Thursday, June 08, 2017

James Baldwin and Raoul Peck: 'I Am Not Your Negro' (2016)

James Baldwin's words, narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, directed by Raoul Peck and intermixed with intense archival footage, underscore the importance and relevance of I Am Not Your Negro (2016) in the 21st century. 

Very little has been resolved since Baldwin (1924-1987) drafted Remember This House (just published in 2017) in the decade prior to his death. 

Through consideration of the outstanding lives and violent deaths of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr., Baldwin expounds upon race and identity in the United States to great effect.

A couple of snippets, as narrated by Jackson:  "In the years in Paris, I had never been homesick for anything American. Neither . . . hot dogs, baseball, majorettes, [Hollywood] movies, nor the Empire State Building, nor Coney Island, nor the Statue of Liberty, nor the daily news, nor Times Square. All of these things had passed out of me. They might never have existed, and it made absolutely no difference to me if I never saw them again. But I missed my brothers and sisters, and my mother. They made a difference. I wanted to be able to see them, and to see their children."

"To look around the United States today is enough to make prophets and angels weep. This is not the land of the free. It is only very unwillingly and sporadically the home of the brave."

The cadences of Baldwin's sentences stick with me. He is still right: the USA will not be anywhere near true to its ideals until a critical and diverse mass of its people can be honest about race and history. 

It's easy to see in other countries -- such as when the Turkish government refuses to acknowledge -- and outright assaults -- anyone who even suggests that previous Turkish governments directed genocide against Turkey's Armenians (1914-1923); while any neutral observer would also see that frank acknowledgement is a surer way forward toward conciliation than denial. Yet as long as a significant subset of white America refuses to accept a fuller history of the United States, screeching the same kind of belligerent denials as come from the Turkish government; and, perhaps, also out of an ugly stubbornness; so long as this contra attitude persists, we shall remain stuck in limbo.   

Today's Rune: Protection. 

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