James Baldwin 3: “My entry into America is a bill of sale”

I’ve been watching videos of James Baldwin to the point where I find myself reading in his unique voice. The film, “Baldwn’s Nigger”, is a powerful film shot in London at the West Indian Student center in 1969 by Horace Ove. Again Baldwin refers to the concept of distance. In this instance the distance deliberately created by the Middle Passage. The distance on which racism was constructed and has remained between the white man in America and the Black man. But this distance is a filmsy one built on a denial and lies by white supremacy. Because the white man has always known the truths of who we are and their relationship to us. This is the basis of their fear – particularly the fear of the Black male a denial that I as a Black person is part of them.

if one fine day I discover that i have been lied to all the years of my life and my mother and farther were being lied to. If I discover that though I was bought bred and sold like a mule but I never really was a mule. That those songs the darkies sang and sing were not just the innocent expressions of primitive people but extremely subtle and difficult and dangerous and tragic expressions of what it felt to be in chains. Then by ones presence, by the attempt to walk from here to there you have begun to frighten the white world.

They have always known that you are not a mule. They have always known that no one wishes to be a slave. They have always known that the bales of cotton and textile mills and entire metropolis built on Black labour. They have always known that the Black man was not doing it out of love. He was doing it under the whip, the threat of the gun and even more subtle the threat of the bible

White men lynched Negroes knowing them to be their sons. White women watched men being lynched knowing them to be their lovers.” Finally, he casts a grenade into the cauldron: “How are white Americans so sure they are white?” He alludes here to the dark secret of racial mixing so carefully hidden in many ‘white’ American families and those in the ‘New World’.

Baldwin’s concludes by rejecting race and colour by stating that everyone is tainted by racism – white people as it does on Black people. The problem being that white people and this remains as true today as in 1969 and as much for “white liberals” as it is for all white people, either refuse to and or are unable to question their history. Unable to examine the untruths which have created him/her”.

James Baldwin in London from George Dickson on Vimeo.