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James Baldwin’s Debate With William F. Buckley

Why Baldwin’s Words Are Even More Important Today

Part 1

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.

Written by Benjamin Dixon

Benjamin Dixon is the Editor in Chief of Progressive Army and a member of its Editorial Board.

Find Benjamin's new media work HERE
Host of The Benjamin Dixon Show on YouTube and Spreaker.

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  1. IT IS WHAT IT IS because itzallconnected.

    EveryBody still has”know-choice.” As we choose to fan the flow of the wind beneath (y)our wings, EveryBody can choose to question EveryThing by studying up on which way is up. For always, in every kind of way, the energy put into The Whirl by each of us comes home to all of us–as us, or The All-of-it.

    Who has reservations about who forced the indigenous peoples onto reservations? It comes as the greatest shock when African Americans are forced to accept that Buffalo Soldiers raped, killed, and destroyed just as many Native American tribes as did every other kind of segregated US Cavalry soldier. In the present day, reservations are called “housing projects.” All kinds of Present Daze uniforms are still just “following orders.”

    “If we all are not free, none of us is free.” – Ida B. Wells-Barnett (1869)

    “Today, it is us. Tomorrow, it will be you.” – Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia in a speech before the League of Nations (1936)

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James Baldwin’s Debate With William F. Buckley