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Thu Nov 29, 2018, 08:26 AM

Letter from a Region in My Mind - James Baldwin

From 1962: "Whatever white people do not know about Negroes reveals, precisely and inexorably, what they do not know about themselves."

Long read here and the article itself but Baldwin's processing is invaluable.



"I underwent, during the summer that I became fourteen, a prolonged religious crisis. I use the word “religious” in the common, and arbitrary, sense, meaning that I then discovered God, His saints and angels, and His blazing Hell. And since I had been born in a Christian nation, I accepted this Deity as the only one. I supposed Him to exist only within the walls of a church—in fact, of our church—and I also supposed that God and safety were synonymous. The word “safety” brings us to the real meaning of the word “religious” as we use it. Therefore, to state it in another, more accurate way, I became, during my fourteenth year, for the first time in my life, afraid—afraid of the evil within me and afraid of the evil without. What I saw around me that summer in Harlem was what I had always seen; nothing had changed. But now, without any warning, the whores and pimps and racketeers on the Avenue had become a personal menace. It had not before occurred to me that I could become one of them, but now I realized that we had been produced by the same circumstances. Many of my comrades were clearly headed for the Avenue, and my father said that I was headed that way, too. My friends began to drink and smoke, and embarked—at first avid, then groaning—on their sexual careers.

Every Negro boy—in my situation during those years, at least—who reaches this point realizes, at once, profoundly, because he wants to live, that he stands in great peril and must find, with speed, a “thing,” a gimmick, to lift him out, to start him on his way. And it does not matter what the gimmick is. It was this last realization that terrified me and—since it revealed that the door opened on so many dangers—helped to hurl me into the church. And, by an unforeseeable paradox, it was my career in the church that turned out, precisely, to be my gimmick.

He does not know what the boundary is, and he can get no explanation of it, which is frightening enough, but the fear he hears in the voices of his elders is more frightening still. The fear that I heard in my father’s 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 world’s 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. I defended myself, as I imagined, against the fear my father made me feel by remembering that he was very old-fashioned. Also, I prided myself on the fact that I already knew how to outwit him. To defend oneself against a fear is simply to insure that one will, one day, be conquered by it; fears must be faced. As for one’s wits, it is just not true that one can live by them—not, that is, if one wishes really to live. 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.

God had come a long way from the desert—but then so had Allah, though in a very different direction. God, going north, and rising on the wings of power, had become white, and Allah, out of power, and on the dark side of Heaven, had become—for all practical purposes, anyway—black. Thus, in the realm of morals the role of Christianity has been, at best, ambivalent. Even leaving out of account the remarkable arrogance that assumed that the ways and morals of others were inferior to those of Christians, and that they therefore had every right, and could use any means, to change them, the collision between cultures—and the schizophrenia in the mind of Christendom—had rendered the domain of morals as chartless as the sea once was, and as treacherous as the sea still is. It is not too much to say that whoever wishes to become a truly moral human being (and let us not ask whether or not this is possible; I think we must believe that it is possible) must first divorce himself from all the prohibitions, crimes, and hypocrisies of the Christian church. If the concept of God has any validity or any use, it can only be to make us larger, freer, and more loving. If God cannot do this, then it is time we got rid of Him."

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1962/11/17/letter-from-a-region-in-my-mind?mbid=nl_Daily%20112518&CNDID=24484742&utm_source=nl&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Daily%20112518&utm_content=&utm_brand=tny&utm_mailing=Daily%20112518&hasha=2607eea3ca1bbd147d8f65fbe895cfcb&hashb=cbf08ce5eb3fb01a69828e9a5295ea78f5f022e3&spMailingID=14678164&spUserID=MTMzMTgyNTMxODYxS0&spJobID=1521940769&spReportId=MTUyMTk0MDc2OQS2

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Reply Letter from a Region in My Mind - James Baldwin (Original post)
Kind of Blue Nov 2018 OP
JHan Nov 2018 #1
Kind of Blue Nov 2018 #2
laserhaas Nov 2018 #3
Kind of Blue Nov 2018 #5
laserhaas Nov 2018 #4
Kind of Blue Nov 2018 #6
laserhaas Nov 2018 #7
Kind of Blue Nov 2018 #8
laserhaas Nov 2018 #9
Kind of Blue Nov 2018 #10
laserhaas Nov 2018 #11
Kind of Blue Nov 2018 #13
laserhaas Nov 2018 #14
Kind of Blue Nov 2018 #16
laserhaas Nov 2018 #20
laserhaas Nov 2018 #12
Kind of Blue Nov 2018 #15
laserhaas Nov 2018 #18
Kind of Blue Nov 2018 #17
laserhaas Nov 2018 #19
laserhaas Nov 2018 #21
Kind of Blue Nov 2018 #22
laserhaas Nov 2018 #23
Kind of Blue Nov 2018 #24
laserhaas Nov 2018 #25
Kind of Blue Nov 2018 #26

Response to Kind of Blue (Original post)

Thu Nov 29, 2018, 08:42 AM

1. do you know I was gonna post this today? K&R

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Response to JHan (Reply #1)

Thu Nov 29, 2018, 08:45 AM

2. STOP!!!! I've been desperate for time to post this for days.

Well, great minds and all that

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Response to Kind of Blue (Original post)

Thu Nov 29, 2018, 10:26 AM

3. Mr. Baldwin is sorely missed.

 

More sorely needed.

I, for one, contemplate what his reflections would be on Colin K.

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Response to laserhaas (Reply #3)

Thu Nov 29, 2018, 11:00 AM

5. Yes, indeed. I remember this clip posted on FB from 2017

that I think is what Baldwin would say - rather, did say, about Kapernick.

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Response to Kind of Blue (Original post)

Thu Nov 29, 2018, 10:44 AM

4. Perhaps you guys can help

 

1968 was the tumultuous year, Mr. Baldwin's book also came out.

What did James Baldwin say about the Olympic glove protest of Smith & Carlos?

https://www.deejay.de/Peabody_%26_Sherman_James_Baldwin_SB12001_Vinyl__108759

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Response to laserhaas (Reply #4)

Thu Nov 29, 2018, 11:28 AM

6. Gosh, I don't know and a quick search pulled up nothing.

But I did find an interesting article on San Jose University sports sociologist Harry Edward who advised Smith & Carlos on the track team there in the early years, and got to know Kaepernick as an adviser to the 49ers.

"As a rookie, Kaepernick, who had spent his entire life in predominantly white communities, came to Edwards for information. Edwards pointed him toward The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Toward James Baldwin. Toward the writings of Martin Luther King.

“He went through a transition, just like we all did in my time,” Edwards said. “We were Negroes who became African Americans who began to look at experiences through completely different eyes.”

https://www.sfchronicle.com/news/article/Mexico-City-protest-What-has-changed-in-50-years-13303583.php

And we know Kapernick knows Baldwin and I'd like to imagine Baldwin inspired Smith & Carlos, too


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Response to Kind of Blue (Reply #6)

Thu Nov 29, 2018, 11:33 AM

7. During these times that my heart aches over humanity

 

And my hope for equality & Justice - wanes

These moments - warms my spirit

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Response to laserhaas (Reply #7)

Thu Nov 29, 2018, 11:39 AM

8. Yeah, the more I know the better I feel.

And it's all been said and analyzed to death for us to take heart. I'm glad that your spirit is buoyed by our extraordinary leaders, laserhaas

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Response to Kind of Blue (Reply #8)

Thu Nov 29, 2018, 11:56 AM

9. It is easier for me, than most.

 

I was a B Ball player, all my young life. A welfare brat, during desegregation. When I went to NYC for my senior year, to get best recognition, I went to Julia Richmond, which was an all girls school before desegregation.

I was the only white guy.

The minority.

Despite centuries of oppression, nobody took their angst out on me. I did not suffer 1/100th of the racial hatred that is visible - this very day.

I not only adore civil rights leaders

My adoration includes you guys & gals who stand tall, with them; which has always been - a noble battle.

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Response to laserhaas (Reply #9)

Thu Nov 29, 2018, 12:14 PM

10. Funny, I was just wondering about your ethnicity.

Then thought what does it matter, he feels, absorbs, obviously tries to integrate - correctly IMHO, what's experienced and witnessed in his environment that are factors in the lives of many, many people.

I've had and do have white and non-black people in my life who I don't have to explain a thing to. They amaze me because I'm like what is that thing that's caused you to understand mostly since childhood? Why haven't you waved it off, excused or struggled with it? The answer is always witnessing something that jarred them and/or just born with a bleeding heart

They are my allies because in one way or another they know our liberations are bound

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Response to Kind of Blue (Reply #10)

Thu Nov 29, 2018, 12:26 PM

11. Don't get me wrong. I know it is different in South Central L.A.

 

Than NYC.

Also, I will get in the face of my black friends saying a white guy or gal couldn't possibly care enough - almost (emphasis on almost) as much as I would on any white being obtuse or translucent to the realities of oppression upon minorities.

IMO white privilege exists because all others education and unification is oppressed by those endowed with privilege.

The single most important way to 9vercome inequality, is via knowledge.

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Response to laserhaas (Reply #11)

Thu Nov 29, 2018, 12:48 PM

13. Amen to knowledge!

Indeed, I've had to do so with black friends as well especially with intra-bigoted issues. Not being born here, it's what I've faced but certainly not to the extent of white supremacy.

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Response to Kind of Blue (Reply #13)

Thu Nov 29, 2018, 12:57 PM

14. Interesting! - From where do you hail, originally?

 

The "kinda blue" is also quaint.

This remark by a famous is so apropos.



.

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Response to laserhaas (Reply #14)

Thu Nov 29, 2018, 01:04 PM

16. Born in Lagos, Nigeria on the

queen's birthday in the first year of Independence from British rule. Been here since I was 8.

Kind of Blue is my all-time favorite album

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Response to Kind of Blue (Reply #16)

Thu Nov 29, 2018, 02:00 PM

20. Nice

 

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Response to Kind of Blue (Original post)

Thu Nov 29, 2018, 12:31 PM

12. I'm deliberately posting this as a separate comment. When I say

 

Knowledge, I mean education in the - non traditional sense.

IMO our current educational system is Caucasian made

You won't see James Baldwin's books or videos being focused up in as part of any regular high school curriculum.

As a matter of fact, any teacher who would do so might be sanctioned.

We must grass roots higher learning for all.

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Response to laserhaas (Reply #12)

Thu Nov 29, 2018, 01:01 PM

15. For sure.

I was pretty lucky in high-school, an all-girls Catholic school of all places. I know for a fact that my English/History teachers were the first in our area to introduce Baldwin, Wright, Angelou, Hurston, just a milieu of African-American authors and one from my country, Chinua Achebe, as well as heated discussions of enslavement of Africans and 1st Nations People. As far as Theology, which is what this Baldwin article concerns, my priests/teachers were very open to prodding though I know I exasperated them.

It was shocking to me that this sort of education, except for Theology, was not a regular part of the curriculum. Unless you went onto higher education and sought it out otherwise many of us just read and shared information whether we were in school or not.

So yes, we've had to teach our own kids/nieces/nephews because they were getting distorted information from school. I'm so proud of them because they're not afraid/ashamed of their African roots on both sides of the Atlantic and ready to lay out facts to their friends faster than I could ever imagine.

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Response to Kind of Blue (Reply #15)

Thu Nov 29, 2018, 01:47 PM

18. Very Cool - KUDOS to you & your kids

 

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Response to laserhaas (Reply #12)

Thu Nov 29, 2018, 01:14 PM

17. Another way to spread the knowledge is thru mentoring.

I've done so many times in the past but mostly going to elementary schools to help out with art/art history. I'm so pleased to be able to do so again thru an African-American Women's organization in my new area. And right now they need history people in high school! First meeting is tonight and I'm so freakin' excited. The kids I know will keep me on my toes!

Sometimes the universe delivers exactly what you need and want.

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Response to Kind of Blue (Reply #17)

Thu Nov 29, 2018, 01:49 PM

19. When what you need or want is what the Universe needs

 

Its the one thing that keeps me going against Sachs & Mitt

We need Justice in our eToys case.

Too bad it didn't happen before the demise of Toys R Us

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Response to Kind of Blue (Original post)

Thu Nov 29, 2018, 02:01 PM

21. Wonder what guys like Baldwin, King, Gandhi would think - of today

 

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Response to laserhaas (Reply #21)

Thu Nov 29, 2018, 03:42 PM

22. Well, said - one's liberation inextricably tied to another.

The Republic Strikes Back

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Response to Kind of Blue (Reply #22)

Thu Nov 29, 2018, 03:48 PM

23. It would be neat if the diversity of Star Wars

 

Was a mimicking of our pettiness

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Response to laserhaas (Reply #23)

Thu Nov 29, 2018, 04:04 PM

24. Oh, don't get me started on Star Wars - LOL, I guess

I did it to myself.

The late great Joseph Campbell, professor of comparative mythology and religion as well as an adviser to George Lucas, covered what you've said in The Power of Myth series of interviews of many years ago. All of it a reflection of us, a little bit of it below. But it's Been time for certain powerful myths and maybe the powerful corruption of religion, too, to go.

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Response to Kind of Blue (Reply #24)

Thu Nov 29, 2018, 04:13 PM

25. WOW

 

I thought it was - slightly - possible

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Response to laserhaas (Reply #25)

Thu Nov 29, 2018, 05:14 PM

26. It's been good talking to you, laserhaas.

This has been a good Friday Eve so far with all the great breaking news. I'm not holding my breath that all of it is a breakthrough to chip away at racism but it's satisfying when racist misogynist bastards fail.

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