Saturday, March 04, 2017

"I Am Not Your Negro" - James Baldwin

Last weekend, I went to see "I Am Not Your Negro", a documentary about James Baldwin. The film had a great deal of archival footage from the 50's-present that I had quite forgotten about, so it was a walk down memory lane (but not the happiest of walks).

Having spent a lot of time in both postwar U.S. and Europe, Baldwin's main concern was, given Europe's recent reckoning with the Holocaust, America's genocidal history against the Native Americans, and the end of the manual cotton picking economy, whether American blacks could survive the genocidal white onslaught that looked possible in the future, and if so, how.

I wasn't quite sure what to think. The possibility of genocide seemed to retreat farther and farther away after the Civil War ended, but Baldwin says that is actually an illusion. Whites needed blacks in the past; now they don't. His argument is the flip side of Wilbur Cash's (1900-1941) "The Mind of the South", who wondered the same thing from the white perspective. What ended up happening after WWII was the great Northward Migration of blacks to the big cities, but with deindustrialization, suburbanization, and the Rise of the Deplorables, the question is becoming more urgent again. I did like the film clips:

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