James Baldwin
Rating: 7.5/10
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Reading Ease: Reading Time:3 hours

A painfully beautiful essay by James Baldwin examining the consequences of racial injustice and a philosophical view of pain, religion and the concept of race. He gives a powerful reminder, “Please try to remember that what they believe, as well as what they do and cause you to endure does not testify to your inferiority but to their inhumanity”, and a thoughts on pain, “I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”. Reading this felt like a meditative exercise on the realities we face and have ignored due to the illusion of progress.

Notetable Quotes

“I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”James Baldwin
“If the concept of God has any validity or any use, it can only be to make us larger, freer, and more loving. If God cannot do this, then it is time we got rid of Him.”James Baldwin
“Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within. I use the word "love" here not merely in the personal sense but as a state of being, or a state of gracenot in the infantile American sense of being made happy but in the tough and universal sense of quest and daring and growth.”
“Life is tragic simply because the earth turns and the sun inexorably rises and sets, and one day, for each of us, the sun will go down for the last, last time. Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, the only fact we have. It seems to me that one ought to rejoice in the fact of death--ought to decide, indeed, to earn one's death by confronting with passion the conundrum of life. One is responsible for life: It is the small beacon in that terrifying darkness from which we come and to which we shall return.”James Baldwin
“Please try to remember that what they believe, as well as what they do and cause you to endure does not testify to your inferiority but to their inhumanity”James Baldwin
“The subtle and deadly change of heart that might occur in you would be involved with the realization that a civilization is not destroyed by wicked people; it is not necessary that people be wicked but only that they be spineless.”James Baldwin

Motivations to Read

The more the world seems to be in disarray, I turn to history to get a better understanding. In this case, it's about race, as we approach the summer, as I'm about to read this and in the prior year there was a spike in police violence around black males. In addition, there doesn't seem to be a significant increase in economic mobility for minorities, and the prison of poverty still holds strong.

3 Reasons to Read

  • James Baldwin's early life in Harlem and a disturbing examination of the consequences of racial injustice.
  • Discussion on race and religion.
  • Empathetically written essay on hate and pain.
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