Sometimes Dr. Kinyon began class by asking us if we liked what we read, and for some reason, I always found that question complicated. It should be simple to say if we liked Baldwin’s writing. After all, this is an English class, and that is perhaps the most basic question she could ask of us. However, I think what made the question difficult for me to plainly answer is the content and context of Baldwin’s writings.
The America Baldwin describes is divided by racism and hate, so much so that he and other Black American writers left for Europe. In fact, Baldwin’s America and America in 2021 are quite similar. The very title of our course refers to the progress that still needs to be made in this country. “James Baldwin, From the Civil Rights Movement to Black Lives Matter.” We have had class discussions about how slavery became Jim Crow which became mass incarceration or The New Jim Crow. While I consider Baldwin’s writing captivating and smooth, I have not liked what I have read. A white family bringing their young son to witness the lynching of a black man. A black woman being raped by multiple white men. I do not like an America that allows, enables, and even encourages these situations.
I argue that Baldwin’s goal was not for us to like what we read. In many ways, he wanted us to feel the opposite. Upon reading “The Price of the Ticket” and “On Being White and Other Lies,” we all felt a desire to change this country. Baldwin wrote about America’s racism in the time of the civil rights movement, and now he calls us to think about it and write about it in the era of the Black Lives Matter movement. Though this is my final blog, I know this won’t be the final time I think of Baldwin’s arguments and consider how they inform our world today.