When I entered this class, all I really knew about James Baldwin was the seconds-long clips I had seen of him on Twitter, starting especially around the time of George Floyd’s murder. I am now leaving this class with a deep understanding and admiration of Baldwin, his life, and his message.
Reflecting more on the question Professor Kinyon posed to us in our circle on the last day of class, I think the one thing that I learned/ that I will really take with me is Baldwin’s message of love–an “explicitly active and political” love as salvation, as a means of liberation (Field 450).
I have a minor in education and am going to be a teacher next year. On the first day of one of my education classes, everyone was asked to describe the most important element of good teaching. As I sat there thinking about it, the answer that came to my head was love. After studying for the past years about educational disparities and how schools in the U.S. have been unequal since their conception (as they were created for and by white people), I had decided in my head that the only way we are going to fix this incredibly broken system is with empathy and love. We are going to have to actually care about each other enough to decide we will no longer tolerate inequities. As it came along to my turn though, I changed my answer. Having heard everyone else’s answers about impartiality, enthusiasm, and patience, I began to think love didn’t have a place in the conversation and would sound weird. To my surprise, when it became the professor’s turn to respond, he said love himself.
I think that love as the answer to injustice has become somewhat discredited in today’s conversations–seeming too ‘weak’ or passive a response to an issue that is pressing and even fatal for some. We discussed in class what needs to be done to fix the system–we need to burn it to the ground (shoutout Rae’vonne). That idea is radical. It seems contradictory to love, but I think love can be radical too. Love might be what it takes to burn it down. I personally don’t think love is weak at all, I think it can be the strongest instrument we possess.
John 15:13 states: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” When those who benefit off the abjection of others decide they are ready to relinquish their privilege, and in a sense, give up the life of comfortability that is all they know, everyone will begin to truly live. This is going to take love.