Final Post

Throughout this class, Baldwin has always amazed me. From beginning with Notes of A Native Son, Go Tell it on the Mountain, and many other iconic works. Baldwin is fascinating to me because of how he writes his stories. The connections to the Bible, the writing of family, and identity that Baldwin has is something special. The overall connections that he is able to subtly portray throughout out his works is nothing short of exceptional. I believe that Baldwin had a gift to write. His time spent in Paris is something that shaped him into the successful author he was. I think that as the course went on, I was able to grow on my blog posts. I was able to truly receive Baldwin’s works as what they were. I find that I was able to use arguments to prove my points and understand what Baldwin was aiming for through his writings. Once I was able to get a grip on the daily readings, I felt as though I was able to be more involved in conversations and discussions.

The books read are something that will stick with me as I move onto the final edits of my paper. I wish to talk about Baldwin and how he writes about the Black identity and the portrayals of the Black church in his works. I find that while he incorporates the Bible into his work, he also backhands their work at the same time. I think he does a good job of talking about how the Church was able to shape him as well. Baldwin did have a strong faith as he was growing up, even becoming a preacher for an abundant amount of time. I want to argue that Baldwin’s works were his first time being able to subtly argue against the Church, through his character names and subtle hints of the Bible such as the curse of Ham. I believe that many people were bale to pick up on this. Through the articles shared within my group, I believe that I will be able to argue this successfully.

The Importance of Expression

Throughout this course, we have experienced Baldwin in an open format. We have learned about his life, his struggles, and his work. Without this class though, I would have never know about him. While reading about him, I was able to see how he expresses himself. His books hold a certain sadness in them about family and identity. The source of searching for himself through his work, as well as reading other works and commenting on them. I think that is why I though of Baldwin while reading Lorde.

Reading about how Lorde writes that racism should be responded to with anger, I have to think about the stereotype of ‘Angry Black Women’. In a course I took, Intro to Africana Studies, I wrote about stereotypes that black women typically hold. One of which was the ‘angry black woman’, which tends to go back to times of slavery when they were reinforced in the media. Expression is important as Lorde states by saying ‘Anger is loaded with information and energy.’  Anger is one of the most important emotions because of the fact that there are unresolved things and anger is often the way that people are most likely to see and hear you as a person. I like the sentiment that women of color are more than just their anger, yet their anger is a way of survival, not purely an emotion. It is a way to express themselves. It is also key that everyone shows this anger though, not just women of color, but white women must also stand up and own what they do and say through anger for their gender. Because one race can not start a movement, but a whole gender can. People do not want white women to talk about racism, but it is key in being able to have an open dialogue. Understanding is what is important in being able to take a stand and find understanding between people, and with understanding may come a solution.

The Northern Way

As someone who is proud to be from the north, well as north as New Jersey can be considered. I found it interesting to have the perspective of the north almost thrown in my face. Slavery was nothing more than an economic system to everyone. It was a way to get labor for free, so the profits were astronomical. Yet, the north always seems to almost shade the south to make it seem as thought they are the only ones in the wrong. Yet, this is not the case it is simply a way for the North to make them feel as though they are better than others. The north is often considered pretencious and egotistical, which i can honestly understand. It is a sense that people do not think they can do wrong, just because slaves were free sooner than they were in the south. Yet, the north is just as guilty in the fundamental and continuous enslavement of African Americans. Just because the north has statues and memorials for powerful African American people, does not mean that everything is okay.

As someone who lives in a consistently blue state, people often feel that everything is okay and they are on the right side of history, but that is truly not the case. So many wrongs have happened in the North, such as Stonewall and many other uprisings int eh North have happened, and still happened including a few black lives matters movements. The case is that the North has a deep rooted history in African-American culture that still continues today, which can also be seen in the education system in the North. Public schools in places such as New York City are often lower on the scale compared to the rest of the country. I also believe that the North has a better sense of accepting the wrongs done throughout history, but often forgets that they had their role as well and do not fully deserve to be put on a pedestal.

Giovanni’s Room – Wasted time

While reading part 2 of Giovanni’s room, I could not help but to think of time. The timing of everything that happened. I mainly think about wasted time. At the end of the novel, when David and Hella see each other again, Hella talks about how she thinks she’s ‘known it for a long time’. Time becomes an important topic towards the end of the story of David. Hella admits to not only David, but to herself that she might have known that David was not hers. Yet, Hella was waiting for David to tell her the truth, stating, ‘I had the right to expect to hear from you — women are always waiting for the man to speak. Or hadn’t you heard?’ I think this line speaks volumes. Hella might have known that David was not the man for her, but in the world women do tend to want men to talk to them, to hear the truth from men, especially men that they care about. I believe that Hella was also correct when she said ‘But if women are supposed to be led by men and there areb’t any men to lead them, what happens then? What happens then?’ Hella is fed up in this moment. She waited on a man that was not right for her, when she could have been living her life wiht other people, starting a family, finding love. She has so much to live for and could have been living for, but she wasted her time on someone who would never truly love her.

There is also David who wasted time. He wasted time waiting for a moment of clarity that he had already had, but cared to not admit. He did not want the homosexual label to be put on him, but wanted to be seen as ‘normal’. David feels stuck in his life and in turn, he is stuck in a sense of unawareness and in being in his childhood. and though it is not explicitly stated, he is stuck in Paris. The last scene in the novel, you see David rip up a letter from Jacques, but then pieces are blown back in his face, cementing himself in Paris, stuck with the same people, in the same patterns.

Baldwin and the Family

While reading No Name on the Street, I found the way Baldwin talks about his family to be very interesting. Baldwin has talked about his family a lot in his past essays, as well as hosting unique family dynamics in books such as Go Tell it on the Mountain and Giovanni’s Room so similar to his own.

Baldwin writes, in some of the few opening lines of the book, ”I was so terrified of the man we called my father; who did not arrive on my scene, really, until I was more than two years old.” I feel as though this adds to the ongoing view of Bladwin’s family. In Go Tell it on the Mountain, seeing as Roy and John were not related by blood and had an stiff animosity that surrounded them. It is an overall on going relationship inside of Baldwin’s books/essays. With No Name on the Street sort of touching on the Civil Rights movement, it made me think to another reading that I did in another class.

In that class, we talked about the effects of slavery on the black family. For example, the last names were taken away from the mother and children because fathers would typically be sold for the highest bid and were highly unlikely to see their children again. In this sense, the woman were expected to care for not only their children, but the children of their masters as well. They then become the maters property, stripped of their heritage and roots and most importantly, their name. They did not have the power to continue on having the family that they might have had in their home, they had to all live with the fact that they (black slaves) were not their own anymore. This set a course for the matriarch inside of the black family. Mothers and children were typically kept together and in turn, a sense of the mother only family became widely accepted. Today though, we hear about how more often it is the mothers choice or fault to be the one who raises the children alone. Baldwin writes ‘I knew – children must know – that she would always protect me with all her strength. So would my mother, too, I knew that, but my mother’s strength was only to be called on in a desperate emergency.’ Baldwin is talking about his Grandmother and his mother in this line and I feel that you ge the sense of the importance of the matriarchy in this line.

In another section, when Baldwin visits his friend, he writes ‘This was no revealed by anything she said to him, but by the fact that he said nothing to him. She barely looked at him. He didn’t count.’ Granted, this was another view of the stepfamily that Baldwin had. I just found it to be interesting that Baldwin almost defends his friend by saying ‘I always think that this is a terrible thing to happen to a man, especially in his own house, and I am always terribly humiliated for the man to whom it happens.’ I find this interesting because of how Baldwin typically writes about the fatherhood relationships in his books and essays as a negative. This is almost making me question if in other of his works where Baldwin mentions he hates his father, does he truly just find unjust father/son relationships to be wrong, or in the case of his friend and the stepdaughter, did he just find the lack of respect to be wrong.

American vs. Sexual Identity

A line that stuck out to to me was David’s constant talk about being American. It was a way that was similar to how he viewed his sexuality. I believe that the belief that people go around Europe and explore their sexuality openly and honestly is a real though in many peoples minds. Meanwhile in America, people are more closed-minded. In one example from Giovanni’s Room, there is a quote that reads ‘… he said that you were just an American boy, after all doing things in France which you would not dare to do at home, and that you would leave me very soon.’ This speaks to the closeted views of Americans and the risky views of the French, which is not something stated often in this book. I think that David struggles with being American and a homosexual for the very same reasons.

Being in America, David talks about his sexual experience with Joey. This was an event filled with shame and discomfort. Though it felt right with Joey, David still decided to never speak about this event and to associate it with someone who was not truly him, though it was. David continues on to say ‘And I resented this: resented being called an American (and resented resenting it) because it seemed to make me nothing more than that, whatever that was; and I resented being called not an American because it seemed to make me nothing.’ This line alone to me speaks to David’s views on homosexuality as well. I think that David knows he is homosexual, but resents being called that, and he also resents resenting that fact. I think it is hard to dislike a part of yourself, and David resents both his American identity that makes him stick out in foreign countries, while he also resents being gay because it makes I’m different as well. The sense of shame follows shame follows David around like a scary rumor. David seems to find shame in most situations, which are all likely linked to how he grew up and the shame he has felt since childhood.

The ‘Closet’ and Shame

While reading part 1 of Giovanni’s room, I couldn’t help but focus on the shame that is surrounding the story. Right from the start of the book, we read about David and the first man he had ever been with, Joey. The relationship was short-lived and again, filled with shame. On page 9, it states ‘ I could have cried, cried for shame and terror, cried for not understanding how this could have happened to me.’ I am currently taking a class called ‘Perspective on Gender’, in which we constantly talk about shame. We recently watched a movie about the AIDs epidemic and how there was so much shame surrounding the diagnosis. Obviously, this is not necessarily the exact same way that Baldwin is attempting to express the shame of homosexuality. For a long time, HIV/AIDS was viewed as the ‘gay’ diseases and was rarely talked about through media since people just thought that only one specific group of people would die. It was not until activist began to speak up, began to come together as one that the shame began to lift and in its place was an understanding. I believe that this is why it is so important for Baldwin to write about his shame.

Baldwin became a light in a dark tunnel for so many. He writes about how the shame can destroy relationships and people on the inside. The character of David becomes even more of an outcast to himself, which causes a rift to grow even bigger between him and his father. So much so that acting out becomes an outlet for all of David’s pent up emotions. The shame continues into Davids adult life since those feeling from childhood are never addressed. We see it in David’s time i the army, as well as with Giovanni. I believe that David asks Hella to marry him because of his shame. He could never be with a man before he first understand the clarity of who he is. Near the end of part 1, on page 64, Baldwin write ‘With everything in me screaming No! yet the sum of me sighed. Yes.‘ Yet, we all know even with that line, Bladwin’s shame is still there in his mind, body, and soul even when wanting it.

Elizabeth & John

I found the Go Tell it on the Mountain connections to the Bible to be interesting. The connection to John and Elizabeth from the Bible proves a similar relationship in that the mother and son share in the Bible is an interesting comparison as well. John was a gift from the angel Gabriel, to Elizabeth who is an older woman and should not be able to have any more children. Yet, in the book, the story is slightly different.

John was born of shame. John, a child who did not ask to be born, was born out of wedlock to a mother who tried her best to raise him. I believe that the decision to marry Gabriel is the last chance she has to live a life of hope. Yet, I also find this interesting because in the Bible, Gabriel is meant to be giving Elizabeth a gift and yet in Go Tell It…, Gabriel is the one who hates John the most. John, who could resemble John the Baptist is seen as the Devil incarnate through Gabriel’s eyes. Yet, John is meant to be this bright star who tells the word of God throughout the Bible, he preaches about Jesus and spreads the Good Word throughout the nation.

I think that the reason Elizabeth and John were named this was because of the stories in the Bible. It is a beautiful story about a gift from God, which is how Elizabeth viewed John at least in the end. Yet, he was not viewed as that by everyone. As well, as the fact that John was reborn at the end of the book. This to me, solidified him with the identity of John the Baptist. He was finally able to be viewed by others as he felt to his core. AS though he was one with God and that is what mattered the most to him.

Notes of A Native Son: The Father and Son Dynamic

Baldwin talks a lot about his relationship with his father, as well as his reaction to his father’s death. One comment that truly stuck with me while reading this was ‘It was only that I had hated him and I wanted to hold on to this hatred… it was not a ruin that I had hated.'(p. 75)

This line from the reading stuck with me because it showed me that Baldwin only had this emotion to hang onto once his father died. Without his father and the hatred pointed toward him, there was no other emotion to feel but pain. The fact that his father dying did nothing but exercise the thoughts of pain and hate in his head was interesting to me, especially once he brought up his aunt sooner after. Baldwin describes his aunt as ‘beautiful’, or at least that is how he considered her in his childhood. Baldwin seems to recall everyone as nice r kind or beautiful, except for his father. Yet, his aunt is reduced to nothing more than a ‘little black monkey’ as she mourns the death of her brother. Baldwin clearly allows the feelings he has for his father to affect the relationships others may have had with his own father.

This reminds me of Go Tell It On a Mountain, since in that story the father and son dynamic was also strained. I believe that it was strained, but not in full form of hatred. We see how important a father figure is and how it can affect an entire upbringing. It can affect the views on religion, being, and violence. I question if violence in the home, through beating can be made into how people view the world. I believe that a spanking is different than actually being abused throughout childhood. I know that this story talks about how beatings can be related to love and furthermore, religion can be associated with being a good person. So, in Notes of a Native Son the hate Baldwin saw was just his realization that love and the Church did not have to be associated with violence.

The power of religion

In Baldwin’s opening story ‘Go Tell It on the Mountian’, religion is a constant topic of conversation. I find it an exciting appeal to many different issues. Religion throughout this story is prominent in the family dynamic. I especially found it interesting when the mother talked about how the boy’s father was a good man. When the boys truly think about it, they decide he must be a good man because he prays so often, and the mother does nothing to disagree with this perspective.

As someone who was raised Catholic, but has a father who is Seventh Day Adventist, church was a huge part of my life while growing up. I had the black church experience on Saturdays and then Catholic mass on Sundays. I will say the black church and Catholic mass are two completely different experiences. Catholic mass is about reading the Gospel and having a lesson taught to you for about an hour. (in my opinion). When I would go to my father’s church, I would experience the passion and the ability to truly feel what the pastors were saying because of their delivery. So, in a sense, I understand why religion was portrayed as a way of being considered ‘good’.

The ties to religion and violence also build into this same scene. The fact Roy talks about how they are lucky to have a father who makes them go to church and read the Bible, though this line does sound sarcastic in my eyes, it talks about having the ability to associate church with love and violence, such as hitting the boys when they do something wrong. This does in fact associate the ways of violence and religion having mixed lines, especially for John who has such strong ties to his faith.