Click on the title to link to a National Public Radio segment on a review of uncollected writings by the American writer James Baldwin.
The gut-wrenching, no-holds-barred, truth-telling of the real racial story in this country by James Baldwin has been highlighted in this space recently. I have re-posted one such review that speaks to the continuing validity of that voice, that "voice of the voiceless" that James Baldwin still provides a quarter of a century after his death.
Tuesday, July 06, 2010
*Books To While Away The Class Struggle By-James Baldwin's "Another Country"
Click on the headline to link to a Wikipedia entry for James Baldwin's Another Country
Recently I have begun to post entries under the headline- “Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By” and "Films To While Away The Class Struggle By"-that will include progressive and labor-oriented songs and films that might be of general interest to the radical public. I have decided to do the same for some books that may perk that same interest under the title in this entry’s headline. Markin
Another Country, James Baldwin, Dial Press, New York, 1962
Recently, in a blog entry, I went on my “soap box” to speak about those now seemingly endless references, by black and white liberals alike, to the ‘good old days' of the black civil rights movement and how far the black liberation struggle has come here in America so that even one (harried and vilified) black man can be President of the United States. This sentiment is codified by the ‘post-racial’ aura (or rather, in truth, the ‘benign neglect’ aura) that surrounds the subject of race lately. By reference to the the good old days these liberals have simply appropriated the catch words of Montgomery, Birmingham, and Selma, names, forever, associated with the high-water marks of resistance to black segregation back in the early 1960s to their own uses. Moreover, to embellish the myth they have created a Martin Luther King who apparently was nothing short of the black ‘messiah’ rather than a man made of clay, a great deal of clay, and in turn have emasculated Malcolm X, the real “truth to power” speaker on race of the era, into a harmless icon suitable for framing.
The author under review, James Baldwin, fortunately, would have none of that. He, in a less overtly inflammatory and more literary but nevertheless powerful way, was in that Malcolm X “truth to power” mode. And, my friends, some of his books, including Another Country make my case, and his case, far more eloquently than this writer ever could. Here is a man hard, hard church-brought up as only fundamentalist churches can distort a child, preacher father-raised and beaten-down for doing things, right or wrong, racially put upon incessantly whenever he stepped outside the Harlem prison-ghetto where he was sentenced yet who did not duck the hard, hard truth that native son he might be but ‘invisible’ native son was the real program for those with black skin.
Another Country is another of those multi-themed Baldwin efforts, the now familiar ones of interracial marriage, adultery, bi- and homosexuality, the blindness of white racism, and the hard, hard fact of trying to be seen while black, poor, and gay in America (and elsewhere, for that matter). The sexual and interracial scenes center on the relationships of various black and white characters of various sexual preferences who inhabit New York's 1950s bohemian Greenwich Village (with a little Left Bank, Paris vignette thrown in), or who want to. The most impressive aspect of this piece is the very strong sense that one gets that while the white characters are sympathetic to the blacks, in their own narrow way, they were clueless to the "another country" aspect of black existence. I have , repeatedly, made the point that that "invisibleness", except now in certain high profile quarters, afflicts the perceptions of whites today as well. Thus, one can well afford to read this work with that continuing premise in mind rather than read it comfortably as some pre-"post-racial" screed. Thanks, James.