Final Reflections

Throughout this semester, we have talked a lot about the ways in which James Baldwin had to fight against the system, the Man, in order to make his voice heard. He faced oppression on many different levels and struggled with the intersections of his identities, often not receiving the crucial and necessary support from the avenues which would be most likely to help him figure out his path in life. Rather, his family and his faith often made it more difficult for him to accept himself rather than being a source of comfort and reassurance. Therefore, it is easy to recognize that Baldwin had to have a strong conviction and a tough spirit in order to become as successful of a writer and leader within the Black community as he did. However, even with all of his accomplishments, it is important to remember that Baldwin was still human. In thinking about our conversations about Martin Luther King, Jr., I felt that this idea that a person can be an extraordinary individual and can still have faults was extremely relevant to thinking about Baldwin as well. Despite all of his strengths and admirable qualities, he was not a perfect man. Even in experiencing a great amount of compiled oppression in his own life, he struggled with understanding the complexity of oppression with regard to how it can affect others. As we can see in his conversation with Audre Lorde, he failed to empathize with her experience of oppression because he was so focused on how he has been disadvantaged and punished for various aspects of his identity. This idea that there is always more to learn and always more room for grace, empathy, and understanding in trying to relate to others is absolutely necessary to discussions of allyship and antiracism efforts. I think that as I reflect back on this semester, this is a key takeaway that I want to remember and put into action in my own life.

2 thoughts on “Final Reflections”

  1. I really love what you highlighted here. I completely agree that it is at times easy to judge someone viewed as ‘prophetic’ or a leader as they are assumed to be so great that it is hard to imagine them as having their own flaws. I think that a good way to approach this idea is to remember that being a victim and being an oppressor are not mutually exclusive, and that’s okay. I think the Combahee River Collective have a good understanding and application of this idea in their work.

  2. Thank you for this reflection. I completely agree. I find it comforting to know that these men made mistakes. They were not perfect and they had flaws, but that’s what makes them human. It shows us that anyone can make an impact regardless of flaws, which I believe is important for people to know. Often leaders such as MLK and Baldwin are put on pedestals, but in reality they are just like you and me. If they can make such a big difference then so can we.

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