Author note: I will be mentioning the N-word in conjunction to my own deciphering of James Baldwin’s words.
Here lately, I thought (read: meditated, studied, ruminated) on every quote, and damn near everything I have ever known or read about James Arthur Baldwin. I find myself referring to him as I do along with my favorite scriptures. I find myself in my dark, artistic places thinking “What would my Father Oracle say?” I find myself thinking in matters of social change, marcolevel crazy, and crippling self-doubt repeating that question. In this era of COVID-19, neo-fascism disguised as conservative Christianity, and the utter, rampant erasure of anything Black, I have begun to be a more adamant student of Baldwin. His work having a new power, necessary in the time we live in. The thing I feel more adamant about as I have looked at his work is the concept of White American ‘needing a nigger.’ Now, if you are familiar with Baldwin, even on a casual basis or knowledge, you know how he has felt about this word, as well as it’s application to his life. Don’t believe me? Look at this quote (from brooklynrail.org): “Another important record of Baldwin on film, a particular scene in Hammer is singular in its emotional and metaphysical clarity: Baldwin, seated, dressed in white, a kerchief tied carefully around his neck, considers the existential roots “of something in this country called the nigger.” He continues that he had to know early in life that what was being described had nothing to do with him. He knew, he insists, despite all that had been done to him, that “what you were describing was not me.” If it is true, as Baldwin began, that “what you say about me reveals you,” and since “you” had invented this figure and felt the need to invest black people with all those sedimented associations then, Baldwin argues, you are in fact the nigger…” Think about this! This word, which has been used to dehumanize, murder, oppress and dispossess an entire race of people–because it is a social construct! A construct needed by a certain class of people whom have no other power to change their lives, take responsibility for problems they have causes, and believe that to oppress another person–making them the consistent scapegoat–is needed. This is how white supremacy continues to reproduce–powered by this lie! It is the lie of superiority of white folk over everything which needs a ‘nigger’ to feel powerful. To feel righteous, and worthy. Just like Coretta Scott King said freedom has be won in every generation, white supremacy must be retaught and reinforced with every generation! As Baldwin said often through his life that he was a man–never a ‘nigger’! What a powerful think to understand! What a powerful thing to reveal! What a think to remember! You have to know that what Baldwin spoke about in the movie I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO, is/was a foreshadowing of what you are seeing now! This country needs ‘niggers’ because it thrives on power and usurpation! It needs a vulnerable, non-human subclass to subjugate in order to feel superior! In order consolidate resources and wealth! This is not a new tacti, Oracles! To name something is to control it, is to rule it is to declare authority over it! Why do you think now is when we see this resurgence of behavior our grandparents saw! Niggers are not entitled to equality, fairness or the pursuit of happiness. Niggers are not people. Catch that. Ergo, as a person, you are entitled to all of these things! And those whom subscribe to white supremacy and the romantic notion of power, need to feel superior to someone else–because they have no other power to assert or wield! And therein lies the struggle. When I ruminate on this, I have to remember that I, too, am not a nigger! Neither are my children. Neither are any of the beautiful Black folk I know. And to have the words of Baldwin shore me up, reminding of my value, my power and need to be in the world? I can go on. In the face of COVID-19, the protesting of folk whom don’t wanna stay inside, incompetent leadership, and trolls believing in themselves so tough they carry guns to state capitals, who spit that name at me as if I will break about it? Nah, son. I say, with my hoop earrings, mask and afro, and say, “You’re the nigger baby, not me!”