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En dépit des bouleversements psychologiques et sociaux qu'il exige, cet ouvrage ne veut que proposer la solution de bon sens au problème de la place des Noirs dans la société américaine. Malgré le ton parfois menaçant, malgré la satire souvent mordante, La prochaine fois, le feu est avant tout un appel à la modération, une ultime tentative de compromis (en 1963) entre lesEn dépit des bouleversements psychologiques et sociaux qu'il exige, cet ouvrage ne veut que proposer la solution de bon sens au problème de la place des Noirs dans la société américaine. Malgré le ton parfois menaçant, malgré la satire souvent mordante, La prochaine fois, le feu est avant tout un appel à la modération, une ultime tentative de compromis (en 1963) entre les extrémistes des deux bords aveuglés par la passion.Tant par l'actualité des phénomènes dont il présente l'analyse irréfutable que par le mélange de douleur contenue et d'ironie cinglante qui lui donne ce ton si particulier, ce témoignage ne manquera pas d'attirer l'attention du lecteur qui en retiendra les qualités littéraires autant que l'importance politique....

Title : La prochaine fois, le feu
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ISBN : 9782070400508
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 136 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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La prochaine fois, le feu Reviews

  • Rowena
    2018-11-29 23:39

    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. I have never read any of Baldwin’s nonfiction so I was surprised at how frank and direct he was.The letter to the American people was more compelling to me than the one to his nephew. It discussed the racist realities in the USA, and also religion, Christianity (which James Baldwin adhered to, for a while at least) and the Nation of Islam (NOI). The meeting he recounted between himself and the NOI leader, Elijah Muhammad, was very interesting. Muhammad saw Caucasians as "white devils" while Baldwin's view was “whoever debases others is debasing himself.”Despite the fact that I am a Christian, I agree wholeheartedly with Baldwin’s analysis of the Christian church at the time, its racism (black people are a cursed race, descendants of Ham) and its hypocrisy. It's something I've thought about a lot.Again, I’m shocked about how little things have changed since the 1960s. Baldwin makes the point that: “…the sloppy and fatuous nature of American good will can never be relied upon to deal with hard problems.” Sadly, I think we can substitute "America" with pretty much any country on the planet.Despite the frankness, I don’t think this is an angry book at all.This isn’t a misguided rant about race, this was written based on Baldwin's personal experiences, and is hopeful and also offers solutions. As a writer during the Harlem Renaissance and the Civil Rights Movement, I feel Baldwin felt the real need to get things off his chest. I will never be able to understand how cruelly African-Americans were treated. No wonder Baldwin feared for African-Americans’ identity crisis, no wonder he felt the need to encourage and preserve the arts in his community. James Baldwin is amazing.

  • BlackOxford
    2018-11-27 22:47

    Black Tyranny and How to Overcome ItWe are what we read as well as what we eat. Because what we read brings us experiences we have never had. As Baldwin says elsewhere, “You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read.” Reading The Fire Next Time cannot but change one's experience of the world. Written an half century ago, it sadly remains timeless. 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'. White America has no other unifying force. Not religion, not culture, not history, not even language. Race is what determines all these things and more. The phrase "Make America Great Again" is not an abstraction. It is a call to rally against the threat of loss of racial identity, a threat which has been increased not diminished by the existence of a black man as president. Baldwin knew this: "... the danger in the minds of most white Americans is the loss of their identity... those innocents who believe that your imprisonment made them safe are losing their grip on reality... If integration means anything, this is what it means: that we, with love, shall force our [white] brothers to see themselves as they are."The sight of a black president showed what black people are. The task of finding what white people are has yet to be started. Donald Trump knew his main chance lay not in directly exploiting American racism, something too powerful for Americans to confront, but in capitalising on American uncertainty, the threat to Americans' own self-image. 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. The person who distrusts himself has no touchstone for reality... 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. Reality has no meaning. Baldwin understood the consequences.American racism is best expressed in its religion, an evangelical, social, virtually tribal Christianity which has transcended sectarian divisions and has become the Republican Party at prayer. The foundation of this religion is not doctrinal but racial. 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 belief in the ultimate triumph of the light is not a sterile, spiritual metaphor; it is a pervasive, concrete expectation. From the point of view of black America, Christianity had nothing to do with Faith, Hope, and Charity; Baldwin's experience is that it was designed to engender "Blindness, Loneliness, and Fear."Baldwin understood the historical import Christianity and its American variant: "... 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.Baldwin devotes a good proportion of the book to his meeting with Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the militant Black Muslim movement. He recognises the charismatic power of the movement's message and the inherent drive for power of its leaders. So he distrusts them both. But Muhammad's pronouncements to him about the state of the world and the future of America in it is eerily prescient in light of subsequent Islamic militancy around the world. White people, he points out, are a global minority. America has no natural allies in the non-white world. Baldwin concludes that "... the American dream has become something much more closely resembling a nightmare on the private, domestic, and international levels... 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. The only way he can be released from the Negro's tyrannical power over him is to consent, in effect, to become black himself, to become part of the suffering and dancing country that he now watches wistfully from the heights of his lonely power and, armed with spiritual traveller's cheques, visits surreptitiously after dark."To quote Trump, "What have you got to lose?”

  • Carol.
    2018-11-10 17:46

    "And all this is happening in the richest and freest country in the world, and in the middle of the 20th century. The subtle and deadly change of heart that might occur and you would be involved with the realization that a civilization is not destroyed by wicked people; it is not necessary that people be wicked but only that they be spineless."Baldwin considers this, after he and two friends in their thirties were refused service at a busy bar in O'Hare Airport 'because they were too young.' The Fire Next Time remains sadly pertinent, despite publication in 1962. The first section, titled 'My Dungeon Shook: Letter to My Nephew on the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Emancipation,' muses on society and exhorts his nephew to meet it with dignity and love. The second section, 'Down at the Cross: Letter from a Region in My Mind' begins like a memoir, develops into political analysis and ends with a sermon. It is devastatingly brilliant, and near the end I found myself highlighting quotes nearly every page. But I'm clearly not the only one who has read his work: one of the oddest aspects for me is that I have read both writers and poets who were influenced by him, as I heard their echoes in his writing."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 date it – the slow crumbling of my faith, the pulverization of my fortress- from the time, about a year after I had begun to preach, when I began to read again. 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. He muses more on the role of the church and his breaking with religious faith before seguing to a meeting with Elijah Muhammad, recalling me to The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Baldwin was clearly uncomfortable, confronting his own echoes of churchgoing, but felt the limitations of the Nation of Islam were no better than those of Christianity, ie. a failure to dream of something outside the paradigm. He noted that the young follower who drove him to his next appointment in an expensive car that the Nation was still conceiving of power in the same terms that white people defined it, and in owning land of their own."He was held together, in short, by a dream-- though it is just as well to remember that some dreams come true-- and was united with his 'brothers' on the basis of their color. Perhaps one cannot ask for more. 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's an extraordinary achievement, the way one thought leads to the next, and the next, and suddenly you've run into a philosophical truth that touches the soul. The truth I recognized:"It seems to me that one ought to rejoice in the fact of death-ought to decide, indeed, to earn one's death by confronting with passion the conundrum of life. One is responsible to life: It is the small beacon in that terrifying darkness from which we come and to which we shall return. One must negotiate this passage is nobly as possible, for the sake of those who are coming after us... 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. I speak of change not on the surface but in the depths--change in the sense of renewal. But renewal becomes impossible if one supposes things to be constant that are not--safety, for example, or money, or power. One clings then to chimeras, by which one can only be betrayal and the entire home--the entire possibility--of freedom disappears."Somehow, I've never read James Baldwin. Despite a rather liberal high school, we still read far too many of the 'classics' (and I, for one, will never read Dickens again). College was Women's Studies when I ventured outside the sciences, a reading list universally written by women. My free time, fun time reading just never ran into Baldwin, perhaps because I stay away from lit-fic like the plague. Now that I am finally class-free (on more than one level, *snort), I find myself gravitating towards the occasional non-fiction. What I discovered is that Baldwin writes lyrical, exacting prose, clear, and yet somehow poetic, with a belief in love and in dreaming better. I loved immersing myself in his writing. I rather wish I was in a classroom of people with whom I could wrestle with these ideas.

  • Darwin8u
    2018-11-29 21:28

    If we -- and now I mean the relatively conscious whites and the relatively conscious blacks, who must, like lovers, insist on, or create, the consciousness of the others -- do not falter in our duty now, we may be able, handful that we are, to end the racial nightmare, and achieve our country, and change the history of the world. 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 TimeI just couldn't watch the second GOP debates tonight. I knew I couldn't face the Donald and his band of equally exquisite misfits. I'm not exactly in love with the Democrats either, but the GOP clown car is just too long, too tiring, too damn depressing. So I turned my TV off, tuned out, and read me some James Baldwin. You could say Ta-Nehisi Coates brought me here (after reading Between the World and Me). Or perhaps, it has been these last couple years of official violence directed at the poor and the black in many of our biggest cities (St Louis, Baltimore, Las Angeles, New York). Or perhaps, I could also say that Baldwin's Go Tell It on the Mountain also brought me here. Perhaps, it was reading the Old Testament with my own teenage children that pushed me in this direction. Or perhaps, even the promise of the New Testament. Maybe, it was my despair over the way that 14-year-old Muslim boy was treated with his homemade clock. I needed tonight a poetic healing and a spiritual justice. An Old Testament warning with a New Testament salve and a black rhythm. I needed James Baldwin's force, his poetry, his humanist hope, his infinitely quotable words. God, his prose is poetic. I literally ran out of post-it notes as I read this 106 page thesis, laid at the feet of his namesake nephew. 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.

  • William1
    2018-12-09 18:29

    At 106 pages, The Fire Next Time is a brief snapshot of U.S. race relations in 1963. Like a balance sheet it concisely details the nation's racial strengths and (considerable) shortcomings. 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. Baldwin describes the unrelenting degradation faced by black Americans, both white indifference and murderous hostility toward them, in a spare, unadorned prose whose effect is harrowing. At the time of its publication it must have scared bigoted white people shitless. Yet it was also a prescription for change, and much of the change it calls for has come to pass. That is not to say that today we are without racial problems. Black Lives Matter-- that's irrefutable--but if you want to know how truly god awful it was in the bad old lynching days, this is the book, one of the few, that you must read.

  • Kevin Kelsey
    2018-11-17 16:44

    Fantastic. Required reading.

  • BillKerwin
    2018-11-22 17:29

    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. I am glad I did.At first, though, I was disappointed. The essay “My Dungeon Shook”—the model for Coates epistolary device, the way he addresses his young son directly, as Baldwin once addressed his nephew here—is short, relatively insignificant compared to “Down at the Cross,” the essay which fills the rest of the book.Not that “My Dungeon Shook” is without value. 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.  They have had to believe for so many years, and for innumerable reasons, that black men are inferior to white men.  Many of them, indeed, know better, but, as you will discover, people find it very difficult to act on what they know.  To act is to be committed, and to be committed is to be in danger.  In this case, the danger, in the minds of most white Americans, is the loss of identity.  Try to imagine how you would feel if you woke up one morning to find the sun shining and all the stars aflame...Well, the black man has functioned in the white man’s world as a fixed star, as an immovable pillar: and as he moves out of his place, heaven and earth are shaken to their foundations.It was, however, “Down at the Cross,” with its treatment of religion in the black community, that interested me more. Then, as I was absorbed in Baldwin’s account of his childhood growing up in Harlem, I encountered the following passage: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. A child cannot, thank Heaven, know how vast and how merciless is the nature of power, with what unbelievable cruelty people treat each other. 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.Here we see the essence of what Coates learned from Baldwin, to identify the fear which controlled his vision of the world. Although he never sought to evade his fears by seeking refuge in the church—as Baldwin briefly did, even becoming a “boy preacher”—his fears controlled him nevertheless, and blocked out reality, "standing between the world and me."I’ll end with this passage where Baldwin describes his memories of the church services he led. It is, among other things, an excellent example of his style:There is no music like that music, no drama like the drama of the saints rejoicing, the sinners moaning, the tambourines racing, and all those voices coming together and crying holy unto the Lord. There is still, for me, no pathos quite like the pathos of those multicolored, worn, somehow triumphant and transfigured faces, speaking from the depths of a visible, tangible, continuing despair of the goodness of the Lord. I have never seen anything to equal the fire and excitement that sometimes, without warning, fill a church, causing the church, as Leadbelly and so many others have testified, to rock. Nothing that has happened to me since equals the power and the glory that I sometimes felt when, in the middle of a sermon, I knew that I was somehow, by some miracle, really carrying, as they said, “the Word”—when the church and I were one. Their pain and their joy were mine, and mine were theirs—they surrendered their pain and joy to me, I surrendered mine to them-and their cries of “Amen!” and “Hallelujah!” and “Yes, Lord’ ” and “Praise His name!” and “Preach it, brother!” sustained and whipped on my solos until we all became equal, wringing wet, singing and dancing, in anguish and rejoicing, at the foot of the altar. It was, for a long time, in spite of—or, not inconceivably because of—the shabbiness of my motives, my only sustenance, my meat and drink. I rushed home from school, to the church, to the altar, to be alone there, to commune with Jesus, my dearest Friend, who would never fail me, who knew all the secrets of my heart. Perhaps He did, but I didn’t, and the bargain we struck, actually, down there at the foot of the cross, was that He would never let me find out.He failed his bargain. He was a much better Man than I took Him for.

  • J.L. Sutton
    2018-11-24 19:28

    Written during the battle for Civil Rights in the early 60s, Baldwin's impassioned call to action in The Fire Next Time is unmistakable. Racism in America has had a devastating effect on African Americans and White Americans. Baldwin challenges us to see past the signs (Colored and White) which divide us. Accepting the artificial barriers of segregation may not be wicked, but denying our fellow citizens dignity is both racist and most assuredly spineless. Baldwin claims people cling to their hatred and bigotry because hate gives them a purpose as well as an identity. It allows them to deflect the pain of their own lives. However, such thinking traps them in a history or story which doesn't make sense and further detaches them from reality. 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. Still relevant!

  • Alex
    2018-11-17 18:54

    All policeman have by now, for me, become exactly the same, and my style with them is designed simply to intimidate them before they can intimidate me. No doubt I am guilty of some injustice here, but it is irreducible, since I cannot risk assuming that the humanity of these people is more real to them than their uniforms.- James Baldwin in 1964Fuck the police coming straight from the undergroundA young nigga got it bad cause I'm brownAnd not the other color, so police thinkThey have the authority to kill a minority- Ice Cube in 1988The 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.- Ta-Nehisi Coates in 2015It feels like there's only one new thing about the Black Lives Matter movement, and that's cell phones. Now people can record policemen destroying bodies and show it to people who weren't there, who have never been there. The destruction has always happened. The evidence is what's new. 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. The end of white people. An African American nation. Everything seemed possible. Baldwin's title refers to a spiritual:God gave Noah the rainbow signNo more water, the fire next time!This is a warning. He wants a revolution for his nephew, to whom this book is written. Coates, fifty years later, is just trying to protect his son's body.It's not that nothing has happened. Things got better, are better. It just wasn't exactly a revolution. More of a twitching of the needle. Black people have a president, but their bodies still aren't safe.But it's thrilling to read this dispatch from a time when people thought a revolution might be a good thing. James Baldwin is one of the great voices of the 20th century, and this book is smashing.

  • Nicole~
    2018-11-27 17:52

    The Fire Next Timefrom Baldwin: Collection of Essays- The Library of AmericaThis book is Baldwin's opinion on race relations, perceived not only as African American, but as one with a deep insight into human psychology. He was one of the unprecedented writers to express what it was like to be Black in a White society; to discuss with such insight the psychological impediments most Blacks faced; and to realize the complications of Black-White relations in many variant contexts:On ReligionHe saw the germination of hatred and bitterness planted in the principles of Christianity, generating the belief of a white God; in response to which Black Muslims created the black God, producing the teachings of the nation of Islam.On PowerBaldwin held that the importunate need for power underscored the current conflicts in human relations in American society. This was the base cause of his disagreement with America: that American Blacks had so little freedom and power to steer his own affairs solely because of his skin color. Power over an American Black's life depended on several areas: his education, employment, and income --including his place in society, his self- image, and his relations with white people. Baldwin didn't believe in hating to be an innate human tendency. However, in hating, he recognized the guilt of the white man, a flaw from which he could not free himself. He claimed dejectedly, "The Negroes of this country may never be able to rise to power, but they are very well placed indeed to precipitate chaos and ring down the curtain on the American dream.(337)The only thing white people have that black people need or should want is power - and no one holds power forever."(341-342)Clearly, his vision at that time to prophesy the ability of the human conscience to morally and socially evolve, was dimmed. Did his dream have limits? If he only could have known that such a dream could, and did, come to light!On IdentityBaldwin made clear in the book that it wasn't really a black man's revolutionary movement that was causing violent rifts in America; the social conflicts reflected a sense of America losing her identity.For Baldwin: "man, life and the world contained an image or identity with some preconceptions; and to achieve the liberation of the Negro: society, black and white, must get rid of its preconceptions. Take no one's word for anything, including mine --but trust your experience. Know whence you came. If you know whence you came, there is really no limit to where you can go. The details and symbols of your life have been deliberately constructed to make you believe what white people say about you. Please try to remember that what they believe, as well as what they do and cause you to endure, does not testify to your inferiority but to their inhumanity and fear. (293)There is no reason for you to try to become like white people and there is no basis whatever for their impertinent assumption that they must accept you... You must accept them and accept them with love. For these innocent people have no other hope. 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. They have had to believe for many years, and for innumerable reasons, that black men are inferior to white men. Many of them, indeed, know better, but, as you will discover, people find it very difficult to act on what they know. To act is to be committed, and to be committed is to be in danger. In this case, the danger in the minds of most white Americans is the loss of their identity."(294)Baldwin in this outstanding literary work, by redefining a Black American's problem as a white one, even taken in present contexts, has effectively created a more replete, more unifying racial understanding. Not having been born or raised in America, I'm still learning the extensive history of American culture; Baldwin's penetrating body of work deeply touched, and truly enlightened me. I look forward to reading the rest of his praise-worthy collection of essays.If we - and now I mean the relatively conscious whites and the relatively conscious blacks, who must, like lovers, insist on, or create, the consciousness of the others- do not falter in our duty now, we may be able, handful that we are, to end the racial nightmare, and achieve our country, and change the history of the world. If we do not dare everything, the fulfillment of that prophecy, re-created from the Bible in song by a slave, is upon us: God gave Noah the rainbow sign, No more water, the fire next time!revised for political correctness Nov 14th, 2016

  • Aubrey
    2018-11-16 21:25

    Something very sinister happens to the people of a country when they begin to distrust their own reactions as deeply as they do here, and become as joyless as they have become. It is this 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. The person who distrusts himself has no touchstone for reality—for this touchstone can be only oneself. Such a person interposes between himself and reality nothing less than a labyrinth of attitudes. And these attitudes, furthermore, though the person is usually unaware of it (is unaware of so much!), are historical and public attitudes. They do not relate to the present anymore than they relate to the person. Therefore, whatever white people do not know about Negroes reveals, precisely and inexorably, what they do not know about themselves.There are books out there that are word for word more vast, more meaningful, more loving and more true than ten rewritings of War and Peace by ten auspicious straight white male authors could ever be. Indeed, a major reason why I read the Russian behemoth in the first place was so I felt comfortable saying such things. Such amateur readings like mine, of course, will be questioned, and while I have neither a degree in literature (or any, for that matter) nor fluency in the Russian language, these gatekeeping quibbles mean very little indeed when placed alongside the literature of black US Americans. Some of those authors didn't have a college degree, all of them wrote in English, and yet the understanding and reverence and empathetic comprehension has carried into the life of US reality with much less fervor and acceptance than the 19th century text of a Russian aristocrat. In light of that, it is not the brain that should be held accountable in such matters of textual worth, but the heart.To accept one's past—one's history—is not the same thing as drowning in it; it is learning how to use it.I started reading as a way to get out of my head, my head including the reality that impacts it and the thoughts that stem in response. Over time, I have gone from reading for entertainment, to reading for knowledge, to reading for self-knowledge, to reading for self-knowledge written by the so-called "other". At this most present point in time, I have come to the conclusion that reading will never fix my personal issues, and indeed during certain periods will exacerbate the effort of coping with myself immensely. Instead, I have found that what I deem toxic in myself is part mine, part ingrained into so many others by the special breed of genocidal hypocrisy that is the US American Dream in the hands of European descendants. Today, when I read, I look not for a cure for such toxicity, but the means in which craft an antidote on the solipsistic, private, public, and the levels of strangers I will never encounter but still affect through taxes paid and politics engaged. This work, in that respect, is invaluable.White people in this country will have quite enough to do in learning how to accept and love themselves and each other, and when they have achieved this—which will not be tomorrow and may very well be never—the Negro problem will no longer exist, for it will no longer be needed.What Baldwin does here is what has been done countless times in philosophy, in religion, in much fancier spreads of prose and much more esteemed levels of government, in cycles of feminist reclamation and revolutions of Marxist drive and every other thought experiment that aspired to a stake in human reality. Unlike the overwhelming majority, he has combined in these 141 pages pertaining to a very specific problem of a very specific region of a very specific time and place and immeasurable exactitude the guarantee of the end and the drive to carry on. Unlike most, Baldwin does not pretend that change does not have consequence, that progress will be universally achieved, that the standards of living exalted in his day and, indeed, in mine, are anything but the evolution of murderers and the aspirations of sadists. And, unlike those few who do accept this history of violence and see no other solution to it than more of the same, he insists on valuing the beauty that such a solution would ultimately break.In any event, the sloppy and fatuous nature of American good will can never be relied upon to deal with hard problems. These have been dealt with, when they have been dealt with at all, out of necessity—and in political terms, anyway, necessity means concessions made in order to stay on top.No doubt I am guilty of some injustice here, but it is irreducible, since I cannot risk assuming that the humanity of these people is more real to them than their uniforms. Most Negroes cannot risk assuming that the humanity of white people is more real to them than their color.This work is a warning that neither pulls its punches nor stems its heartbreak. It is one born of love and of fear in a time that had little inkling of the hyperconnection of my own, where the names of Mike Brown and Eric Garner and Tamir Rice and thousands, millions, billions of others continue to ring in my corner of the Internet and work themselves across highways and Fifth Avenues and the blood-filled veins of the military industrial complex I call home. I knew, when I read Giovanni's Room, that this man had a work with my name on it, a work that would call for a revival and a reckoning. What I didn't know was that I would have already lost all faith in the institutions of my government, in the history of my heritage, and any and all facts beyond the simple truth that white people are no different from children bred for war and the pleasures of homicide on the bodies of the other. What I didn't know was Baldwin, despite overwhelming awareness of this hell on earth and what those who share my skin have wreaked and will continue to wreak on those who share his, placed his bet on love.I use the word “love” here not merely in the personal sense but as a state of being, or a state of grace—not in the infantile American sense of being made happy but in the tough and universal sense of quest and daring and growth.Yes. That love.It seems to me that one ought to rejoice in the fact of death—ought to decide, indeed, to earn one’s death by confronting with passion the conundrum of life. One in responsible to life: It is the small beacon in that terrifying darkness from which we come and to which we shall return.I'm gearing up for a return to academia with all its empty learning and valorization of old dead straight white men. It's taken me years filled with works such as this to get me to this point of seeing what I am being taught and how I should learn from it and, most importantly of all, the ways I will use it on the broader scheme of life. I will, in that respect, continue to take each and every work far too seriously as merited by most. However, looking back, such seriousness has served me well. It has led me to works like these that give me the will to continue, and that, at its heart, is what truly matters.

  • Trish
    2018-11-22 20:53

    When so many authors reference a work when completing their own, it is necessary to go to the source. Baldwin’s important work was first published in 1962, right in the middle of the Civil Rights movement. It must have been enormously affective to those trying to articulate their dispossession at that time. But so many authors, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Jesmyn Ward, and Teju Cole to name a few I have read lately, specifically talk about how Baldwin influenced them and point out how little has changed in the fifty-some odd years since he wrote that short letter to his nephew and discussed his own experience in America.But something has changed. We hear him now, through these later authors. They keep pointing to Baldwin, and now we can hear what he was saying: "The treatment accorded the Negro during the Second World War marks, for me, a turning point in the Negro’s relation to America. To put it briefly, and somewhat too simply, a certain hope died, a certain respect for white America faded. One began to pity them, or to hate them…" Was Baldwin the first to say in language clear and unmistakable that “the man”—the white man—was the oppressor? “In any case, white people, who had robbed black people of their liberty and who profited buy this theft every hour that they lived, had no moral ground on which to stand.” Why does this sound true and reasoned now when it must have sounded and felt shocking when he wrote it? Same words. Can it be that we have learned something about the nature of oppression after all? That women’s rights, gay rights, transgender rights have finally taught us what oppression and discrimination is? Why has it taken so long for us to see what we have done to the American Negro? Is it because that oppression was economically advantageous or because we simply did not care?Well, we care now. And it is clear that this will be sorted out, easy or hard, but it will be sorted out. "Imagine yourself being told to ‘wait.’ And all this is happening in the richest and freest country in the world, and in the middle of the twentieth century. The subtle and deadly change of heart that might occur in you would be involved with the realization that a civilization is not destroyed by wicked people; it is not necessary that people be wicked but only that they be spineless."The Chinese have a phrase “speaking bitterness.” This is what Baldwin does in this book. He tries to soften the blow: “This seems an extremely harsh way of stating the case…” and not all white people are the same (“I have many white friends”). “In the eeriest way possible, I suddenly had a glimpse of what white people must go through at a dinner table when they are trying to prove that Negroes are not subhuman.” This empathy, this ambiguity of feeling, this ability to see himself is what makes Baldwin so compelling. "White Americans have contented themselves with gestures that are now described as ‘tokenism.’ For hard example, white Americans congratulate themselves on the 1954 Supreme Court decision outlawing segregation in the schools; they suppose, in spite of the mountain of evidence that has since accumulated to the contrary, that this is proof of a change of heart—or, as they like to say, progress…Most of the Negroes I know do not believe that this immense concession would ever have been made if it had not been for the competition of the Cold War, and the fact that Africa was liberating herself and therefore had, for political reasons, to be wooed by the descendants of the former masters. Had it been a matter of love or justice, the 1954 decision would surely have occurred sooner; were it not for the realities of power in this difficult era, it might very well not have occurred yet…In any event, the sloppy and fatuous nature of American good will can never be relied upon to deal with hard problems. These have to be dealt with…in political terms."Yes. But it will also take a change of heart. Which comes first, we cannot know. At the end of this slim book Baldwin writes of spiritual resilience, despite his telling us he is not a religious man. It sounded like something I’d heard from Thich Nhat Hanh just the other day (Kristin Tippett’s On Being radio podcast). Baldwin tells us "—this past, this endless struggle to achieve and reveal and confirm a human identity, human authority, yet contains, for all its horror, something very beautiful. I do not mean to be sentimental about suffering—enough is certainly as good as a feast—but people who cannot suffer can never grow up, can never discover who they are…It demands great spiritual resilience not to hate the hater whose foot is on your neck, and an even greater miracle of perception and clarity not to teach your children to hate. The Negro boys and girls who are facing mobs today come out of a long line of improbable aristocrats—the only genuine aristocrats this country has produced." That is what I believe. Witness the generosity and genuine goodness of the churchgoers after the Charleston shooting, and just the everyday survival of blacks after centuries of oppression and aggression in this country. Thich Nhat Hanh says something similar: "You cannot grow lotus flowers on marble. You have to grow them on the mud. Without mud, you cannot have a lotus flower. Without suffering, you have no ways in order to learn how to be understanding and compassionate. That's why my definition of the kingdom of God is not a place where suffering is not, where there is no suffering…I could not like to go to a place where there is no suffering. I could not like to send my children to a place where there is no suffering because, in such a place, they have no way to learn how to be understanding and compassionate. And the kingdom of God is a place where there is understanding and compassion, and, therefore, suffering should exist."Earlier, in the letter to his nephew, Baldwin talks about the realities behind the words acceptance and integration: "There is no reason for you to try to become like white people and there is no basis whatever for their impertinent assumption that they must accept you. The really terrible thing, old buddy, is that you must accept them. You must accept them and accept them with love…And if the word integration means anything, this is what it means: that we, with love, shall force our brothers to see themselves as they are, to cease fleeing from reality and begin to change it…It will be hard, James, but you come from sturdy, peasant stock, men who picked cotton and dammed rivers and built railroads, and, in the teeth of the most terrifying odds, achieved an unassailable and monumental dignity."Baldwin speaks to what is happening now on the streets of America: "The brutality with which Negroes are treated in this country simply cannot be overstated, however unwilling white men may be to hear it…the most dangerous creation of any society is that man who has nothing to lose. You do not need ten such men—one will do…as long as we in the West place on color the value that we do, we make it impossible for the great unwashed to consolidate themselves according to any other principle…If we—and now I mean the relatively conscious whites and the relative conscious blacks, who must, like lovers, insist on, or create, the consciousness of others—do not falter in our duty now, we may be able, handful that we are, to end the racial nightmare…If we do not now dare everything..."...it will be fire this time.

  • Cheryl
    2018-11-25 18:50

    A warm rush starts from the pit of my being and moves to my enflamed fingertips as I consider Baldwin's commentary. His fire ignites mine; it ignites any reader who traverses these thoughts set aflame by prosaic finesse and passionate renderings. Coincidentally, I had this opened at the same time I read Maya Angelou's The Heart of a Woman, where I came across James Baldwin, or "Jim," sharing a taxi with Maya Angelou and her former husband, during the heat of the literary movement of the late 1950s to 1960s. It's an unexplainable feeling, to come across a classic-great at the onset of his or her career, when he or she is an unknown writer and social activist; when James Baldwin is merely a quiet onlooker in a crowd of human rights protesters, an onlooker who saves his fire for next time.Watch out for the quiet ones, for their words burn like blistered wounds: He achieves his own authority, and that is unshakable. This is because, in order to save his life, he is forced to look beneath appearances, to take nothing for granted, to hear the meaning behind the words. If one is continually surviving the worst that life can bring, one eventually ceases to be controlled by fear of what life can bring; whatever it brings must be borne.In one sitting, I read and became glued to this book. This is narrative that begins with a letter of admonishment: "Letter to My Nephew on the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Emancipation." It is memoir. It is commentary. It is literary essay. It is palpable pain, palatable reading, and preponderance of racial and social progress. It is fire.One did not have to be very bright to realize how little one could do to change one's situation; one did not have to be abnormally sensitive to be worn down to a cutting edge by the incessant and gratuitous humiliation and danger one encountered every working day, all day long. Read if your heart can lift, weigh, and carry these layers. Read if through the elucidation of social wrongs, you are educated about humanity. Read if you can stomach fingering the beauty and mire of this befuddling American fabric.Read so you appreciate Baldwin's perspective, and the African-American trajectory.Read so you feel the fire this time.

  • Leah Craig
    2018-11-21 21:44

    James Baldwin’s voice is concise and brilliant and I am incredibly unworthy to review it. So I’m just going to leave you with the passage that stood out the most to me. “The treatment accorded the Negro during the Second World War marks, for me, a turning point in the Negro’s relation to America. To put it briefly, and somewhat too simply, a certain hope died, a certain respect for white Americans faded. One began to pity them, or to hate them. You must put yourself in the skin of a man who is wearing the uniform of his country, is a candidate for death in its defense, and who is called a “nigger” by his comrades-in-arms and his officers; who is almost always given the hardest, ugliest, most menial work to do; who knows that the white G.I. has informed the Europeans that he is subhuman (so much for the American male’s sexual security); who does not dance at the U.S.O. the night white soldiers dance there, and does not drink in the same bars white soldiers drink in; and who watches German prisoners of war being treated by Americans with more human dignity than he has ever received at their hands. And who, at the same time, as a human being, is far freer in a strange land than he has ever been at home. Home! The very word begins to have a despairing and diabolical ring. You must consider what happens to this citizen, after all he has endured, when he returns-home: search, in his shoes, for a job, for a place to live; ride, in his skin, on segregated buses; see, with his eyes, the signs saying “White” and “Colored,” and especially the signs that say “White Ladies” and “Colored Women”; look into the eyes of his wife; look into the eyes of his son; listen, with his ears, to political speeches, North and South; imagine yourself being told to “wait.” And all this is happening in the richest and freest country in the world, and in the middle of the 20th century. The subtle and deadly change of heart that might occur in you would be involved with the realization that a civilization is not destroyed by wicked people; it is not necessary that people be wicked but only that they be spineless.”

  • Book Riot Community
    2018-12-11 17:43

    After seeing the documentary, I Am Not Your Negro, I knew I had to get my hands on Baldwin’s work. I began with this short book, composed of a letter to his nephew and a longer essay, that deals head-on with the “racial nightmare” of the United States (to use Baldwin’s own words). The author describes the suffocating Harlem of his youth, his disappointment with trying to find salvation through religion and his own conflicting feelings about Nation of Islam founder Elijah Muhammad. The book is vital, not because of its description of the Civil Rights era, but because Baldwin’s analysis of race relations can so easily be applied to the present. A sobering thought, indeed. — Ines Bellinafrom The Best Books We Read In March 2017: http://bookriot.com/2017/04/04/riot-r...

  • Yossie
    2018-12-04 19:41

    *falls to the ground**opens arms*TAKE ME, GAWD.I wanna find Baldwin and hug him and cry into his arms and tell him thanks. Wow.Why isn't this mandatory reading?I don't get it. It's impossible to 'review' this book. All I want to do is shout and tell everyone to read it. I don't know whether some people think it is outdated, but if that is the case, I would like to say that it isn't. I was reading this book and thinking about the state of America, right now. Thinking about the Black American experience, right now. And at some parts, all I wanted to do was cry. I want to share my favourite passages from this book, especially the second and longer essay, but I will have to return to do that.Have I said 'Uncle Jimmy the gawd' yet? No? Well, gahdamn, gahdamn, gahdamn.Uncle Jimmy da Gawd.

  • Didi
    2018-11-19 20:51

    Nothing less than AWESOME! James Baldwin was a brilliant man and writer. I can't wait to get through all of his work. This is definitely a must read for everyone.

  • Chris Blocker
    2018-12-05 23:36

    “...if the word integration means anything, this is what it means: that we, with love, shall force our brothers to see themselves as they are, to cease fleeing from reality and begin to change it.”“White people in this country will have quite enough to do in learning how to accept and love themselves and each other, and when they have achieved this—which will not be tomorrow and may very well be never—the Negro problem will no longer exist, for it will no longer be needed.”“There [the police] stood, in twos and threes and fours, in their Cub Scout uniforms and with their Cub Scout faces, totally unprepared, as is the way with American he-men, for anything that could not be settled with a club or a fist or a gun. I might have pitied them if I had not found myself in their hands so often and discovered, through ugly experience, what they were like when they held the power and what they were like when you held the power.”“You know, and I know, that the country is celebrating one hundred years of freedom one hundred years too soon.”“The unprecedented price demanded—and at this embattled hour of the world's history—is the transcendence of the realities of color, of nations, and of altars.”“Color is not a human or a personal reality; it is a political reality.”

  • Ken Moten
    2018-12-01 22:54

    "Color is not a human or a personal reality; it is a political reality. But this is a distinction so extremely hard to make that the West has not been able to make it yet."This was an interesting read by a very interesting man. The book is a collection of two publications: a letter to his nephew on the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and an article in which he recounts his time as a pentecostal minister and his encounters with Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X as well as the NOI movement up to that point (1963).If there was a main argument that was to be made by this book it is this: "Thou SHALL love thy neighbor." Baldwin loved people, not like but loved. This love, however, did not stop him from speaking honestly what he felt were the evil being portrayed or espoused by both White and Black in the USA. While he unapologetically loved his people, he never encouraged hatred for White's, but compassion and pity; but even more important love. In his letter to his nephew (which I could read a thousand times as I thought it was address to me it was so real) he says this: "Please try to be clear, dear James, through the storm which rages about your youthful head today, about the reality which lies behind the words "acceptance" and "integration." There is no reason for you to try to become like white men and there is no basis whatever for their impertinent assumption that they must accept you. The really terrible thing, old buddy, is that you must accept them, and I mean that very seriously. You must accept them and accept them with love, for these innocent people have no other hope. 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." That paragraph still breaks me out in chills and might be my favorite part of the book. This letter can be found online here, and I strongly suggest that all people read it. The letter has barely aged in its critique or compassion.The other part is Baldwin recounting his joining up and leaving of Pentecostalism as well as his polemic on American Christianity, followed by his encounter with Elijah Muhammad and his movement. If you have read Go Tell It on the Mountain then this should be familiar as it pertains to his experiences with Christianity. While his polemic is not as thoroughly critical as Frederick Douglass' at the end of his famous autobiography, it is scathing. So when he goes to talk about Elijah Muhammad and the NOI you would expect him to welcome them , but while Baldwin admires the fostering of pride among the members, he cannot abide their blind hatred of White people any more than he can stand White Christens' hatred of Black people. In short-James Baldwin subscribed to the theory of "those who hunt monsters..." He talks about a televised debate he had with Malcolm X which I had listened to as a podcast a few years back, that debate can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-JIp9... *Note that after 1963 Malcolm X would split from the NOI, convert to Sunni Islam, and repudiate the racist statements he made as a member of that group."If we--and now I mean the relatively conscious whites & the relatively conscious blacks, who must, like lovers, insist on, or create the consciousness of others--do not falter in our duty now, we may be able, handful that we are, to end the racial nightmare, and achieve our country, and change the history of the world. If we do not now dare everything, the fulfillment of that prophecy, recreated from the Bible in song by a slave, is upon us: 'God gave Noah the rainbow sign, No more water, the fire next time!'"

  • Zanna
    2018-11-30 00:40

    First read in 2008.This book is so beautiful and clear. Baldwin has forced himself, against all the violence heaped upon him and those around him, not to see through hatred and think through hatred, which would be just after all. He outlines and touches on so many of the issues that are still real and painful in America and in the UK too, where white supremacy persists like a weed that keeps springing back up. It's almost depressing to read his words in 1963, words of courageous optimism and hope, and see that we have failed, White people have failed to 'end the racial nightmare'Baldwin's formulation of the issues here is brief, poetic, rich and heartfelt, and the ideas are still instrumental. If all of this book were history, that would be a good thing. Sadly, it is very much vital and needed.

  • Kinga
    2018-12-08 00:51

    Everybody should read this book. Not only because it is extremely written, not repetetive (like some essays can be), to the point and just bloody brilliant but above all because sadly it is still relevant. If you think that musings of a black gay man reflecting on America in the 50s somehow have nothing to do with you then do yourself a favour and read it. It is only 80 pages, not like I am asking you to read War and Peace.I want to believe that the World has come a long way since the 50s. I am sure it has. But we are not quite there yet, are we? So let's keep reading.

  • Liz Janet
    2018-11-17 20:36

    #BlackLivesMatter“Please try to remember that what they believe, as well as what they do and cause you to endure does not testify to your inferiority but to their inhumanity.” I have never really suffered through racism, well, not until I started wearing hijab. But before that I did not, I grew up in an European-white family, in a town filled with white people and a few people of colour, but because of the country I grew up, and the wonderful family I had, I was raised to know that everyone is equal, no matter race, gender, sexuality, religion or lack thereof, and that the only superiority a person has over any other is due to good actions and nothing more. After moving to America that changed, for the first time I listened to the news I read about the systematic oppression of "minority" groups, which in Cuba had been abolished, to the latest, in 1959. I did not understand how such outdated views could still run rampant in a society that valued itself above other nations over its freedom, while denying equal opportunity to the same minorities that helped shape the country. So, ever since then, I have wanted to learn as much as I could about such groups in the U.S. and the world, this was one of those books that I wish I had read when I first arrived here, sadly I did not know about James Baldwin then. All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action. - Prophet Muhammad pbuhSorry for the religious rambling, but it does match the book, for the second of the letters/essays is called "Down At The Cross — Letter from a Region of My Mind." It speaks of the relation between race and religion, and how some religious people used faith to keep injustice as the norm. This is a book that calls for social change, which has sort of come to pass now, but back then was a revolutionary idea. (thinking of it like that makes me sick to the stomach)This is a book that everyone should read, at least once in a lifetime will suffice.

  • J Beckett
    2018-11-15 19:47

    How do you write a review for ANY work by James Baldwin? The Fire Next Time...?You don’t! Amazing, untimely, and hauntingly prophetic. Massively tiny tome of brilliance.Should be read by every human being on the planet!

  • Mariel
    2018-12-05 00:32

    The universe, which is not merely the stars and the moonand the planets, flowers, grass, and trees, but other people,has evolved no terms for your existence, has made no room for you, andif love will not swing wide the gates, no other power will or can. Andif one despairs- as who has not?- of human love, God's alone is left.But God- and I felt this even then, so long ago, on that tremendousfloor, unwillingly- is white. And if his love was so great, and if Heloved all his children, why were we, the blacks, cast down so far?Why?The floor gave up no real answers. Cheek to bare hardness feet andpregnant in God's kitchen. Throat dried on the pulpit's carpet isprotest's only answer. The voice is after you have talked into themorning's future. The ceiling of which way to go is the Church.They big learn in that huff and puff building. Or one another'sbodies. A swaying hip the way tomorrow. Young girls everywhere lipreading no. The other side of the dance room are lusty thighsimprisoned in workman's pants. Tomorrow is too long and the comingweeks already spent. I always seem to feel trapped between this whatwill happen next. Will the hunted shoulders have to answer for morethan the everybody's dirty business will yield. I don't want to be thewanting something to laugh working men. I don't want to think aboutevery day after when the blow it down night makes it someone else'sproblem. I would feel my fists didn't break themselves against theunmovable when the tired voice walked both sides this way. JamesBaldwin's voice is edged with the cost. The streetlights turn on oneby one as you get closer to more all fall down. Is this the next stop?For when the pastor asked me, with that marvelous smile, "Whoselittle boy are you?" my heart replied at once, "Why, yours."Pockets and hands out are buying. They cover the butt and the spotabove the heart and where you walk with places to hold. I don't knowwhere you should go but I had this shadow following me of what couldhave happened if the church hadn't offered their four walls plus moresides to hold in more houses the primordial breathlessness. It feltman-made as a church and nature is one nasty bitch all around us. The voice buries alive.And then the streets poured into the river of the never endingconversation of your ears ring and the din. I don't believe in a Godfor white blood. But I can't say it hadn't stolen from me too. Gift shop last names emblazon key chains there is that history blood thread going back to which family was historically slavers (or if they share my Welsh surname took on the freers name. That anyone is only as free as other people agree they are is a thought I must push aside like pretending that time is real to go on and vote and pay bills). It may well be true that desegregation happened in part to appease future business dealings in Africa. The big picture of government is eaten by worms.I feel this hollow edged throat talking in my bearing of this man-man. What does God have to do with it. It has been this way foreverand being a white person who doesn't pin shapes in another's spacesdoesn't change that I see the same monsters rise up when I look fromwhere also lie. Not out of the questioning. There are more whites than surrounding my pupils to dilate in avoidance of others. But I think my throat hurt most when talking what I always wanted to say about the movement towards the pillow cold floors. In the fire of what if no one ever heard. When Baldwin knocks like this by going with them in cost. When he wants to be someone's boy, for a roof. When you feel the answer no, no, no and there is no one to ask in their flesh walls surrounding you. People always seem to band together in accordance to aprinciple that has nothing to do with love, a principle that releasesthem from personal responsibility.

  • Sarah Weathersby
    2018-11-19 23:38

    I first read this book in the sixties, but I had to revisit Baldwin's powerful sermon/commentary on racism in America from today's perspective. After the ushering in of the laughable "Post-racial" society that was to be the Obama years, two terms of vilifying, attempted impeachment, and undercutting of the "Leader of the Free World" because he is a black man; and the "Stand Your Ground" laws that allow for "Open Season" on young black men; just make me think not much has changed in the 50 years since this book was published.

  • Joe
    2018-11-15 22:52

    Written almost 50 years ago during the Civil Rights era, these two works (a letter and an essay) afford the 21st Century reader a solid no-holds barred picture of life lived through apartheid America as seen through the eyes of a black man.I had a hard copy in college (in the 80s) of this book and thought it was too angry and unfortunately never read it in its entirety (only 100 pages mind you). Listening now as I’ve lived life a little, I see that it was my inability to process and interpret heated, angry or divergent dissertations that was the problem, not what he wrote. I had grown too accustomed to having everything to work out well. Listening to an audio reading has allowed me to take further stock of what I initially missed. Baldwin wrote two brilliant pieces from a heart that had lived them. At the very least, his writing must be commended for its bold directness, its brutal honesty, its elegant articulation, and its timely significance. Unfortunately many of Baldwin’s holdings are still true—although never discussed in mixed company. Taken in its context, you hear from his heart how he managed to navigate through the hailstorm of good old fashion American apartheid.A very powerful and enlightening reading.

  • Eric
    2018-11-27 00:37

    Dated? Not at all. It can be objected that I am speaking of political freedom in spiritual terms, but the political institutions of any nation are always menaced and are ultimately controlled by the spiritual state of that nation. We are controlled here by our confusion, far more than we know, and the American dream has therefore become something much more closely resembling a nightmare, on the private, domestic, and international levels. Privately, we cannot stand our lives and dare not examine them; domestically, we take no responsibility for (and no pride in) what goes on in our country; and, internationally, for many millions of people, we are an unmitigated disaster.

  • sraxe
    2018-11-17 19:35

    So every attempt is made to cut that black man down—not only was made yesterday but is made today. Who, then, is to say with authority where the root of so much anguish and evil lies? Why, then, is it not possible that all things began with the black man and that he was perfect—especially since this is precisely the claim that white people have put forward for themselves all these years?Baldwin, who is infinitely quotable, is succinct in how he's able to put into a few eloquent words what can take others paragraphs. I found myself highlight passage after passage simply for the purposes of re-reading, something I didn't even do with a lot of my university readings. I didn't even take any notes because he was saying pretty much exactly the things I wanted to say. Honestly, I really don't know what to tell you about this book other than to just go and read it. It's a pretty quick read, composed of two essays, but it took me a few days to finish it because I was trying to savour every bit of it. Read it with an open mind and an open heart, not one going in to disagree. I mean that towards everyone, both to those who want to further their understanding, but especially to those who like to act like things are all good now. They're not. And consider how monumentally sad that is since this book was published over a half century ago, yet the words still echo in the realities of today.You know, and I know, that the country is celebrating one hundred years of freedom one hundred years too soon.There's a point in which Baldwin talks about the Third Reich and the Holocaust and how "White people were, and are, astounded by [it]. They did not know that they could act that way," that "the fate of the Jews, and the world’s indifference to it, frightened [him] very much." And I couldn't help but see that reflected in how things are now with refugees. And how things have been with the Middle East for over a decade. People just don't care. They're indifferent to it. It's only for the few seconds that they're forced to see the toll of this destruction, like a toddler dead on a beach or a child bloody amidst rubble, that they give a second of a care. And then it goes back to nothing. They reject those who so greatly need help, as the Jews did when they were turned back decades ago, and then turn around years later with these insincere calls and empty promises of "never again."Another point, the "never again" promises brought to mind another in regards to the recent ban in the US. I know a lot of people protested it, so that was great. The thing that bothered me, though, is when I heard and saw people saying "this isn't who we are" (or a variation of). I'm sure the sentiment sounds great, but that's entirely a lie. This country was literally built on the backs of slaves and genocide of Native peoples. It has a history of slavery, genocide, colonialism, internment, police brutality, etc. This is exactly who this country is. The statement, while well-meaning, whitewashes this country and its atrocities and the sacrifices of those who have come and gone. If you're not admitting that there's a problem that needs fixing, which is the entire country in this case, you're simply building over an unstable foundation.Baldwin says at one point that "it must be added that the Negro himself no longer believes in the good faith of white Americans—if, indeed, he ever could have." This is reflected even in the words of today, when you see people saying variations of "don't trust white people." Is that any surprise, though? Even today?Despite all the negative that would've come with a Clinton presidency, POC and black people still put away their pride and voted for her because it had to be done. They didn't have another viable option, nor did they have the luxury of hoping that the openly racist, xenophobic, and sexist candidate might be better. Take a look at Standing Rock as another example. That isn't even just the "good faith of white Americans," it's an actual, legitimate treaty that's being trampled over. (Though, with the treatment of the Indigenous People on this land since the beginning, I guess that shouldn't come as a surprise.)And that's one of the problems with saying "this isn't us." It ignores the realities, hoping to shove it all away, which only allows it to fester. A refusal to acknowledge history means a refusal to learn from it, which never leads to any good.Therefore, a vast amount of the energy that goes into what we call the Negro problem is produced by the white man’s profound desire not to be judged by those who are not white, not to be seen as he is, and at the same time a vast amount of the white anguish is rooted in the white man’s equally profound need to be seen as he is, to be released from the tyranny of his mirror.People get mad at the mention of slavery now because it means having to acknowledge what their ancestors had done. They like to wave it away because it's believed it was over two centuries ago and everyone is free and has the right to vote and marriage equality (etc.), yet it ignores other problems, disenfranchisement and criminalization being two examples. "Nationally, according to the U.S. Census, Blacks are incarcerated five times more than Whites are, and Hispanics are nearly twice as likely to be incarcerated as Whites." (Prison Policy Initiative.) And those rates aren't because certain groups are committing more crime than others. In fact, groups commit crimes at pretty much the same right, black people are just disproportionately arrested and convicted. (Which Baldwin also points out when he says that "[white people] had the judges, the juries, the shotguns, the law—in a word, power.") And if people black people and people of colour are being arrested and convicted more, felony disenfranchisement comes into play. (On that note, I urge you to watch Ava DuVernay's 13th.)The Africans put it another way: When the white man came to Africa, the white man had the Bible and the African had the land, but now it is the white man who is being, reluctantly and bloodily, separated from the land, and the African who is still attempting to digest or to vomit up the BibleIn the second essay, Baldwin talks a lot about Christianity (and a bit about Islam and the rise of the Nation of Islam). I admit that I had difficulty with it at first, not really understanding where he was going with it and found my interest drifting, but I urge you to press on.Partway through, Baldwin says that he "cannot accept the proposition that the four-hundred-year travail of the American Negro should result merely in his attainment of the present level of the American civilization," putting this "travail" into words about "this past, the Negro’s past, of rope, fire, torture, castration, infanticide, rape; death and humiliation; fear by day and night, fear as deep as the marrow of the bone; doubt that he was worthy of life, since everyone around him denied it; sorrow for his women, for his kinfolk, for his children, who needed his protection, and whom he could not protect; rage, hatred, and murder." It's the black and Native people of this country who have been so brutalized, but it's white people who feel victimized by this past. This goes to them criminalizing certain groups, like black men, saying they'll "rape our women" or whatever else. The audacity of it is something else, that black men rape white women, when the fabric of this country has been threaded by the rape of black female slaves and Native women at the hands of white men from time immemorial.I mean...I could go on. I could write a dissertation on this, honestly, because there was so much more in here, but I'll just stop there.There were so many times in the above that I wanted to add #NotAllWhitePeople or something, but I stopped myself. There have been so many times, even recently, that I've softened what I've said in order to not offend. But if your instinct is to argue with Baldwin's words, to come in here and react to negatively to what I'm saying, then you are not one of the people who would've been filed away under #NotAllWhitePeople anyway. This review, and this book, is exactly about you and those whose takeaway from this is not the tangible suffering of others, but their own hurt feelings.Like I said in the beginning: read it. Read it with an open mind and learn from it. I'll just end with this quote, which is found to be so damn true (and it's a reflection even now to the #BlackLivesMatter protests):The real reason that nonviolence is considered to be a virtue in Negroes—I am not speaking now of its racial value, another matter altogether—is that white men do not want their lives, their self-image, or their property threatened.

  • Roy Lotz
    2018-12-04 20:32

    I am far from convinced that being released from the African witch doctor was worthwhile if I am now—in order to support the moral contradictions and the spiritual aridity of my life—expected to become dependent on the American psychiatrist.Ta-Nehisi Coates led me here, but I should have gotten here a long time before that. James Baldwin is a powerful and penetrating writer; and this book, though short, is an encyclopedia of thought. After I finished The Souls of Black Folks, by W.E.B. Du Bois, I noted the irony that Du Bois—who formulated the idea of the “split consciousness” experienced by black Americans—had one of the most distinctly American voices I’d ever heard. But the more I read, the more I realize that this statement is not unique to Du Bois; a long line of African American authors, from Frederick Douglass to James Baldwin to Ta-Nehisi Coates, are in this same predicament. They feel themselves outsiders, and yet their voice and their style could not have arisen anyplace else. And perhaps this is the central irony of the color line, an irony that Baldwin takes pains to point out: that we shun the people who create our most distinct and powerful traditions, but embrace their music, their literature, and their culture. We think of them as a minority, as somehow “outside” the mainstream, but they form an essential part of our country’s identity. Although separated by many years and by different experiences, the four authors I mentioned above share much. Their works are roving and hard to define; they transition seamlessly from subject to subject, or just talk about everything at once. Social criticism, advocacy, history, religion, autobiography, journalism, anecdote, statistics, and prophecy are all blended into one another, and yet the product is one organic whole. Thus they appeal to both the heart and the head, powerfully and irresistibly, sounding simultaneously like a sermon and a dissertation. So this essay is clearly part of a long and vibrant tradition. But what is Baldwin saying? One of the themes of this essay that most stuck with me was the role Christianity has played in American history and specifically in what Baldwin calls, in the parlance of his time, “the Negro problem.” This theme is obviously quite personal for Baldwin, who spent some years in his youth writing and delivering sermons. Although he enjoyed the power of the platform, he quickly grew disgusted with the hypocrisy he noticed in his fellow clergymen, who preached Christian meekness and humility while squeezing donations from their congregations. In a short time, this led to a loss of faith: “Being in the pulpit was like being in the theatre; I was behind the scenes and knew how the illusion worked.”But Baldwin does not only note the hypocrisy within his own church; he is acutely aware of the historical role Christianity has played in justifying slavery and oppression:The spreading of the Gospel, regardless of the motives or the integrity or the heroism of some of the missionaries, was an absolutely indispensable justification for the planting of the flag. Priests and nuns and school-teachers helped to protect and sanctify the power that was so ruthlessly being used by people who were indeed seeking a city, but not one in the heavens, and one to be made, very definitely, by captive hands.And indeed, Frederick Douglass, in his first autobiography, made almost the same observation 100 years before Baldwin:We have sold men to build churches, women sold to support the gospel, and babies sold to purchase Bibles for the poor heathen! all for the glory of God and the good of souls! The slave auctioneer’s bell and the church-going bell chime in with each other, and the bitter cries of the heart-broken slave are drowned in the religious shouts of his pious master. Revivals of religion and revivals of the slave-trade go hand in hand.I think it is vitally important to remember this fact, especially now, when fear and hatred of Muslims is so wide-spread in the United States. For centuries, Christians have been using their religion as a smokescreen for their invasions, their enslavements, their conquests, and their persecutions. The Bible was held aloft by the Conquistadores as they destroyed whole peoples, whole civilizations; and the doctrine of salvation was used to bathe the slave-trade, one of history’s greatest atrocities, in the odor of sanctity.I’m not saying this because I think Christianity is evil; far from it. I only wish to point out the obvious fact that the purveyors of violence always find some doctrine, some faith—whether it be nationalistic, racial, religious, or whatever—to justify their actions. The truth is that you can kill in the name of anything. So it’s vitally important to condemn the killers and not their flimsy pretexts. Or at the very least, if we’re going to get in the business of condemning ideologies for their consequences, perhaps we should start with our own.But I am digressing. In my defense, this book is so rich in ideas and so deep in feeling that it’s impossible to put it down without thoughts buzzing through your head; impossible for me, anyway. So before I am tempted by any further digression let me get to the heart of the book: “Whoever debases others is debasing himself.” This is at the root of Baldwin’s criticisms of the Nation of Islam and with American culture generally. For whites to need blacks as a foil for their identity, so that they can feel superior, so that they can have a group to look down upon, is to put themselves in a terrible situation. It is to live a most inauthentic sort of life, where one is forced to lie to oneself and to others, and to be cruel into the bargain; a life ultimately sterile. "Such a person interposes between himself and reality nothing less than a labyrinth of attitudes."And for the Nation of Islam to take up this same call is to adopt the same ideology with the colors reversed. Thus even if they succeeded they would have fallen prey to this same sterility—infected with the need to think oneself a part of the chosen people, the best people, a people above everyone else—and this, for Baldwin, would be the ultimate defeat.This is why Baldwin is not in favor of integration—at least, not integration as it is usually portrayed, with blacks simply adopting the lifestyle of whites. This would leave untouched this central problem: the problem of American exceptionalism. For Baldwin, as for many others, this chronic need for Americans to feel themselves the best in the world, the best ever, the very culmination of history, is the source of much trouble. For it is a lie; a lie that is too comforting to disbelieve, and yet too often contradicted by daily life to believe. And trapped in this no-man’s-land between belief and disbelief, unable to face the world or to swallow one’s own illusion, is the American ego.This need, the need to see oneself and one's country as exceptional, places one in a very delicate position, with one’s fragile self-esteem constantly at risk of cracking. And this—if I can be permitted another tangent—is what, I think, is at the root of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Why does America, the greatest country ever, have a shrinking middle class? It can’t be Americans’ faults—no, no, it must be somebody else. It must be Mexicans and Muslims; and of course there are too many blacks freeloading off the system. So just get rid of everybody but white Americans, and this will, of course, "Make America Great Again.” I bring up Trump, not only because he’s an irresistible target, but to emphasize Baldwin’s own point: that until we give up this American mythology, we will be living a very inauthentic and precarious sort of life. We are like a child hiding under the covers because he's afraid of the dark, without the courage to throw off the blanket and turn on the light. Thus, Baldwin frames the “Negro problem” not only as a struggle for equality, but a struggle for the soul of the country itself. And I must say, for somebody who gave up preaching, he’s very good at making converts.

  • Ammar
    2018-11-26 16:36

    This book couldn't have been more apt than these days... the days that shows that every one matters, no matter their race, creed, nationality, sexual orientation. Every human counts. African Americans are facing tough choices in this world, along with Latinos and other races, and they want to better theirselves, but sometimes the only path they can take is a violent or a semi violent path; so the world can see their plight or hear their cry of injustice.