“I Am Not Your Negro” (Netflix, Kanopy, PBS)

If you missed this film when it was released in theaters in 2017, do not overlook it now. Baldwin, writing more than sixty years ago is as incisive and right on as anything written today. Nothing is outdated. Samuel Jackson provides the voice over–all drawn from Baldwin’s work, accompanied by powerful documentary footage. It says a lot about the Academy Awards (and American audiences) when OJ:Made In America was chosen over the Raul Peck documentary I Am Not Your Negro. But I suppose one could argue that O.J.’s sensationalistic story is a pop culture companion piece to Baldwin’s intellectual analysis. Another film about Baldwin that I strongly recommend is The Price of a Ticket, released in 1989.(Kanopy) It, too, is an astonishing reminder of Baldwin’s brilliance and a perspective so current and so jarring in the realization that more than a half a century has passed with few substantial changes when it comes to race. Here are some uncomfortably prescient Baldwin quotes:

It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.

Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.

To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.

1 Comment

  1. This is an anonymous comment from a good friend:
    I saw I Am Not Your Negro in conjunction with an OSHER course on race and writers about a year ago. Reading Baldwin and seeing that film was profoundly effective in finally getting into my white woman’s brain that the perspective for people of color in the US is unalterably shaped by a system entirely tilted against them…and that white people by definition will never fully understand that perspective because we can’t walk a mile in the right shoes, but we can certainly help to dismantle the system that perpetuates it.

    Baldwin was brilliant… so necessary for white people honestly looking to inform themselves. The core message of Black Lives Matter is indisputable and compelling. It’s too bad that BLM, like every other power struggle in history, is getting muddled by Orwellian thought police and advocates for intersectional issues like Palestinian rights. That turns off a lot of people, probably mostly the ones looking for an excuse not to give up their own privilege…but nevertheless it gives them ammo….Trump’s 4th of July speech was practically fueled by that kind of extremism as he railed against “them” who “want us to march in lockstep, chant their mantra, destroy our history” etc etc.


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