"I Am Not Your Negro"
Sunday, February 26, 2017 - 13:07 Richard Smaby
"The story of America is the story of the negro in America and it is not pretty," says Baldwin. We think of the Civil Rights Movement as a positive part of our history. But Baldwin’s words remind us, also represented graphically in film clips, that the positive things were born out of the hideous parts of our history: the lynchings, the murders of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the despicable treatment of the black students who integrated the white schools and universities, and economic discrimination.
The film faithfully represents Baldwin's view that blacks were the ones driving history. That while white America was gorging itself on life as depicted in a Doris Day movie, blacks knew that that life was illusory.
The disconnect between white America and black America was poignantly shown in a Dick Cavett show with Baldwin debating Paul Weiss, a philosophy professor from Yale. Weiss took Baldwin to task for putting too much emphasis on color as the principal division in the country. He maintained that other characteristics were equally important, for example, that Baldwin had "more in common with a white author than someone [presumably a black person] who is against literature." Baldwin destroys Weiss’s argument by passionately listing the real life injustices that unite all blacks.
Go to The Grand Cinema and remind yourself of one of the most important periods in our history from the deeply personal perspective of James Baldwin. And read an insightful review of the film in Film Journal International.
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