Protests in the name of George Floyd have served as a vital moment of contemplation and introspection, for asking ourselves the tough questions we often avoid: How does my own racial bias operate? How can I amplify black voices?
There are many questions, but the answers aren’t always so obvious. Turning to the wise guiding voices from previous generations is one to get those answers, and there’s hardly anyone whose ideas are more clear-headed and relevant to the times as author James Baldwin.
Rising to prominence in mid-century America, the impact Baldwin had is not easily described; it would take Toni Morrison, perhaps the greatest American writer of her own generation, to do so in a tribute to the writer she called ‘Jimmy’ after his death.
“The difficulty is your life refuses summation – it always did – and invites contemplation instead,” she wrote. “I never heard a single command from you, yet the demands you made on me, the challenges you issued to me, were nevertheless unmistakable, even if unenforced: that I work and think at the top of my form, that I stand on moral ground but know that ground must be shored up by mercy, that ‘the world is before [me] and [I] need not take it or leave it as it was when [I] came in.’”
The people over at AnOther magazine worked to put together some of Baldwin’s most powerful words on race, white violence, and activism. Here is one of the quotes that struck us most: “I imagine that one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, that they will be forced to deal with pain.”
We highly encourage you to follow the link and experience the power of Baldwin’s work for yourself, it will surely give you guidance in these emotional times.