I believe the solution to America’s problem of race is somewhere in between Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and James Baldwin—Suns of [the] movements—and what white people must finally acknowledge and ultimately accept.
Today in 2015, America is at a racial crossroads. As I type this entry, Black churches are up in flames in different places throughout South Carolina, less than one week before this post, President Barack Obama eulogized the pastor of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Pastor Clementa Pinckney, as he and 8 other parishioners lost their lives as a result of a racist, 21-year old gunman who opened fire during a Wednesday night prayer circle in Charleston, South Carolina. In a little less than two weeks from the time of this post, members of the Ku Klux Klan will march in solidarity against the removal of the Confederate Flag from South Carolina’s State Capitol Building.
On June 24th, 1963, City College Psychology Professor Dr. Kenneth Clark, in separate interviews, brought three of the most brilliant contempory minds the world has ever seen to discuss the race crisis in America. This one-hour special program was called, “The Negro and the American Promise.”
When opening the program, Dr. Clark offered the following to stimulate the viewers’ minds for the intellectual treats of Malcolm X, King, and Baldwin:
“By all meaningful indices, the Negro is still, and unquestionably, the downtrodden, disparaged group, and for a long time was systematically deprived of his dignity as a human being. The major indictment of our democracy is that this is being done with the knowledge and at times with the connivance of responsible, moderate people who are not overtly bigots or segregationists.
We have now come to the point where there are only two ways that America can avoid the continued racial explosions. One would be total oppression. The other, total equality. There is no compromise.”
Both Dr. Clark and Baldwin believed the future of Blacks and the future of America were linked–Baldwin said they were, “indissoluble.” When asked whether he was pessimistic or optimistic about this future, this is in part how James Baldwin responded.
“But the future of the Negro in this country is precisely as bright or as dark as the future of the country. It is entirely up to the American people and our representatives — it is entirely up to the American people whether or not they are going to face, and deal with, and embrace this stranger whom they maligned so long.
What white people have to do, is try and find out in their own hearts why it was necessary to have a nigger in the first place, because I’m not a nigger, I’m a man, but if you think I’m a nigger, it means you need it.
The question you have got to ask yourself–the white population of this country has got to ask itself — North and South, because it’s one country, and for a Negro, there’s no difference between the North and South. There’s just a difference in the way they castrate you. But the fact of the castration is the American fact. If I’m not a nigger here and you invented him, you, the white people, invented him, then you’ve got to find out why. And the future of the country depends on that. Whether or not it’s able to ask that question.”
For the full text and footage of James Baldwin’s interview with Dr. Kenneth Clark, click here.