Sunday, January 13, 2019
James Baldwin: Collected Essays
_Baldwin: Collected Essays_ by James Baldwin
NY: The Library of America, 1998
“Everybody’s Protest Novel”
(17) In America, now, this country devoted to the death of the paradox - which may, therefore, be put to death by one - his lot is as ambiguous as a tableau by Kafka.
“Many Thousands Gone”
(24) Americans, unhappily, have the most remarkable ability to alchemize all bitter truths into an innocuous but piquant confection and to transform their moral contradictions, or public discussion of such contradictions, into a proud decoration such as are given for heroism on the field of battle.
(31-32) …that Americans, who evade, so far as possible, all genuine experience, have therefore no way of assessing the experience of others and no way of establishing themselves in relation to any way of life which is not their own.
“The Harlem Ghetto”
(48) The American ideal, after all, is that everyone should be as much alike as possible.
“Journey to Atlanta”
(54) It is considered a rather cheerful axiom that all Americans distrust politicians. (No one takes the further and less cheerful step of considering just what effect this mutual contempt has on either the public or the politicians, who have, indeed, very little to do with one another.)
“Notes of a Native Son”
(65) ...I had discovered the weight of white people in the world.
(68) In learned in New Jersey that to be a Negro meant, precisely, that one was never looked at but was simply at the mercy of the reflexes the color of one’s skin caused in other people.
(75) I had told my mother that I did not want to see him [his father] because I hated him. But this was not true. It was only that I _had_ hated and I wanted to hold on to this hatred. I did not want to look on him as a ruin: it was not a ruin I had hated.
(78) When one slapped one’s child in anger the recoil in the heart reverberated through heaven and became part of the pain of the universe.
(82) To smash something is the ghetto’s chronic need.
“A Question of Identity”
(99) … one of the most American of attributes, the inability to believe that time is real.
“Stranger in the Village”
(128) … Americans are as unlike any other white peole in the world as it is possible to be. I do not think, for example, that it is too much to suggest that the American vision of the world - which allows so little reality, generally speaking, for any of the darker forces in human life, which tends until today to paint moral issues in glaring black and white - owes a great deal to the battle waged by Americans to maintain between themselves and black men a human separation which could not be bridged.
NB: locked into black and white binary in thought and deed
“The Discovery of What It Means to Be an American”
(137) I left America because I doubted my ability to survive the fury of the color problem here. (Sometimes I still do.) I wanted to prevent myself from becoming _merely_ a Negro; or, even, merely a Negro writer. I wanted to find out in what way the _specialness_ of my experience could be made to connect me with other people instead of dividing me from them. (I was as isolated from Negroes as I was from whites, which is what happens when a Negro begins, at bottom, to believe what white people say about him.)
“Princes and Powers”
(150) He [Leopold Senghor] told us that the difference between the function of the arts in Europe and their function in Africa lay in the fact that, in Africa, the function of the arts is more present and pervasive, is infiintely less special, “is done by all, for all.” Thus, art for art’s sake is not a concept which makes any sense in Africa. The division between art and life out of which such a concept comes does not exist there. Art itself is taken to be perishable, to be made again each time it disappears or is destroyed. What is clung to is the spirit which makes art possible. And the African idea of this spirit is very different from the European idea. European art attempts to imitate nature. African art is concerned with reaching beyond and beneath nature, to contact, and itself become a part of _la force vitale_. That artisitc image is not intended to represent the thing itself, but, rather the reality of the force the thing contains. Thus, the moon is fecundity, the elephant is force.
(165) Amos Tutuola’s The Palm-Wine Drunkard
“Fifth Avenue, Uptown”
(179) As far as the color prolbem is concerned, there is but one great difference between the Southern white and the Northerner: the Southerner remembers, historically and in his own psyche, a kind of Eden in which he loved black people and they loved him.
“A Fly in Buttermilk”
(195) For segration has worked brilliantly in the South, and, in fact, in the nation, to this extent: it has allowed white people, with scarcely any pangs of conscience whatever, to _create_, in every generation, only the Negro they wished to see.
“Nobody Knows My Name”
(205) And this hell was, simply, that he had never in his life owned anything, not his wife, not his house, not his child, which could not, at any instant, be taken from him by the power of white people. This is what paternalism means. And for the rest of the time that I was in the South I watched the eyes of old black men.
(207) “Integration,” said a very light Negro to me in Alabama, “has always worked very well in the South after the sun goes down.” “It’s not miscegenation,” said another Negro to me, “unless a black man’s involved.”
(208) Men do not like to be protected, it emasculates them. This is what black men know, it is the reality they have lived with; it is what white men do not want to know. It is not a pretty thing to be a father and be ultimately dependent on the power and kindness of some other man for the well-being of your house.
…Any honest examination of the national life proves how far we are from the standard of human freedom with which we began.
“Faulkner and Desegregation”
(212) It is apparently very difficult to be at once a Southerner and an American; so difficult that many of the South’s most independent minds are forced into the American exile; which is not, of course, without its aggravating, circular effect on the interior and public life of the South.
“In Search of a Majority"
(217) In a way, status became a kind of substitute for identity, and because money and the things money can buy is the universally accepted symbol here of status, we are often condemned as materialists. In fact, we are much closer to being metaphysical because nobody has ever expected from things the miracles that we expect.
(220) I suggest that the role of the Negro in American life has something to do with our concept of what God is, and from my point of view, this concept is not big enough. It has got to be made much bigger than it is because God is, after all, not anybody’s toy. To be with God is really to be involved with some enormous, overwhelming desire, and joy, and power which you cannot control, which controls you. I conceive of my own life as a journey toward something I do not understand, which in the going toward, makes me better. I conceive of God, in fact, as a means of liberation and not a means to control others. Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Loves is a battle, love is a war; love is a growing up.
(221) I think that what we really have to do is to create a country in which there are no minorities - for the first time in the history of the world. The one thing that all Americans have in common is that they have no other identity apart from the identity which is being achieved on this continent. This is not the English necessity, or the Chinese necessity, of the French necessity, but they are born into a framework which allows them their identity The necessity of Americans to achieve an identity is a historical and a present personal fact and this is the connection between you and me.
This brings me back, in a way, to where I started. I said that we couldn’t talk about minorities until we had talked about majorities, and I also said that majorities had nothing to do with numbers or with power, but with influence, with moral influence, and I want to suggest this: that the majority for which everyone is seeking which must reassess and release us from our past and deal with the present and create standards worthy of what a man may be - this majority is you. No one else can do it. The world is before you and you need not take or leave it as it was when you came in.
“Notes for a Hypotherical Novel”
(227) But I didn’t meet anyone in that [the white] world who didn’t suffer from the very same affliction that all the people I had fled from suffered from and that was that they didn’t know who they were. They wanted to be something that they were not. And very shortly I didn’t know who I was, either. I could not be certain whether I was really rich or really poor, really black or really white, really male of really female, really talented or a fraud, really strong or merely stubborn. In short, I had become an American. I had stepped into, I had walked right into, as I inevitably had to do, the bottomless confusion which is both public and private, of the American republic.
…The fact of color has a relevance objectively and some relevance in some other way, some emotional relevance and not only for the South. I mean that it persists as a problem in American life because it means something, it fulfills something in the American personality. It is here because the Americans in some peculiar way believe or think they need it. Maybe we can find out what it is that this problem fulfills in the American personality, what it corroborates and in what way this peculiar thing, until today, helps Americans to feel safe.
NB: The lost cause rebel who fights on against impossible odds is central
(228) But to try and find out what Americans mean is almost impossible because there are so many things they do not want to face.
(229) Let me point out to you that freedom is not something that anybody can be given; freedom is something people take and people are as free as they want to be. One hasn’t got to have an enormous military machine in order to be unfree when it’s simpler to be asleep, when it’s simpler to be apathetic, when it’s simpler, in fact, not to want to be free, to think that something else is more important. And I’m not using freedom now so much in a political sense as I’m using it in a personal sense.
“Alas, Poor Richard”
(261) Almost all Negroes, as Richard [Wright] once pointed out, are almost always acting, but before a white audience - which is quite incapable of judging their performance: and even a “bad nigger” is, inevitably, giving something of a performance, even if the entire purpose of his performance is to terrify or blackmail white people.
“The Black Boy Looks at the White Boy”
(272) And, anyway, the really ghastly thing about trying to convey to a white man the reality of the Negro experience has nothing whatever to do with the fact of color, but has to do with this man’s relationship to his own life. He will face in your life only what he is willing to face in his.
(273) …. money, it turned out, was exactly like sex, you thought of nothing else if you didn’t have it and thought of other things if you did...
(274) For all of this is happening not only in the wilderness of the soul, but in the real world which accomplishes its seductions not by offering you opportunities to be wicked but by offering opportunities to be good, to be active and effective, to be admired and central and apparently loved.
(279) What my friend meant was that to become a Negro man, let alone a Negro artist, one had to make oneself up as one went along. This had to be done in the not-at-all-metaphorical teeth of the world’s determination to destroy you. The world had prepared no place for you, and if the world had its way, no place would ever exist. Now, this is true for everyone, but, in the case of a Negro, this truth is absolutely naked; if he deludes himself about it, he will die. This is not the way this truth presents itself to white men, who believe the world is theirs and who, albeit unconsciously, expect the world to help them in the achievement of their identity. But the world does not do this - for anyone; the world is not interested in anyone’s identity.
(284) In addition, the price one pays for pursuing any profession, or calling, is an intimate knowledge of its ugly side.
“Take Me to the Water”
(357) Incontestably, alas, most people are not, in action, worth very much; and yet, every human being is an unprecedented miracle. One tries to treat them as the miracles they are, while trying to protect oneself against the disasters they’ve become.
(366) And nakedness has no color: this can come as news only to those who have never covered, or been covered by, another naked human being.
(371) For, intellectual activity, according to me, is, and must be, disinterested - the truth _is_ a two-edged sword - and if one is not willing to be pierced by that sword, even to the extreme of dying on it, then all of one’s intellectual activity is a masturbatory delusion and a wicked and dangerous fraud.
(376) Anyone who has ever been at the mercy of the people, then, knows something awful about us, will forever distrust the popular patriotism, and avoids even the most convivial of mobs.
(384) I was old enough to recognize how deep and strangling were my fears, how manifold and mighty my limits: but no one can demand more of life than that life do him the honor to demand that he learn to live with his fears, and learn to live, every day, both within his limits and beyond them.
(385) But I have always been struck, in America, by an emotional poverty so bottomless, and a terror of human life, of human touch, so deep, that virtually no American appears able to achieve any viable, organic conneciton between his public stance and his private life. This is what makes them so baffling, so moving, so exasperating, and so untrustworthy. “Only connect,” Henry James has said. Perhaps only an American writer would have been driven to say it, his very existence being so threatened by the failure, in most American lives, of the most elementary and crucial connections.
(389) They [Little Rock students] were attempting to get an education, in a country in which education is a synonym for indoctrination, if you are white, and subjugation if you are black.
(391) The despair among the loveless is that they must narcoticize themselves before they can touch any human being at all. They, then, fatally, touch the wrong person, not merely because they have gone blind, or have lost the sense of touch, but because they no longer have any way of knowing that any loveless touch is a violation, whether one is touching a woman or a man. When the loveless come to power, or when sexual despair comes to power, the sexualtiy of the object is either a threat or a fantasy.
“To Be Baptized”
(405) Hunger has no principles, it simply makes men, at worst, wretched, and, at best, dangerous.
(406-407) Force does not work the way its advocates seem to think it does. It does not, for example, reveal to the victim the strength of his adversary. On the contrary, it reveals the weakness, even the panic of his adversary, and this revelation invests the victim with patience. Furthermore, it is ultimately fatal to create too many victims. The victor can do nothing with these victims, for they do not belong to him, but - to the victims. They belong to the people he is fighting. The people know this, and as inexorably as the roll call - the honor roll - of the victims expands, so does their will become inexorable: they resolve that these dead, their bretheren, shall not have died in vain. When this point is reached, however long the battle may go on, the victor can never be the victor: on the contrary, all his energies, his entire life, are bound up in a terror he cannot articulate, a mystery he cannot read, a battle he cannot win - he has simply become the prisoner of the people he thought to cow, chain, or murder into submission.
NB: Bombing people to break their will to fight does the opposite as the military well knows.
(407) When power translates itself into tyranny, it means that the principles on which that power depended, and which were its justification, are bankrupt.
(436) Nothing would ever reach the conscience of the people of this nation - it was a dream to suppose that the people of any nation had a conscience. Some individuals within the nation might, and the nation always saw to it that these people came to a bad, if not a bloody end.
(456) On the other hand, though no one appears to learn very much from history, the rulers of empires assuredly learn the least.
(465) Real questions can be absurdly phrased, and probably can be answered only by the questioner, and, at that, only in time.
(468) … I felt like a lip-reader watching the communication of despair.
… It has been vivid to me for many years that what we call a race problem here is not a race problem at all: to keep calling it that is a way of avoiding the problem. The problem is rooted in the question of how one treats one’s flesh and blood, especially one’s children. The blacks are the despised and slaughtered children of the great Western house - nameless and unnameable bastards.
(468-469) It is not true that people become liars without knowing it. A liar always knows he is lying, and that is why liars travel in packs: in order to be reassured that the judgment day will never come for them. They need each other for the well-being, the health, the perpetuation of their lie. They have a tacit agreement to guard each other’s secrets, for they have the same secret. That is why all liars are cruel and filthy minded - one’s merely got to listen to their dirty jokes, to what they think is funny, which is also what they think is real.
The Devil Finds Work
(484-485) Bill [Orilla Miller, white woman teacher and friend] could instruct me as to how poverty came about and what it meant and what it did, and, also, what it was meant to do; but she could not instruct me as to blackness, except obliquely, feeling that she had neither the right nor the authority, and also knowing that I was certain to find out. Thus, she tried to suggest to me the extent to which the world’s social and economic arrangements are responsible for (and to) the world’s victims. But a victim may or may not have a color, just as he may or many not have virtue: a difficult, not to say unpopular notion, for nearly everyone prefers to be defined by his status, which, unlike his virtue, is ready to wear.
(499) When I entered the church, I ceased going to the theater. It took me awhile to realize that I was working in one.
(510) A story is impelled by the necessity to reveal: the aim of the story is revelation, which means that a story can have nothing - at least not deliberately - to hide. This also means that a story resolves nothing. The resolution of a story must occur in us, with what we make of the questions with which the story leaves us. A plot, on the other hand, must come to a resolution, prove a point: a plot must answer all the questions which it pretends to pose.
(521) People who cannot escape thinking of themselves as white are poorly equipped, if equipped at all, to consider the meaning of black: people who know so little about themselves can face very little in another; and one dare hope for nothing from friends like these.
(522) The blacks have a song which says, I can’t beleive what you say, because I see what you do.
(542) If two and two make four, then it is a very simple matter to recognize that people unable to be responsible for their own children, and who care so little about each other, are unlikely instruments for the salvation of the people whom they permit themselves the luxury of despising as inferior to themselves.
(553) “Lady Sings the Blues” is related to the black American experience in about the same way, and to the same extent that Princess Grace Kelly is related to the Irish potato famine: by courtesy.
(562) This incident is not in the book [Lady Sings the Blues]: for the very good reason, certainly, that black people in this country are schooled in adversity long before white people are. Blacks perceive danger far more swiftly, and, however odd this may sound, then attempt to protect their white comrade from his white brothers; they know their white comrade’s brothers far better than the comrade does. One of the necessities fo being black, and knowing it, is to accept the hard discipline of learning to avoid useless anger, and needless loss of life: every mother and his mother’s mother’s mother’s brother is needed.
(563) … when the prisoner is free, the jailer faces the void of himself.
(571) To encounter oneself is to encounter the other: and this is love. If I know that my soul trembles, I know that your does, too: and, if I can respect this, both of us can live.
“Preservation of Innocence”
(594) It is not possible to have it both ways, to use nature at one time as the final arbiter of human conduct and at another to oppose her as angrily as we do. As we are being inaccurate, perhaps desperately defensive and making, inversely, a most damaging admission when we describe as inhuman some reprehensible act committed by a human being, so we become hopelessly involved in paradox when we describe as unnatural something which is found in nature. A cat torturing a mouse to death is not described as inhuman for we assume that it is being perfectly natural; nor is a table condmned as being unnatural for we know that it has nothing to do with nature. What we really seem to be saying when we speak of the inhuman is that we cannot bear to be confronted with that fathomless baseness shared by all humanity and when we speak of the unnatural that we cannot imagine what vexations nature will dream up next.
“The Negro at Home and Abroad”
(603) White men are allowed the luxury of never thinking about blacks at all, until they happen to encounter one, whereas few black men anywhere live for very long without encountering, as an impossible obstacle forever, the idea, the presence, and the power of whites. In the mind of the black man the humanity of the white is never for an instant in question - it is to this blind humanity, precisely, that all his plight bears witness. The questions that the Negro lives with are how not to hate the white man, or, otherwise, how to hate him most effectively; how to fool him, cheat him, use him; how, in short, failing the possibility of a general overturn, to wrest for himself in the white man’s world an honored place, or at any rate a bearable Lebensraum.
For this reason the white man, in his interracial encounters, cannot fail to cause in the breast of the black a certain fury, however deeply this fury may be hidden - when, out of an innocence which can scarcely at first be believed, the white man wises to discover the spirit, aspirations, and personal history of the black stranger before him. The black, in the face of this innocence, and observing the extent of the white man’s apprehnsions, cannot but feel a certain bitter superiority of his own, and a certain contempt. And he cannot but find it very nearly unforgivable that, in the mind of the white man, who has cost him so much, his own humanity should occupy so little place or such a humiliating one. This is an aspect of the interracial reality which nearly everyone in Europe has been able to ignore and which we in American, with dubious success, are perpetually wishing out of existence.
"The Crusade of Indignation”
(606-607) [Love of money and redistributional utopia] One is that Negroes love money quite as much as whites do, and rather more than they love one another. The other is that the people in America least attracted to the idea of a worker’s state are the workers.
(607) They are interested in achieving what, in fact, can still be achieved at this period in American life: a measure of economic peace.
… The importance of money is simply that power in the world does not exist without it and power in the world is what almost everyone would like to have.
(609) Mr [Daniel] Guerin is unable to recognize a sadly persistent fact: the concepts contained in words like “freedom,” “justice,” “democracy,” are not common concepts; on the contrary, they are rare. People are not born knowing what these are. It takes enormous and, above all, individual effort to arrive at the respect for other people that these words imply.
….. Clarity is needed, as well as charity, however difficult this may be to imagine, much less sustain, toward the other side. Perhaps the worst thing that can be said about social indignation is that it so frequently leads to the death of personal humility.
“They Can’t Turn Back”
(636) It took many years of vomiting up all the filth I’d been taught about myself, and half-believed, before I was able to walk on the earth as though I had a right to be here.
“The Dangerous Road Before Martin Luther King”
(638) It is rare that one _likes_ a world-famous man - by the time they become world-famous they rarely like themselves, which may account for this antipathy.
(640) And it has never been very difficult for a Negro in this country to figure out what white men want to hear: he takes his condition as an echo of their desires.
(642) This silence made me think of nothing so much as the silence which follows a really serious lovers’ quarrel: the white, beneath their cold hostility, were mystified and deeply hurt.
NB: on the Montgomery bus
(644) He does not offer any easy comfort and this keeps his hearers absolutely tense. He allows them their self-respect - indeed, he insists on it.
(651) Perhaps young Martin was finding a new and more somber meaning in the command: “Overcome evil with good.” The command does not suggest that to overcome evil is to eradicate it.
“The New Lost Generation”
(664) Voyagers discover that the world can never be larger than the person that is in the world; but it is impossible to foresee this, it is impossible to be warned. It is only when time has begun spilling through his fingers like water or sand - carrying away with it, forever, dreams, possibilities, challenges, and hopes - that the young man realizes that he will not be young forever. If he wishes to paint a picture, raise a family, write a book, design a building, start a war - well, he does not have forever in which to do it. He has only a certain amount of time, and half of that time is probably gone already. As long as his aspirations are in the realm of the dream he is safe; when he must bring them back into the world, he is in danger.
(667) In my own case, I think my exile saved my life, for it inexoably confirmed something which Americans appear to have great difficulty accepting, Which is, simply, this: a man is not a man until he’s able and willing to accept his own vision of the world, no matter how radically this vision departs from that of others. (When I say “vision,” I do not mean “dream.”)
“The Creative Process”
(669) The states of birth, suffering, one, and death are extreme states: extreme, universal, and inescapable. We all know this, but we would rather not know it.
(672) We are the stongest nation in the western world, but this is not for the reasons that we thin, It is because we have na opportunity which no other naiton has of moving beyond the Old World concepts of race and class and caste, and create, finally, what we must have had in mind when we first began speaking of the New World.
(677) Most people are not able to look on each other as human beings, and, in spite of everything, to treat each other that way. Until this happens, freedom is only an empty word.
“A Talk to Teachers”
(682) I was not a “nigger” even though you called me one. But if I was a “nigger” in your eyes, there was something about _you_ - there was something _you_ needed. I had to realize when I was very young that I was none of those things I was told I was. I was not, for example, happy. I never touched a watermelon for all kinds of reasons. I had been invented by white people, and I knew enough about life by this time to understand that whatever you invent, whatever you project, is you! So where we are now is that a whole country of people believe I’m a “nigger,” and I _don’t_, and the battle’s on! Because if I am not what I’ve been told I am, then it means that _you’re_ not what you thought _you_ were _either_! And that is the crisis.
(683) And what if that was so there was no point in dealing with white people in terms of their own moral professions, for they were not going to honor them.
NB: “profession as job rather than statement
(684) When I was living in Europe, for example, one of the worst revelations to me was the way Americans walked around Europe buying this and buying that and insulting everybody - not even out of malice, just because they didn’t know any better. Well, that is the way they have always treated me. They weren’t cruel, they just didn’t know you were alive. They didn’t know you had any feelings.
“This Nettle, Danger…”
(688) … experience is created out of the effort to create oneself.
“Words of a Native Son”
(711) And I began to see that this what we all do, all of the time, all of us, including you and me. That whatever is really driving us is what can never, never, never be hidden and is there to see if one wants to see it. The trouble is, of course, that most of us are afraid of that level of reality.
(713) Please take note. I’m not interested in anybody’s guilt. Guilt is a luxury that we can no longer afford. I know you didn’t do it, and I didn’t do it either, but I am responsible for it because I am a man and a citizen of this country and you are responsible for it, too, for the very same reason: As long as my children face the future that they face, and come to the ruin that they come to, your children are very greatly in danger, too. They are endangered above all by the moral apathy which pretends it isn’t happening. This does something terrible to us. Anyone who is trying to be conscious must begin to be conscious of that apathy and must begin to dismiss the vocabulary which we’ve used so long to cover it up, to lie about the way things _are_. We must make the great effort to realize that ther is no such thing as a Negro problem - but simply a menaced boy. If we could to this, we could save this country, we could save the world. Anyway, that dead boy is my subject and my responsibility and yours.
“On the Painter Beauford Delaney”
(720) Paradoxically, this meant for me that memory is a traitor and that life does not contain the past tense: the sunset one saw yesterday, the leaf that burned, or the rain that fell, have not really been seen unless one is prepared to see them every day.
“The White Man’s Guilt”
(726) The people did not go away, of course: once a people arise, they never go away (a fact which should be included in the Marine handbook).
….White man, hear me! A man is a man, a woman is a woman, a child is a child. To deny these facts is to open the doors on a chaos deeper and deadlier, and, within the space of a man’s lifetime, more timeless, more eternal, than the medieval vision of Hell.
“Report from Occupied Territory”
(734) They [the police] are, moreover - even in a country which makes the very grave error of equating ignorance with simplicity - quite stunningly ignorant; and, since they know that they are hated, they are always afraid.
“Negroes Are Anti-Semitic Because They’re Anti-White”
(745-746) One may become reconciled to the ruin of one’s own life, but to become reconciled to the ruin of one’s children’s lives is not reconciliation.
NB: Ta-Nehisi Coates
(746) A genuinely candid confrontation between American Negroes and American Jews would certainly prove of inestimable value. But the aspirations of the country are wretchedly middle-class and the middle class can never afford candor.
“White Racism or World Community?”
(751) … most people are not wicked, most people are terribly lazy, most people are terribly afraid of acting on what they know.
(755) It seems to me that this shows very crucially in the nature, the structure of our politics and in the personalities of our children, who would like to learn, if I may put it this way, how to sing the blues, because the blues are not a racial creation, the blues are an historical creation produced by the confrontation precisely between the pagan, the black pagan from Africa, and the alabaster cross.
NB: Black and white don’t make gray, they make the blues
… I am saying that when a person, when a people, are able to persuade themselves that another group or breed of men are less than men, they themselves become less than men and have made it almost impossible for themselves to confront reality and to change it.
“Last of the Great Masters”
(771) A man’s life can be threatened and taken: But the price of being a man is knowing that.
“Every Good-Bye Ain’t Gone”
(775) Because one cannot forgive oneself, one cannot forgive others, or, even, really, _see_ others - one is always striking out at the wrong person, for only some other, poor, doomed innocent, obviously, is likely to be in striking range.
(782) A language comes into existence by means of brutal necessity, and the rules of the language are dictated by what the language must convey.
(783) It is not the black child’s language that is in question, it is not his language that is despised: It is his experience. A child cannot be taught by anyone who despises him, and a child cannot afford to be fooled. A child cannot be taught by anyone whose demand, essentially, is that the child repudiate his experience, and all that gives him sustenance, and enter a limbo in which he will no longer be black, and in which he knows that he can never become white. Black people have lost too many black children that way.
“Open Letter to the Born Again”
(786) But the state of Israel was not created for the salvation of the Jews; it was created for the salvation of the Western interests.
(788) The irreducible price of learning is realizing that you do not know.
(794) But children, I submit, cannot be fooled. They can only be betrayed by adults, not fooled - for adults, unlike children, are fooled very easily, and only because they wish to be.
“The House if Bondage”
(805) Thus, what the house of bondage accomplished for what we will call the classic white American was the destruction of his moral sense, except in relation to whites. But it also destroyed his sense of reality and, therefore, his sense of white people had to be as complusively one-dimensional as his vision of blacks. The result is that white Americans have been one another’s jailers for generations, and the attempt at inidividual maturity is the loneliest and rarest of the American endeavors. (This may also be why a “boyish” look is a very decided advantage in teh American political and social arena.)
“Introduction to ‘Notes…’"
(812) The people who think of themselves as White have the choice of becoming human or irrelevant.
Or - as they are, indeed, already, in all but actual fact: obsolete.
“Freaks and the American Idea of Manhood”
(815) The American idea of sexuality appears to be rooted in the American idea of masculinity. Idea may not be the precise word, for the idea of one’s sexuality can only with great violence be divorced or distanced from the idea of the self. Yet something resembling this ruputre has certainly occurred (and is occurring) in American life, and violence has been the American daily bread since we have heard of America. This violence, furthermore, is not merely literal and actual but appears to be admired and lusted after, and the key to the American imagination.
… The American _ideal_, then, of sexuality appears to be rooted in the American ideal of masculinity. This ideal has created cowboys and Indians, good guys and bad guys, punks and studs, tough guys and softies, butch and faggot, black and white. It is an ideal so paralytically infantile that it is virtually forbidden - as an unpatriotic act - that the American boy evolve into the complexity of manhood.
The exigencies created by the triumph of the Industrial Revolution - or, in other terms, the rise of Europe to global dominance - had, among many mighty effects, that of commercializing the roles of men and women. Men became the propagators, or perpetrators, of property, and women became the means by which that property was protected and handed down.
(823) The fear of the world was bearable until it entered the bedroom.
(824) The object of one’s hatred is never, alas, conveniently outside but is seated in one’s lap, stirring in one’s bowels and dictating the beat of one’s heart. And if one does not know this, one risks becoming an imitation - and, therefore, a continuation - of principles one imagines oneself to despise.
(828-829) But we are all androgynous, not only because we are all born of a woman impregnated by the seed of a man but because each of us, helplessly and forever, contains the other - male in female, female in male, white in black and black in white. We are a part of each other. Many of my countrymen appear to find this fact exceedingly inconvenient and even unfair, and so, very often, do I. But none of us can do anything about it.
“The Price of the Ticket”
(831) Not only was I not born to be a slave: I was not born to hope to become the equal of the slave-master.
(833) … an oblique confession is always a plea. But I was to hurt a great many people by being unable to imaigine that anyone could possibly be in love with an ugly boy like me.
(835) … and partly because part of the price of the black ticket is involved - fatally - with the dream of becoming white.
This is not possible, partly because white people are not white: part of the price of the white ticket is to delude themselves into believing that they are.