To accept one’s past—one’s history—is not the same thing as drowning in it
History and Society
Letter From A Region In My Mind
It’s an incredible journey James Baldwin takes us through in this article… the sort of concise and deeply thoughtful narrative that weaves the frayed strands of my mind into coherence.
I took several days to read the article and copied the quotes that spoke to me.
Now reflecting on the anger and hurt that i have personally caused people as a human - a human woman - a fair skinned human "white" woman.
To accept one’s past—one’s history—is not the same thing as drowning in it; it is learning how to use it. An invented past can never be used; it cracks and crumbles under the pressures of life like clay in a season of drought. How can the American Negro’s past be used? 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.
The glorification of one race and the consequent debasement of another—or others—always has been and always will be a recipe for murder.
Most people guard and keep; they suppose that it is they themselves and what they identify with themselves that they are guarding and keeping, whereas what they are actually guarding and keeping is their system of reality and what they assume themselves to be. One can give nothing whatever without giving oneself—that is to say, risking oneself. If one cannot risk oneself, then one is simply incapable of giving. And, after all, one can give freedom only by setting someone free.
People are not, for example, terribly anxious to be equal (equal, after all, to what and to whom?) but they love the idea of being superior.
Russia’s secret weapon is the bewilderment and despair and hunger of millions of people of whose existence we are scarcely aware.
We should certainly know by now that it is one thing to overthrow a dictator or repel an invader and quite another thing really to achieve a revolution. Time and time and time again, the people discover that they have merely betrayed themselves into the hands of yet another Pharaoh, who, since he was necessary to put the broken country together, will not let them go. Perhaps, people being the conundrums that they are, and having so little desire to shoulder the burden of their lives, this is what will always happen. But at the bottom of my heart I do not believe this. I think that people can be better than that, and I know that people can be better than they are. We are capable of bearing a great burden, once we discover that the burden is reality and arrive where reality is. Anyway, the point here is that we are living in an age of revolution, whether we will or no, and that America is the only western nation with both the power and, as I hope to suggest, the experience that may help to make these revolutions real and minimize the human damage. Any attempt we make to oppose these outbursts of energy is tantamount to signing our death warrant.
Many people have been referencing James Baldwin lately, and I'll end with this thought from Pankaj Mishra:
Mr. Trump’s trade wars, sanctions, border walls, deportations, denaturalizations and other 11th-hour battles seem to push us all closer to the “terrible probability” James Baldwin once outlined: that the rulers of the “higher races,” “struggling to hold on to what they have stolen from their captives, and unable to look into their mirror, will precipitate a chaos throughout the world which, if it does not bring life on this planet to an end, will bring about a racial war such as the world has never seen.”
Pankaj Mishra, a contributing opinion writer, is the author, most recently, of “Age of Anger: A History of the Present.”