The truth of James Baldwin’s words cut so deeply even fifty years after he stated them. This is, perhaps, one of the most important passages for a POC who remembers the exact moment this happened to them.
This is taken from his March 1965 debate at Cambridge Universty, UK.
It comes as a great shock around the age of 5, 6, or 7 to discover that the flag to which you have pledged allegiance, along with everybody else, has not pledged allegiance to you. It comes as a great shock to see Gary Cooper killing off the Indians, and although you are rooting for Gary Cooper, that the Indians are you.
It comes as a great shock to discover that the country which is your birthplace and to which your life and identity has not, in its whole system of reality, evolved any place for you.
This is a sobering moment in the lives of the people who realize this. I remember singing America the Beautiful and reciting the preamble of the Constitution as a second grader.
I grew up with the same sense of nationalism that every American student is indoctrinated with. The difference is that, around the age of 20, I started to experience the injustices my parents warned me about. And as I grew older and began to study what it actually meant to be Black in America, I began to understand what Baldwin meant. And now that I’m a father, my only consolation is that I’ve done everything I could do from my position in life to make it better for my kids.
Watch the full debate below.