Author James Baldwin On Being Black In America – 1960

well then you are not hopeful about integration in the southern United States even if it comes am i right it is not quite what I mean let me put it another way all right in the first place it is not a southern problem as a national problem what is happening in New Orleans today began to happen over a hundred years ago when in effect the North which was the government having freed tens of thousands of illiterate black men then made no provision for them none whatever none whatever they were dumped on the body politic and no one was responsible for them and they were of course immediately political and an industrial footballs for everybody they were everybody's target because after all they had to go to school now they got to go to school after Booker T Washington in 1895 who was the architect really of the 7-foot equal principal said in effect said exactly that education will not make us different education will not make us not give us any desire to become equal to you and all things social we can be as separate as the fingers and all things essential a neutral progress we can be as one as a hand now this idea was accepted by the nation not only by the South but the South refused to provide the Negroes with the kind of educational facilities that the North Wallace made available to them no this is not true either I'm afraid that is not the way it happened there's not the way it happened what happened the Negro education began and really began in the south and it's still very largely located there there are Negro universities in the south there are very few Negro universities in the North because North is technically not segregated but it is very difficult on the other hand no to enter I don't mean it's difficult because the laws against it are you these things I mean it is a complex of things you grow up I grew up in Harlem so that's why I went to Harlem schools had to go to Harlem school there were the only schools you know my neighborhood no you grow up if you're an American Negro no matter where you live in the country you are living in a segregated community the South has you know all those things we know about the south and in every great northern city has its ghetto and I know how difficult it is to get out of these ghettos because I was born in one well are you suggesting then that in effect officially in the South there is inequality and no freedom for the Negro and unofficially but just as effectively there is no freedom for the Negro in the north the terms are different but the reality is the same a boy in Birmingham is in great trouble in Birmingham he is in a way one advantage them it's very clear in Birmingham that he can't go anywhere a boy born in New York can go almost anywhere Oh almost this can drive you mad this can drive you mad you can live almost anywhere if you fight to get in you can enter almost any nightclub you can into almost any bar and nothing will happen but it's almost means that there is a bar that it's a hotel there is a doorman there's never been a boy there is somebody every day there is at one place you cannot go which means you went to every door on edge now this is not true in the south well it when a negro boy goes in the Woolworths in the south just down he knows very well what he's up against he knows that I wanted a me and the only way that he can stay there it's the same effect but they have said you know we're not only aren't titled a service but you want it yes but there's more and more of this going on in themselves Negro boys are going into World War not only Negro boys Negro girls and they're insisting on their right to sit anywhere in the bus or sin or insisting on their right to sit down at the counter they're refusing to sit in colored waiting rooms only and bus depots and things like that they are insisting on a change in this condition they are indeed Monday I'm sorry well doesn't this suggest a change and progress in the relation and in the status of the Negro in these areas it may or may not may not mean that but what it does mean this is why the south is a panic-stricken and essentially the countries are panic-stricken about it it just means this the generation of boys and girls of signalers lunch counters are the first generation agos in the entire history of America who were not controlled by the Americans image of them this is why I monk Tom Lee so demoralize little raucous or paralyze New Orleans people are going mad if you have I was among calmly after the bus boycott after the after it's after dated succeeded which outlawed segregation on the buses now Montgomery is really after all or rather small southern town if you can find anywhere in the deep south Negroes the South has been saying for generations they know they know the Negro would find him in that town there was only growing that town really essentially was i working with some white men there was really no middle class there were no outside agitators these people walked these people terrified that the town is still terrified because they don't not to know not even on the obvious level about violence but if they're not who I thought they were who are they well white South southern and Oregon northern sing the new clothes were what is this image that you were this is precisely what is so difficult to get down to but let me put it let me try to put it this way what is he I don't know I don't know what white people see no they look at any grown anymore but I do know very well that I realized was very young whatever whatever he was looking at it wasn't me it wasn't me it was something he was afraid of it was something when she was attracted Oh which he found repulsive but it wasn't me I was not a man now this image I don't know what this image is but it has something you do it is something to do I'm convinced service for the Puritan God is only do with a peculiar and I believe absolutely bankrupt morality and in which we are all are suffering the one person who was outside this constriction in fact and historically and in life was this pagan is black even it was brought over was brought over that's right was brought over as a chatter to a Jew God's country now somewhere I think in order to deal with it all was gonna go only back to the beginning and trying to imagine I don't know how I know this can be done I think we've got to try well it must have been like then cuz then after all he really was a pagan he had nothing to do not only was it an you know throw down three times of silence of America but with European tradition of which Americans came he really was a stranger he really really did frighten them didn't they did not know what to do with him and I still don't and in a way that the sexual legends sprung up around the figure of a Negro in America contained to Mao the key the truth about our situation it is still true but the question which ends the argument stops the argument is would you let your sister marry one it is still a question to which in effect the country has found no answer do you think that there is this pretense the the the thing that impresses me while I try to understand the relationship with white and Negro in the United States which seems to me a very crucial problem indeed is the earnest desire of what I can only call Christian thinking Americans to remedy this this terrible gendering wrong to find some way to make expiation to find some way to give the Negro equality as a citizen of that country surely this is the real significance for example behind this whole struggle for integration I quite agree with that I can't agree with that but in order for this to be achieved there is one thing which has to be done which is not being done and that is this it is not it is not a question of giving a Negro of polity that is not really the question the question is why you haven't why yes why why doesn't have it yet this question is important this question implies how can I put this that an order to deal with it really deal with it you're first to deal with yourself I know a great many very well-meaning and very admirable people who work let us say in Simon houses all up and down you know now very rare exceptions they do not really make contact the people they are trying to help precisely because they think they're trying to help them and the problems was crucial and more subtle than that and they grow a boy dealing with a white school teacher doesn't want to be helped that way he wants to be accepted he has to be accepted as a boy as a person that's right before anything be done with him he cannot be handled as a problem it's not a question of giving a Negro equality is a question of making the country grow well that makes sense to you yeah but do I draw the conclusion from this fairly that what you're saying is that in some peculiar way there is a need on the part of the American to feel the weight American to feel that the Negro American is a dependent that there is a need to put the American Negro in a place apart mm-hmm that is one of the things I mean I also mean Alice I mean to imply something else may be personalized safest way to put it there is something mean for example you know sometimes inserting without much younger which resented the assumption which all these things are based it assumes that you have something I want it somehow assumes that I have not been to your wedding and haven't made my own judgments about the marriage what makes you think after all I always have often felt like saying but I want to get into the white man's world look at it but you want it part of that world oh of course everyone is there's no way no but but I am trying to point out this that um there is a really isn't on the basis of it just looking at the evidence any reason for white people to assume the Negroes want to be like them in fact the basis of the evidence and we conclude that anybody in his right mind would do his best not to become like that well the situation has changed in this respect surely that whereas before your American hero depended on the NCAP in the Blissey being I'm sorry in CC ap to conduct legal battles form on a very small level and that didn't know that that's much more complex than that well if I may just finish this point that was before he depended upon that kind of organization or he accepted the Booker T Washington proposition give me equal but separate facilities and I will be happy today he will not accept cannot cannot accept that cannot present this a qualitative change in the entire situation yes but you must remember what I what I am trying to what I'm trying to convey I hope because I'm not talking that situation has changed am I even arguing that progress is made and not questioning the goodwill no of the people who are doing it or helping to do it it's not the question what I'm trying to get at is this all right all right all right that's true but you one self oneself one's self one self the boy the girl no is in fact living in a house they can't move out of because he's black but there is surely an end to these Richard and miserable and degrading stereotypes that I was brought up on as a white person and all of us were brought up on or a light the the steppin bechet's the Bojangles Robinson the Aunt Jemima all these the optimist Roy Cohn's stories and all the way this is in the this is incontestable but what has come to take its place is not true it is still an image which is still designed not to reveal the truth but to hide it Abdulla Fonte a James Baldwin a Ralph well Lorraine Hansberry are not closer to revealing the truth well now Ralph and Lorraine and myself are not performers let's trot Belafonte let's move into the world of letters all right all right but boy drop Belafonte let me say this Harry no doll so I think no a very obviously you know one of the most talented people around and knows exactly what he's doing and his great any is very important he's oh he's even very important from a point of view morale building among Negro kids he's very important and yet and yet Harry I'm feeling must work within the psychological devotional framework of the country now you cannot be Belafonte enough know after all why people come to see you and not know know what it really is it's happening between you and your audience but if we examine and I think later on we should do that try to what is really happening I think we will find that again the image is not changed in some way it it is not the Belafonte is it is not so much that this particular man is being accepted though this is true but what is really crucial is it something else and something in the white world I mean has failed you see what I mean all right then how bored are how about our writers Ralph Naren I what one's trying to do and the reason the rains play is really important the reason you know that Invisible Man is such an important achievement is because is the first time almost the first time I think probably the very first time that a Negro has managed to achieve to step out of the image out of the cage really now let's compare this this is arbitrary I don't be unjust but I think that we can do it this way I admire you know the label should write very much but there at the heart of native son which is very important novel the the central figure bigger Thomas is really a white man's idea of Negro now because that's also what does happen is that the Negro takes image what she's offered and believes it himself know now what ralph did an Invisible Man was very very different it was very very different then superficially perhaps no no the novel's may seem to have a great deal in common but the great break between them is it Ralph dealt with his people and this boy on the inside and was no longer being described in any way whatever really by other people that was imposing his definition of himself on the world for years for years of years well all the time we know about really all the time two matters to us Negroes black men have been described by white people in order for the negro slave to become an American he had to accept all the definitions which are offered him the language the psychology the theologies morals everything he was defining himself in terms of someone else's definition it is very important when the day comes and instead of being defined by others you are able to define yourself and the threat which is what always what is felt matter people have been describing you is that if you can describe yourself and you can describe them and if you can describe them what would you say in the case of American Negro describing white people one can see I think how great the panic might be well what would I have to say about yes what would I really have to say about that I'm going to describe I can't name names so a hypothetical white liberal well I know what he thinks he's doing and what he's mainly doing is something which demands my tacit cooperation I have to agree I am what he says I am none of us have any dialogue at all and I don't agree that he is what he wait what do you know what I am or anything time and inevitably and I won see this is once in the faces of the people you're dealing with it means that if I'm not what he takes me to be that means I was I have a standard of judgment which is not his which I may then be using to judge him and which may cut the ground from under all the others exactly you regard this as a distinct threat to the what shall I call it the sense of spiritual security I think American I think the Americans essentially I don't think this I know this yes this is a threat to the American personality as it is so far been constituted it's a threat to every it is threat to their definition of the world the threats led to the way they what they think reality is for example this may seem extremely far-fetched but let's think about this for a minute it is very often seem to me that the American notion of the world which makes it so simple things are black or white things are good or bad people are straight or crooked and life is not like that I mean anybody who consider off knows life is not like this at all it seems me there's a reflection direct reflection of the effort made by the right American to keep a way to do not be threatened by black people in some way the American vision of the world is all wrapped up with a vision of black men which is do they have a vision of themselves black is evil the same are white now there's certainly a thread which connects this reality to which it makes it and makes it possible for the Secretary of State to say we will not do business with the devil you see what I mean you know I'm not you don't follow this let me try to do it let me try to do it again um I was saying before then the way black men are very useful to the American because in a country so absolutely undefined home office where there are no limits no height really in and no depth there was one thing for which the one could be certain one knew where one was by knowing where the Negro was you knew the juvenile on the bottom was Negro was there you knew one knows what sin is in the same way one knows what danger is in the same way but I said this face invested with all the vices and all the sanctities you know which people are afraid that is one of the things I meant now this imply a vision of oneself it seems to me in a vision of the world which doesn't stop at the American borders it is also the way America deals with the world and the world is much more complex than black or white let me ask you this question because it seems to me we've been moving in the direction of it and then retreating at its implications if such issues as fight for desegregation and integration are mere manifestations of what is really a subterranean and basic conflict how is this conflict going to be met on what level is it going to be met how is it going to be resolved if all of these steps are mirror incidental steps rather than essential now all these steps are the LED tabs can be called incidental they're all essential there are steps in this direction though well it has to happen nothing Martin Luther King in some mysterious ways really knows what it is what he has done it seems to me for the first time is to make that problem a Negro problem a matter of moral self-examination he has made it more difficult than it was before to evaded by good works the internal revolution that he has begun in must cannot possibly avoid moving directly into the heart of the people who make up America I mean I I mean that the problem will never be resolved until everybody in the country in some way and how impossible it sounds however this is what has to happen is able it somehow and able to do without this crutch well the other side of the difficulty it's very difficult I have I have said an effect the white man must give up what is in effect a crutch so much dye this is entirely true there is something very safe about being a grown away because you can blame anything that happens to you on it and this is the worst thing about being a Negro quite a part now from New Orleans race riots lynchings etc etc the worst thing about it is at one point somewhere in yourself you have to realize that all right you are nigger honest all true but before that you are a man and your life is in your hands you're responsible what happens to you you cannot blame anybody for it there is no point there is no one to blame you speak about this radical reconstitution the entire social fabric of a country of a re the more than reorientation of a relationship between two peoples existing in this one country you must become one inevitably it was suggests the difficulties standing in the way of it our enormous even though some important but not vastly significant progress has been made let me ask you a direct question under the circumstances in your heart aren't you basically very pessimistic about the future for the Negro in the United States no no no I'm not a pessimist pessimist I've noticed are silent I'm not bitter either for example people who are bitter silent – no I'm not pessimistic I don't know how this will be achieved but it must be achieved so we will have to do it why must it be achieved why Cannot the situation simply continue in an easy and perhaps bettering in some ways truce it will not it will not will not it cannot they cannot the country is honeycomb with ghettos people are starving and dying and growing bitter and turning into madmen and going into narcotic water everyday in those ghettos all over the country that's in the law and the South the South isn't a tremendous kind of storm it it is not possible for it remaineth is is just not it no not even a question the pressures are too great hypothetically if Birmingham the Lord I shouldn't mentioned Alabama still let us say Birmingham if it should love tomorrow it will not only be Birmingham well only chain reaction and spread Birmingham to Atlanta Nashville was written Birmingham Nashville to Atlanta to New York to Detroit to Boston doesn't stop at the mason-dixon line

45 thoughts on “Author James Baldwin On Being Black In America – 1960

  1. It's so frustrating reading / watching James Baldwin interviews bc he is always so much smarter than the people interviewing him

  2. The question is not giving the Negro power but why you have it…wow amazing exactly why do only a select group of people have the power??

  3. Mr. Baldwin clearly saw and challenged the unjust, racial climate of America during his time. He could have gotten killed for merely making any comment
    for what he witnessed through his lens.
    I am saddened that we do not have the voice of Mr. Baldwin today! His views were spot on about the brutality to the minds, bodies and souls of people of color. This country has enslaved, beaten, burned and hung black people-MURDERED, MURDERS AND WILL CONTINUE TO MURDER!! Then, the country turns around and tells you to love your neighbor, turn the other cheek and be kind. It is all strategic pyschological BS! It is virtually impossible to turn a blind eye to this madness.

  4. Rights are not handed out because someone feels like being nice. It's something that exists in the very nature of being a man -endowed by your Creator with certain inalienable rights.

  5. White people are cursing themselves because they refuse to look at the perspective of what other cultures believe. They have no respect for humanity. I've found that those societies that are based in religion are often fascists who are masked as good. Christianity is a satanic cult and white Christians have used it to colonize the world.

  6. The so called American negro will never be psychologically free until he /she Embrace Orthodox Islam . Psychologically they still have a slave mentally being Christian or whatever they call themselves other than Muslim.

  7. Blacks and whites are different. When blacks are left entirely to their own devices, Western civilization — any kind of civilization — disappears.

  8. Baldwin hit the nail on it head. With racism in the north you can go almost any where. Your living on edge.

    We only spoke on the phone.Will this apartment stay open when I meet the landlord etc.

  9. Words of our great Dr. King:
    #Reparations "is not one possible tool against white racism. Reparations is the indispensable tool against white racism."

    It's the only focus period! do not get distracted folks! their are no limits on our ancestors stolen wealth, so don't except any time limits on our compensation, money, and land.

  10. I only recently discovered him and I love his brilliance. I’m reading “Giovanni’s Room” right now.

  11. With all the talk of immigration today in 2019- especially concerning Black Immigrants – who denigrate us ADOS and whom many of them derisively refer to us as 'AKATA'- or wild animals…what do they think of stuff like this from James Baldwin and other ADOS who were here in America challenging, fighting, 'ROCKING THE BOAT', and DYING for equal rights? THE SAME RIGHTS THAT THEY DIDN'T RECEIVE IN THEIR HOME COUNTRIES AND FLED TO AMERICA TO ESCAPE!!…What do the immigrants refer to whites as- "SHINING KNIGHTS?"…"hard workers?"…"FAIR?"…

  12. He shriveled up like a defenseless
    child in the debate he had with
    William F Buckley Jr.
    He was left totally off guard.

  13. I wonder; did the interviewer understand anything Baldwin said. Baldwin speaks the 't'ruth of the existential experiences of 'blacks' in a society that denies their very humanness. The interviewer will never understand until he prepares his mind to "HEAR, FEEL and SEE".

  14. Booker T Washington was the Architect of Black Freedom; do for self and stay away from this White Devil!

  15. Baldwin's analysis of how americans find meaning and what gives them a form of certainty is dead on. You know where you are relative to where the negro is. How deeply pathetic. It is that quality that made them cough up Trump who embodies this central american character. Like Baldwin said, a society with no height or depth. Childlike, really. Contrast that, for example, to what an Ethiopian thinks of what it is to be Ethiopian.

  16. “….one of my resentments is that you assume that you have something I want.” – James Badass Baldwin

  17. It just amazes me how the commentators back then still feel the same way the segregation is felt down south it's like saying oh the way we treat you up north isn't good enough? Baldwin has to tell his oppressor would you live like this if I treated you like this…

  18. So America, how do you feel after being psychoanalized by Mr. Baldwin? All the tenets of self-help exist in Baldwin's reckoning of race in America. The degree of honest self-reflection required to recognize the greatest ill of racial oppression is to adopt a victim mentality is impressive. Current resurgence of neo-fascism in the U.S. calls for this self-reflection.

  19. watching this in 2019.
    The white Man Playing, Ignorant Of His Own Demise.
    AfriCans Like Baldwen, X been trying to give you a heads up።
    Time Is Up።

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