Quotations! James Baldwin
(African-American novelist and essayist)

"Democracy and the Negro have yet to meet." - "James Baldwin Breaks His Silence," interviewed by Cep Dergisi (Atlas, March 1967); African-American author and essayist

"Now, the Western world, which has always stood on very shaky foundations, is coalescing according to the principle under which it was organized, and that principle is white supremacy." - "Conversation: Ida Lewis and James Baldwin" (Essence, October 1970)
"I don't believe in nations any more. Those passports, those borders are as outworn and useless as war. No one can afford them anymore. We're such an conglomorate of things. Look at the American black man, all the bloods in a single stream. Look at the history of anybody you might know. He may have been born in Yugoslovia, raised in Germany, exiled to Casablanca, killed in Spain. That's our century. It will take the human race a long time to get over this stuff." - "Conversation: Ida Lewis and James Baldwin" (Essence, October 1970)
"Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor."
"I consider the American adventure in Vietnam a desperate and despicable folly, for which future generations will pay very heavily. I do not think that any American solider sould be fighting there. But to send Negro soldiers there - to ask Negro soldiers to die there, while one is busily destroying their kinsmen at home - is of an impertinence so arrogant, an immorality so flagrant, as to take one's breath away." - "James Baldwin Breaks His Silence," interviewed by Cep Dergisi (Atlas, March 1967)
"I know where I've been. I know what the world has tried to do to me as a black man. When I say me, that means millions of people. I know that it's not easy to live in a world that's determined to murder you. Because they're not trying to mistreat you, or despise you, or rebuke you or scorn you. They're trying to kill you. Not only to kill you, but kill your mother and your father, your brothers and your children. That's their intention. That's what it means to keep the Negro in his place. I have seen the game, and if you lose it, you're [white people] in trouble, not me. And the secret about the white world is out. Everybody knows it. All the brotherly love was bullshit. All those missionaries were murderers. That old cross was bloodied with my bood. And all that money in all those banks was made by me for them. So, for me what it means to be black is what one has been forced to see through, all the pretentions and all the artifacts of the world that calls itself white. One sees a certain poverty, a poverty one would not have believed." - "Conversation: Ida Lewis and James Baldwin" (Essence, October 1970)
"If one doesn't understand the global trap, then you can easily fall into such weird dreams as becoming a Black capitalist. That simply means that a certain number of Black people will be allowed to make a certain amount of money. But you can't be a Black capitalist unless you have a colony of your own. Unless you have people you are exploiting, you aren't really a capitalist. You are only a member of the club and they can always throw you out of the club." - "Exclusive Interview with James Baldwin," by Joe Walker (Muhammad Speaks; Part IV, October 6, 1972)
"I think capitalism costs the world too much. I don't think that the economic arrangements of the world should be such that a Mexican peasant or a Turkish peasant should barely manage to live or nearly starve to death while so much of the world is eating far too much. It is not only a blatant injustice, but pure folly." - "Exclusive Interview with James Baldwin," by Joe Walker (Muhammad Speaks; Part IV, October 6, 1972)
"One may say that the Negro in America does not really exist except in the darkness of our minds. This is why his history and his progress, his relationship to all other Americans, has been kept in the social arena. He is a social and not a personal or a human problem; to think of him is to think of statistics, slums, rapes, injustices, remote violence; it is to confronted with an endless cataloguing of losses, gains, skirmishes; it is to feel virtuous, outraged, helpless, as though his continuing status among us were somehow analogous to disease - cancer, perhaps, or tuberculosis - which must be checked, even though it cannot be cured." - Notes of a Native Son (1955; "Many Thousands Gone")
"It is clear to anyone who thinks, and maybe even to the junkie who suffers, that the situation of black America is realted to the situation of Mexicans, to all of Latin America. It's related to the military junta in Chile; with the misery of the people called the 'have nots.' It's not an act of God and it is not an accident. It is something which is deliberate. It is something which is necessary for the well being of the 'master race' so that the poor of Latin AMerica, or the poor of Vietnam, and me are in the same bag and are oppressed by the same people and for the same reason. And if they can be murdered in Latin America as we have been murdered for years and years in our own country, and murdered in Vietnam, then something begins to be very, very clear: that the salvation of the black American is also involved with the freedom of all the other slaves. And this, too, begins to evolve very slowly and in the dark, but I think it becomes clearer with every hour." - "The Black Scholar Interviews James Baldwin" (The Black Scholar, December 1973)
"...The policeman moves through Harlem...like an occupying soldier in a bitterly hostile country; which is precisely what, and where he is, and the reason he walks in twos and threes." - Nobody Knows My Name
"Words like 'freedom,' 'justice,' 'democracy' are not common concepts; on the contrary, they are rare. People are not born knowing what these are. It takes enormous and, above all, individual effort to arrive at the respect for other people that these words imply."
"The Negroes of this country may never be able to rise to power, but they are very well placed indeed to precipitate chaos and ring down the curtain on the American dream." - The Fire Next Time (1965)
"The American ideal, after all, is that everyone should be as much alike as possible."
"It is very nearly impossible...to become an educated person in a country so distrustful of the independent mind."
"When you're called a nigger you look at your father because you think your father can rule the world - every kid thinks that - and then you discover that your father cannot do anything about it. So you begin to despise your father and you realize, oh, that's what a nigger is."
"A great deal of hysterical and indefensible nonsense has been written about Black Power. It is a phrase which refers to an honored (!) canon of Western thought: The self-determination of peoples. It means nothing more than that. To limit ourselves only to the events of the last decade, the Negro in America has marched, protested, pleaded, sung, put his body before trucks and tractors, put his body before guns and hoses and dogs, put his body before billy clubs, put his body before chains, put his body in prisons where one would hesitate to house a pig, sent his children out to be beaten and spat upon and driven mad, has petitioned Washington, ceaselessly, ceaselessly, has seen his women humiliated, kicked, beaten (and sometimes they were pregnant women), his heroes, who were his hope, destroyed, and his children blown to bits before his eyes. And the result of all this, the response of the American people? The only response has been panic, rhetoric and lies. The ghetto is more heavily policed than it has ever been before, more brutally and more blatantly oppressed. As of this writing, and after all those prayers and petitions and bombings, neither the Negro child nor the Negro parent has anything resembling a future. The child has no school and the father has no job. And neither is likely to be supplied soon, no matter what the liberals say.

"The brutal fact is that the economy does not know how to make room for the Negro - it does not have room, after all, for many, many white people - and it would not know how, even if the bulk of the population were less brainwashed than it is. The American people are paying the price for the lie concerning Negro inferiority which they have told themselves so long, and which they have persuaded themselves is the truth. But the legend came about only to afford moral justification for slavery. If you buy and sell a man like an animal, then you must persuade yourself that he is an animal. The terrible thing about this dynamic is that the man who is being used like an animal exerts all his energy in not becoming one; while the man who is so using him fatally descends in the human scale and becomes something much worse than an animal. Black Power means the recognition that neither the American government nor the American people have any desire, or any ability, to liberate Negroes or - which comes to exactly the same thing - themselves. Well, the job must be attempted, we must save ourselves if we can; and if we can save ourselves, we can also save the country; it is now absolutely and literally true that the American Negro is America's only hope." - "James Baldwin Breaks His Silence," interviewed by Cep Dergisi (Atlas, March 1967)

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America In Overdrive; James Baldwin

Quotations! Aimé Césaire
(Martinique poet, playwright - b. 1913)

"Colonization works to decivilize the colonizer, to brutalize him in the true sense of the word, to degrade him, to awaken him to buried instincts, to covetousness, violence, race hatred, and moral relativism; and we must show that each time a head is cut off or an eye put out in Vietnam and in France they accept the fact, each time a little girl is raped and in France they accept the fact, civilization acquires another dead weight, a universal regression takes place, a gangrene sets in, a center of infection begins to spread; and that at the end of all these treaties that have been violated, all these lies that have been propagated, all these punitive expeditions that have been tolerated, all these prisoners who have been tied up and 'interrogated,' all these patriots who have been tortured, at the end of all the racial pride that has been encouraged, all the boastfulness that has been displayed, a poison has been instilled into the veins of Europe and, slowly but surely, the continent proceeds toward savagery.

"And then one fine day the bourgeoisie is awakened by a terrific reverse shock: the gestapos are busy, the prisons fill up, the torturers around the racks invent, refine, discuss.

"People are surprised, they become indignant. They say, 'How strange! But never mind - it's Nazism, it will pass!' And they wait, and they hope; and they hide the truth from themselves, that it is barbarism, but the supreme barbarism, the crowning barbarism that sums up all the daily barbarisms; that it is Nazism, yes, but that before they were its victims, they were its accomplices; that they tolerated Nazism before it was inflicted on them, that they absolved it, shut their eyes to it, legitimized it, because, until then, it had been applied only to non-European peoples; that they have cultivated that Nazism, that they are responsible for it, and that before engulfing the whole of Western, Christian civilization in its reddened waters, it oozes, seeps, and trickles from every crack."

- Aimé Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism (1955);
Martinique poet, playwright

"They talk to me about local tyrants brought to reason; but I note that in general the old tyrants get on very well with the new ones, and that there has been established between them, to the detriment of the people, a circuit of mutual services and complicity." - Aimé Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism (1955)

"I am talking about those who, as I write this, are digging the harbor of Abidjan by hand. I am talking about millions of men torn from their gods, their land, their habits, their life - from life, from the dance, from wisdom.

"I am talking about millions of men in whom fear has been cunningly instilled, who have been taught to have an inferiority complex, to tremble, kneel, despair, and behave like flunkeys.

"They dazzle me with the tonnage of cotton or cocoa that has been exported, the acreage that has been planted with olive trees or grapevines.

"I am talking about natural economies that have been disrupted - harmonious and viable economies adapted to the indigenous population - about food crops destroyed, malnutrition permanently introduced, agricultural development oriented solely toward the benefit of the metropolitan countries, about the looting of products, the looting on raw materials."

- Aimé Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism (1955)

"Every day that passes, every denial of justice, every beating by the police, every demand of the workers that is drowned in blood, every scandal that is hushed up, every punitive expedition, every police van, every gendarme and every militiaman, brings home to us the value of our old societies. They were communal societies, never societites of the many for the few. They were societies that were not only ante-capitalist, as has been said, but also anti-capitalist. They were democratic societies, always. They were cooperative societies, fraternal societies. I make a systematic defense of the societies destroyed by imperialism. They were the fact, they did not pretend to be the idea..." - Aimé Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism (1955)

"The hour of the barbarian is at hand. The modern barbarian. The American hour. Violence, excess, waste, marcantilism, bluff, gregariousness, stupidity, vulgarity, disorder." - Aimé Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism (1955)

"In another connection, in judging colonization, I have added that Europe has gotten on very well indeed with all the local feudal lords who agreed to serve, woven a villainous complicity with them, rendered their tyranny more effective and more efficient, and that it has actually tended to prolong artificially the survival of local pasts in their most pernicious aspects. I have said - and this is something very different - that colonialist Europe has grafted modern abuse onto ancient injustice, hateful racism onto old inequality." - Aimé Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism (1955)

"To go further, I make no secret of my opinion that at the present time the barbarism of Western Europe has reached an incredibly high level, being only surpassed - far surpassed, it is true - by the barbarism of the United States." - Aimé Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism (1955)

"One cannot say that the petty bourgeois has never read anything. On the contrary, he has read everything, devoured everything. Only, his brain functions after the fashion of certain elementary types of digestive systems. It filters. And the filter lets through only what can nourish the thick skin of the bourgeois' clear conscience." - Aimé Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism (1955)

"Before the arrival of the French in their country, the Vietnamese were people of an old culture, exquisite and refined. To recall this fact upsets the digestion of the Banque d'Indochine. Start the forgetting machine!

"These Madagascans who are being tortured today, less than a century ago were poets, artists, administrators? Shhhhh! Keep your lips buttoned! And silence falls, silence as deep as a safe! Fortunately, there are still the Negroes. Ah! the Negroes! Let's talk about the Negroes!

"All right, let's talk about them.

"About the Sudanese empires? About the bronzes of Benin? Shango sculpture? That's all right with me; it will give us a change from all the sensationally bad art that adorns so many European capitals. About African music. Why not?

"And about what the first explorers said, what they saw....Not those who feed at the company mangers! But the d'Elbées, the Marchais, the Pigafettas! And then Frobenius! Say, you know who he was, Frobenius? And we read together: 'Civilized to the marrow of their bones! The idea of the barbaric Negro is a European invention.'

"The petty bourgeiois doesn't want to hear any more. With a twitch of his ears he flicks the idea away.

"The idea, an annoying fly."

- Aimé Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism (1955)

"...Do you not see the tremendous factor hysterically spitting out its cinders in the heart of our forests or deep in the bush, the factory for the production of lackeys; do you not see the prodigious mechanization, the mechanization of man; the gigantic rape of everything intimate, undamaged, undefiled that, despoiled as we are, our human spirit has still managed to preserve; the machine, yes, have you never seen it, the machine for crushing, for grinding, for degrading peoples?" - Aimé Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism (1955)

"Therefore, comrade, you will hold as enemies - loftily, lucidly, consistently, not only sadistic governors and greedy bankers, not only prefects who torture and colonists who flog, not only corrupt, check-licking politicians and subservient judges, but likewise and for the same reason, venomous journalists, goitrous academicians, wreathed in dollars and stupidity, ethnographers who go in for metaphysics, presumptuous Belgian theologians, chattering intellectuals born stinking out of the thing of Nietzsche, the paternalists, the embracers, the corrupters, the back-slappers, the lovers of exoticism, the dividers, the agrarian sociologists, the hoodwinkers, the hoaxers, the hot-air artists, the humbugs, and in general, all those who, performing their functions in the sordid division of labor for the defense of Western bourgeois society, try in divers ways and by infamous diversions to split up the forces of Progress - even if it means denying the very possibility of Progress - all of them tools of capitalism, all of the, openly or secretly, supporters of plundering colonialism, all of them responsible, all hateful, all slave-traders, all henceforth answerable for the violence of revolutionary action."

- Aimé Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism (1955)

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