James Baldwin Essays Pdf

James Baldwin Essays Pdf-84
What it means to be a Negro is a good deal more than this essay can discover; what it means to be a Negro in America can perhaps be suggested by an examination of the myths we perpetuate about him.Aunt Jemima and Uncle Tom are dead, their places taken by a group of amazingly well-adjusted young men and women, almost as dark, but ferociously literate, well-dressed and scrubbed, who are never laughed at, who are not likely ever to set foot in a cotton or tobacco field or in any but the most modern of kitchens.We cannot ask: what do we really feel about him–such a question merely opens the gates on chaos.

What it means to be a Negro is a good deal more than this essay can discover; what it means to be a Negro in America can perhaps be suggested by an examination of the myths we perpetuate about him.Aunt Jemima and Uncle Tom are dead, their places taken by a group of amazingly well-adjusted young men and women, almost as dark, but ferociously literate, well-dressed and scrubbed, who are never laughed at, who are not likely ever to set foot in a cotton or tobacco field or in any but the most modern of kitchens.We cannot ask: what do we really feel about him–such a question merely opens the gates on chaos.

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Impossible and fruitless because, literal and visible as this tension has become, it has nothing to do with reality. Nothing has succeeded in making it exactly like our own, though the general desire seems to be to make it blank if one cannot make it white.

When it has become blank, the past as thoroughly washed from the black face as it has been from ours, our guilt will be finished — at least it will have ceased to be visible, which we imagine to be much the same thing.

It is this which defeats us, which continues to defeat us, which lends to interracial cocktail parties their rattling, genteel, nervously smiling air: in any drawing room at such a gathering the beast may spring, filling the air with flying things and an unenlightened wailing.

Wherever the problem touches there is confusion, there is danger.

Yet, in our most recent war, his blood was segregated as was, for the most part, his person.

Up to today we are set at a division, so that he may not marry our daughters or our sisters, nor may he–for the most part–eat at our table or live in our houses.

The Negro in America, gloomily referred to as that shadow which lies athwart our national life, is far more than that.

He is a series of shadows, self-created, intertwining, which now we helplessly battle.

One must travel very far, among saints with nothing to gain or outcasts with nothing to lose, to find a place where it does not matter–and perhaps a word or a gesture or simply a silence will testify that it matters even there.

For it means something to be a Negro, after all, as it means something to have been born in Ireland or in China, to live where one sees space and sky or to live where one sees nothing but rubble or nothing but high buildings, We cannot escape our origins, however hard we try, those origins which contain the key–could we but find it–to all that we later become.

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