Baldwin’s Ignorance Disclosed

Reading Baldwin’s conversation with Audrey Lorde really changed my perception of him. As a girl from New Delhi, India, now deemed the rape capital of the world, I have grown up in an environment where I was taught to subconsciously watch each step I take. I was taught to take the longer route and go around a car standing on the street so no one could pull me inside, or to walk with my elbows sticking out in a crowded market so that no man could brush past me. This is why women’s safety and women’s rights hold a very significant place in my mind. In his conversation with Audrey Lorde, there comes a point where Baldwin questions, “you don’t realize that in this republic the only real crime is to be a black man?” To which Lorde responds saying, “[n]o, I don’t realize that. I realize the only crime is to be black, and that includes me too.” In this moment, my perception of Baldwin changed. How can someone, who has been marginalized his entire life, written about the evils of marginalizing others be so ignorant? Before reading this text, I thought of Baldwin as a civil rights advocate for equality. After reading this exchange, I do not think he ever understood the need for equality among all genders. The fact that he forgot about the only other gender more marginalized than him shows his ignorance. As a man, though queer, Baldwin still has more agency than a woman of the same race as his. He is not bound to anyone for economic reasons and is financially independent. He does not have to live in the additional fear of being raped or sexually harassed in any way by a white or a black man, inside or outside his house. The fact that Baldwin needs a reminder of the existence of black women and their status in society, after seeing everything his mother had to go through in his formative years as she gave birth to one child after another, speaks volumes about the superiority of a black man versus a black woman in society at the time. Sadly, even now, women have to say the words “me too” to get their grievances across. 

One thought on “Baldwin’s Ignorance Disclosed”

  1. I had the same experience while reading this conversation between Baldwin and Lorde. I really began to understand what people meant in class when they claimed that Baldwin ignored and dehumanized women. Baldwin really did believe that women were just a tool for black men to express their anger- whether that be through rape or beatings. He did not see that black women were struggling like black men were. He had a desire to free the black males from the hands of the white community, but what about the black females? Where’s his desire to free them from the hands of the black males? Whether he realizes it or not, he is doing to the black woman what the white community is doing to him.

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