Baldwin Redux

Friday May 29, 2020 Black Lives Matter protestors joined at Foley Square in Manhattan to march over the Brooklyn Bridge in protest of the death of George Floyd. Photo: Ryland West/ ALM

I posted some excerpts from The Fire Next Time last year. It seems appropriate to repost this one today.

“If one is permitted to treat any group of people with special disfavor because of their race or the color of their skin, there is no limit to what one will force them to endure, and since the entire race has been mysteriously indicted, no reason not to attempt to destroy it root and branch. This is precisely what the Nazis attempted. Their only originality lay in the means they used. It is scarcely worthwhile to attempt remembering ow many times the sun has looked down on the slaughter of the innocents. I am very much concerned that American Negroes achieve their freedom here in the United States. But I am also concerned for their dignity, for the health of their souls, and must oppose any attempt that Negroes may make to do to others what has been done to them. I think I know–we see it around us every day–the spiritual wasteland to which that road leads. It is so simple a fact and one that is so hard, apparently, to grasp: Whoever debases others is debasing himself. That is not a mystical statement, but a most realistic one, which is proved by the eyes of any Alabama sheriff–and I would not like to see Negroes ever arrive at so wretched a condition…”

And perhaps also a good moment to repost this poem by Paulette Beete:

Still Life with Bullets

Orlando Jones, a black actor, douses himself
in a bucket of bullets. I flinch. Bullet against
brown skin even without the bruised and
busted aftermath is no easy thing to bear. Even
at the distance of Facebook. There is nothing beautiful
about the gilt curves of each bullet, nothing admirable
about the bullet’s svelte ferocity, no safety knowing
these bullets are holding their tempers. Afterwards
the spent bullets lie on pavements, hide in bodies satisfied
that they have perfectly executed what they are
built to do. How many of us brown people can say that?
That we have utterly spent ourselves on the purpose that
made us who we are? How many of us never become
much of anything but skin stuffed with rage and grief?

Paulette Beete

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