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Tag Archives: No Name in the Street

“If Americans were not so terrified of their private selves, they would never have needed to invent and could never have become so dependent on what they still call ‘the Negro problem.’ This problem, which they invented in order to safeguard their purity, has made of them criminals and monsters, and it is destroying them; and this is not from anything blacks may or may not be doing but because of the role a guilty and constricted white imagination has assigned to the blacks. That the scapegoat pays for the sins of others is well known, but this is only legend, and a revealing one at that. In fact, however the scapegoat may be made to suffer, his suffering cannot purify the sinner; it merely incriminates him the more, and it seals his damnation. The scapegoat, eventually, is released, to death: his murderer continues to live. The suffering of the scapegoat has resulted in seas of blood, and yet not one sinner has been saved, or changed, by this despairing ritual. Sin has merely been added to sin, and guilt piled upon guilt. In the private chambers of the soul, the guilty party is identified, and the accusing finger, there, is not legend, but consequence, not fantasy, but the truth. People pay for what they do, and, still more, for what they have allowed themselves to become. And they pay for it very simply: by the lives they lead.”

– James Baldwin, No Name in the Street

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“Faulkner hoped that American blacks would have the generosity to ‘go slow’ – would allow white people the time to save themselves, as though they had not had more than enough time already.

“…He wants the old order, which came into existence through unchecked greed and wanton murder, to redeem itself without further bloodshed – without, that is, any further menacing itself – and without coercion. This, old orders never do, less because they would not than because they cannot. They cannot because they have always existed in relation to a force which they have had to subdue. This subjugation is the key to their identity and the triumph and justification of their history, which is now indivisible from oneself, has been full of errors and excesses; but this is not the same thing as seeing that, for millions of people, this history – oneself – has been nothing but an intolerable yoke, a stinking prison, a shrieking grave. It is not so easy to see that, for millions of people, life itself depends on the speediest possible demolition of this history, even if this means the leveling, or the destruction of its heirs. And whatever this history may have given to the subjugated is of absolutely no value, since they have never been free to reject it; they will never even be able to assess it until they are free to take from it what they need, and to add to history the monumental fact of their presence.”

– James Baldwin, No Name in the Street

“Time passes and passes. It passes backward and it passes forward and it carries you along, and no one in the whole wide world knows more about time than this:it is carrying you through an element you do not understand into an element you will not remember. Yet, something remembers – it can even be said that something avenges.”

– James Baldwin, No Name in the Street

“The moral of the story (and the hope of the world) lies in what one demands, not of others, but of oneself.”

– James Baldwin, No Name in the Street