Fire

August 16, 2016

“This is the crime for which I accuse my country and my countrymen, and for which neither I nor time nor history will ever forgive them, that they have destroyed hundreds of thousands of lives and do not know it, and do not want to know it.

“But it is not permissible that the authors of devastation should also be innocent. It is the innocence which constitutes the crime.”

I read the great James Baldwin’s “The Fire Next Time” in 1964. I probably picked it up┬ábecause the author and I had a shared last name. When I realized what it was, and knowing the views of my father only too well, I hid it under my mattress and only read it when I was alone in the house.

I would be so comforted if James Baldwin’s message only pertained to our fathers, because then my hands would be clean of the stain of racism: So I, then a righteous stripling, thought.

Until I read “The Autobiography of Malcom X,” another mattress book, and my eyes opened, and I knew, Like Adam, I was naked.

I grow so weary of people my age saying, about black people: “Get over it.” “I didn’t do this.” These are the most egregious bullet phrases of our Age of Bullets, and there is no hell big enough to contain the sinners.

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