Sadly because the position of the black man in the America of white racism has not been remedied. White America still defines itself as 'not black'. Baldwin diagnosed this precisely: "It is the individual uncertainty on the part of white American men and women, this inability to renew themselves at the fountain of their own lives, that makes the discussion let alone elucidation , of any conundrum - that is, any reality - so supremely difficult. whatever white people do not know about Negroes reveals, precisely and inexorably, what they do not know about themselves."Trump knows that without this touchstone of the self, he can say and do anything with impunity. As Harold Bloom, among others, have noted, the authentic American religion is a baptised Gnosticism, the principle feature of which is the dualistic separation of the world into literally its light and dark components. the real architect of the Christian church was not the disreputable, sun-baked Hebrew who gave it his name but the mercilessly fanatical and self-righteous St. Paul."For Baldwin, this is not merely an historical fact which is ignored by Christians, it is the establishment of a pattern which culminates in the sanctification of white racism, "The struggle therefore that now begins in the world is extremely complex, involving the historical role of Christianity in the realm of power - that is, politics - and in the realm of morals." From missionary activities in Africa, to the enforced segregation of American churches (even those like the Pentecostalists which had been founded by black people), Christianity had been a persistent tool of black suppression. We are an unmitigated disaster." Baldwin's solution is probably as relevant and as distant as it was in the 1960's: "The White man's unadmitted - and apparently to him, unspeakable - private fears and longings are projected onto the Negro.
Baldwin doles out some tough love to the American people, 100 years after Emancipation, and also writes to his 14-year old nephew about the race issue in America. Despite the frankness, I dont think this is an angry book at all.This isnt a misguided rant about race, this was written based on Baldwin's personal experiences, and is hopeful and also offers solutions. No wonder Baldwin feared for African-Americans identity crisis, no wonder he felt the need to encourage and preserve the arts in his community.
"How can one, however, dream of power in any other terms then in the symbols of power?" Baldwin, bringing immediately to mind Audre Lorde: "The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house." 'Down at the Cross' begins from adolescent years, when James was fourteen and underwent "a prolonged religious crisis." It was a fascinating recounting, giving the feel of Harlem of a particular time, and looked at how religion became the way he coped with the perils of growing up, and yet how, in many ways, it was no less controlling or harmful to the soul than "the whores or the pimps or the racketeers on the Avenue." For a short time he was known at the boy preacher and while it gave him some freedom from his father, his faith was only an infirm illusion. I justified this desire by the fact that I was still in school, and I began, fatally, with Dostoevski." I loved that words and writing were his real salvation. People always seem to band together in accordance to a principle that has nothing to do with love, a principle that releases them from personal responsibility." He then spirals off into the musing on human nature, the relationship between blacks and whites, and linking them both to the spiritual as well as the political. It is the responsibility of free men to trust and to celebrate what is constant--birth, struggle, and death are constant, and so is love, though we may not always think so--and to apprehend the nature of change, to be able and willing to change. My free time, fun time reading just never ran into Baldwin, perhaps because I stay away from lit-fic like the plague. What I discovered is that Baldwin writes lyrical, exacting prose, clear, and yet somehow poetic, with a belief in love and in dreaming better.
This little book had been on my long to-read list for many years, but when I heard its first essay, My Dungeon Shook, was the inspiration for Ta-Nahisi Coates Between the World and Me, I moved the book right up to the top. It is particularly powerful when it speaks of how racial oppression has caused even more damage to white people than to black people because it has made them unable to see reality as it is: They are, in effect, still trapped in a history which they do not understand; and until they understand it, they cannot be released from it. Then, as I was absorbed in Baldwins account of his childhood growing up in Harlem, I encountered the following passage: The fear that I heard in my fathers voice, for example, when he realized that I really believed I could do anything a white boy could do, and had every intention of proving it, was not at all like the fear I heard when one of us was ill or had fallen down the stairs or strayed too far from the house. It was another fear, a fear that the child, in challenging the white worlds assumptions, was putting himself in the path of destruction. He reacts to the fear in his parents voices because his parents hold up the world for him and he has no protection without them...That summer, in any case, all the fears with which I had grown up, and which were now a part of me and controlled my vision of the world, rose up like a wall between the world and me, and drove me into the church. Although he never sought to evade his fears by seeking refuge in the churchas Baldwin briefly did, even becoming a boy preacherhis fears controlled him nevertheless, and blocked out reality, "standing between the world and me." Ill end with this passage where Baldwin describes his memories of the church services he led.
It was published one year before LBJ's Great Society program passed Congress, which, for the first time in the nation's history, sought to address longstanding racial injustices.
If we do not now dare everything, the fulfillment of that prophesy, re-created from the Bible in a song by a slave, is upon us: "God gave Noah the rainbow sign, No more water, the fire next time!" - James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time I just couldn't watch the second GOP debates tonight. Perhaps, it was reading the Old Testament with my own teenage children that pushed me in this direction. God this book was beginning to end sad and moving and powerful and beautiful; and so now writing this and glancing at the highlights (lowlights) of the GOP debates, I can securely say, I made the right damn choice tonight.
States Baldwin, "They are, in effect, still trapped in a history which they do not understand, and until they understand it, they cannot be released from it." Baldwin's words are still powerful.
- James Baldwin in 1964 Fuck the police coming straight from the underground A young nigga got it bad cause I'm brown And not the other color, so police think They have the authority to kill a minority - Ice Cube in 1988 The police departments of your country have been endowed with the authority to destroy your body. It does not matter if the destruction is the result of an unfortunate overreaction...Resent the people trying to entrap your body and it can be destroyed. But there's a big difference between The Fire Next Time and its descendant, Coates's Between the World and Me: Baldwin in giddy 1964, before the assassinations of Malcolm X (1965) and MLK (1968), thought real change was coming. But it's thrilling to read this dispatch from a time when people thought a revolution might be a good thing.
James Arthur Baldwin was an American novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and social critic. Critics, however, note the impassioned cadences of Black churches are still evident in his writing. His novels include Giovanni's Room, about a white American expatriate who must come to terms with his homosexuality, and Another Country, about racial and gay sexual tensions among New York intellectuals.