The Internal Battle

While discussing David Baldwin during class this week, the topic of black anger and violence was brought up. David Baldwin was known for beating his children and his wife, which was normal in the black community during this time. Professor Kinyon gave a great analogy to explain this. She explained that when a black man goes into the world and holds his anger in, his only opportunity to explode is in the walls of his home. In “Revolutionary Hope: A Conversation Between James Baldwin and Audre Lorde”, the internal battle between black men and women are discussed.

In this conversation, Baldwin and Lorde both agree that by fighting each other, they are “essentially doing [the] enemy’s work”. It is understood this internal battle of violence between blacks men and women is wasted energy. However, I do not believe that Baldwin really understands or sees the internal battle for what it is: formation of internal sabotage. This causes Baldwin and Lorde to disagree on what needs to be focused in order to see equality in the world.

It is seen that there is a battle between blacks and whites. However, Lorde sees an internal battle between black men and women that Baldwin does not fully see. Baldwin is blinded to how “female bloodshed” at the hands of black males is internal sabotage, for he is only focused on how white society affects the black male. He completely ignores the black woman, and does not understand that their struggles are as real as his are. This is proved when Baldwin asks Lorde, “But you don’t realize that in this republic the only real crime is to be a Black man”? He does not see that being a black woman is seen as a crime too. Lorde responds by saying, “I realize the only crime is to be Black, and that includes me too.” The crime and hate is not just directed towards black men, but the black community as a whole. He is ignoring and invalidating womens hardship.

Even when Lorde explains that what black men do to black women is a problem, Baldwin asks, “How can you be so sentimental as to blame the Black man for a situation which has nothing to do with him?” Baldwin is stuck on the fight between blacks vs whites. Well, he is really stuck on the fight between black males and whites. He does not fully see the black woman. Lorde addresses Baldwin’s claims on blame by saying, “I’m not blaming the Black man. I’m saying if my blood is being shed, at some point I’m gonna have a legitimate reason to take up a knife and cut your damn head off, and I’m not trying to do it.” Lorde is attempting to prevent a true internal fight where the women fight back against the black men. If this happens, the fight between blacks and whites will be the least of their problems, because blacks hurt each other “far more effectively than outsiders do”. Baldwin only sees the fight between blacks and whites and misses the fight about to take place right in his backyard. Until Baldwin realizes that black women go through real strife just like he does, his eyes will not be opened to the internal battle. Black men are not putting their anger on people who have less problems and can handle it better. No, they are putting their anger onto people who go through the same things. They are fighting themselves, for Lorde is arguing that racism has the same effect on black females as on black males. Handling the internal battle will allow the black community to fight the kingdom more effectively and as one.

Whose protest novel?

After last Monday’s class, I was having a conversation with a friend on the idea of Native Son being or not being a novel about race. The idea we were stuck on was what a Black woman might feel after reading this novel. How could they identify with its message as a Black reader? Are they supposed to identify with Bigger after his treatment of women, or worse, should they have to identify with Bessie after her treatment by Bigger?

Some of the presentations touched on the differences between Wright’s treatment of racial experiences and Baldwin’s. I truly feel as though Wright misses the mark in trying to get his message across by making the deliberate choices that he did. In failing to understand sexual violence against women and making blatant references to the bible, for instance, that solidified this misunderstanding, I feel as though he lost any connection he might have had to his Black female audience.

In addition, the presentations touched a little on Baldwin’s queer identity. Baldwin seemed to have a more intersectional perspective on the race idea. It’s possible his queer identity gave him the ability to critique Wright’s work and lacking perspective of the issue. I personally agree with Baldwin’s view on the novel and Bigger’s character. Wright did not have to deliver this message by means of stripping Bigger of his humanity. We have referenced in class the idea that Baldwin was growing up and existing in a time where who he was, a gay Black man, could have gotten himself killed. I wonder if when reading this novel, as someone who himself had been a victim of hypermasculinity and the patriarchy, Baldwin was able to have this discerning eye. On the whole, I would have to agree that Native Son is not the most accessible protest novel.