VNV Tuesday – Speaking His Truth: James Baldwin 1/16/18

In a moment of semi-panic because I had no clue what I was going to write, I turned on the television in the hopes distraction would mitigate the writing block and lead to clear thinking. It was a serendipitous choice. Independent Lens on PBS was airing “I Am Not Your Negro”, based on James Baldwin’s last and unfinished manuscript, Remember This House. It’s been years since I’ve read anything by Baldwin, but the documentary reminded me of his eloquence and passion. When we have a crude, inarticulate racist in the White House, and toadies not only willing, but eager, to justify hatred through contortions and misrepresentations of history, it seems a good day to listen to James Baldwin. His truths still resonate.

Note: I have tried to use YouTube videos with a closed captioning option; though imperfect, the overall sense is generally intact.

Who is the N*****?

Give me liberty or give me death…(no transcript)

In response to the [whitesplained] suggestion that there is too much emphasis on Black and White vs areas of commonality:

Debate vs William F. Buckley, 1965 at Cambridge on the motion,”The American Dream is at the Expense of the American Negro.” (excerpt 1)

Debate excerpt 2

Debate excerpt 3

Debate excerpt 4

A transcript of James Baldwin’s remarks at the debate can be found here.

On the future of the country

About DoReMI 165 Articles
Now a Michigander, by way of Ohio, Illinois, Scotland, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania. Gardener. Sewer. Democrat. Resister.


  1. Thank you, DoReMI. James Baldwin is one of the giants of American literature. When I was growing up, his “Go Tell It on the Mountain” occupied a prominent place on my father’s bookshelves.

    Your writer’s block has had a most happy result!

    • I really need to read Notes of a Native Son again; I read it decades upon decades ago, and I think now is a good time for a reread. I would like to think my relative “maturity” will enable me to read it with a broader, more open perspective.

  2. Good morning everyone. Thanks for having writers block, DoReMi. An excellent diary and one that will take more than a few minutes to get through. Off to grab some coffee and get started.

    • You’re welcome? As I mentioned elsewhere, I didn’t do the post I had originally planned, because I hadn’t completed the reading I needed to do and was too tired when I got home from work yesterday to complete it. Of course, then I fell down the rabbit hole of James Baldwin videos on YouTube and was up until almost 2am. Somehow I think that’s an apt metaphor for my life; I’m not sure how, but it feels right!

  3. {{{DoReMI}}} – My mother loved James Baldwin’s writings. I very vaguely remember some of what you’ve shown above. I very much remember my mother “passing on” Baldwin’s points most of which I think I understood/understand – but at the level of the teenager that I was at the time. As I am now attempting to understand them at the hopefully more mature level I am now, thank you – for this and your “series” of diaries. moar {{{HUGS}}}

    • Thank you, bfitz. I wish we could be talking about how his words no longer apply, but that’s kind of his point, isn’t it? Until white folk well and truly grapple with “why we need a n*****”, his words will continue to resonate.

      And thanks for the Twitter encouragement last night; I needed it…and the ensuing pun fest!

      • Yes his words still resonate. Goddess knows how long they will. I hope Dr. King’s “not long” was not speaking in geologic time. In a sense that’s a brick wall I run into no matter who I’m talking to – I don’t know why we need a n***er. I never have. And maybe I’m fooling myself in thinking that – most folks of color seem to think so – and of course the “pure” on the Left do. But once I’ve met and talked to somebody in whatever demographic – they’re people. Human beings. They bleed – have bled all too often, their bones break, their old wounds ache just like anybody else’s. They want whatever their culture considers to be a decent life – which may or may not be what my culture considers to be a decent life. They can be – and are a lot – insulted by the same kinds of things that insult the “dominant culture” folks and some things that don’t insult us because our culture doesn’t see or value or something whatever it was that made it insulting. They aren’t really a “they” – they’re another branch of “we” who are being treated like crap at best and killed at worst. No actually erased at worst. When our culture takes away their history and culture, that’s worse.

        And not understanding how anybody can think otherwise, well, that mostly means I don’t understand what needs to be done to change my society’s need for “othering” – for turning whole races and cultures into not-human. Of course our culture became very wealthy and powerful by doing that. And maybe it’s “just” that they’d have to give up some of that wealth and a lot of that power if they didn’t have the declared not-human others to steal it from. I don’t know. I just know it’s evil. And I know Hillary’s right – we have to change policy and resource allocation – then we might pick up some hearts and minds. I wish I knew something else to do – something I personally could do – besides working on whatever political campaign going at a given time.

        You are very welcome. I’m not very good at puns although I enjoy them so I really didn’t have much to do with that. basket started it, bless him. I am reasonably good at encouraging words though. At least I try to be. moar {{{HUGS}}}

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