which the next day is never a guarantee.
Learning how the streets of Baltimore operates, is vital for Black people because their race plays a big role in how they are treated by white people and even light-skinned in society.Whites in Baltimore have a completely different life, they do not have to deal with violence and fear of death. Whites are dreamers who live in the Dream, where they do not have to focus on their actions, rather they can go about their lives without fear that they are going to be questioned or judged. Ultimately it causes, Coates to grasp the idea of if he messes up, there will be no second chances available for him.