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James Baldwin and the Meaning of Whiteness


James Baldwin and the Meaning of Whiteness

Chris Hedges

Raoul Peck’s “I Am Not Your Negro” is one of the finest documentaries I have ever seen—I would have stayed in the theater in New York to see the film again if the next showing had not been sold out.


This is why, when those who voted for Trump say: "But he promised to make American great again," I have to ask: When was it ever?


Speechless. Starts from early childhood. At supper. Visiting Uncle Steve. Bringing home my black friend, when I was eleven. TV. The ghetto where I delivered the Cleveland Press (now defunct). Segregation. Jim Crow. Especially highschool. The LEARNED hatred stayed with me like a shadow, as the years rolled into decades. I could not shake my Cleveland, Ohio 50's indoctrination. My estranged family, there, and too many poor whites, caught in today's "shit storm" of legalized bigotry scares the hell outa this guy!.


Our sociopathic rulers are monsters who use religion, racism, patriotism and love of the land to exploit while caring only about themselves. The owners of the world are 1,810 billionaires on the Forbes 2016 rich list that own $6.5 trillion, “as much wealth as the bottom 70 percent of humanity.” If you work for a living or are starving to death they still own you. Most of them are white and among other rationalizations believe in white supremacy but it "is not about skin color. It is not even about race. It is about the willful blindness used to justify white supremacy. It is about using moral rhetoric to defend exploitation, racism, mass murder, reigns of terror and the crimes of empire."

Poor whites are the fastest growing segment of the poor. The economy can no longer keep those whites out of poverty through the old racism that paid black workers less not to mention sticking them with the worst jobs. Racism and classism are the opposite sides of the capitalist coin. Now that capitalism has nowhere else to expand except into ecocide, which if allowed to continue will destroy the entire human race, there is a worldwide financial collapse. The oligarchs have circled their wagons and, with the disaster capitalism formulated by Milton Friedman and the Chicago School of Economics, are taking(“harvesting”) and are "going to keep it all"(Friedman). In today's worldwide collapsing dead end capitalism there is less and less to go around so it is not enough to depend on racism alone so now classism must be stressed even more. Anyone who does not have enough is portrayed as lazy wanting only government handouts. In the meantime its socialism for the rich with big government bailouts while tax money goes to support a huge imperial military to protect the freedom of international corporations to exploit, war profiteers, and pork barrel projects for corporations.

All citizens are now slaves and to keep us in place they can declare us "suspected terrorists" who can be indefinitely detained or killed if the President orders it(NDAA). They have destroyed the Bill Of Rights by replacing Habeus Corpus and Posse Comitatus with the Patriot Act and Homeland Security. They have the prisons ready for anyone who should effectively object and they are fashioning the chains for the rest of us slaves on their global corporate feudal plantation.

Work 'till the day you die, if you can get work, or you will die homeless even if you're too sick to work(your fault for not taking better care of yourself). They are about to take away Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The poor are now despised if mentioned at all. With more poverty there will be more violence and just as black on black violence is ignored, poor on poor violence will be ignored.

There has never been a just society with a class system. Law exists to protect the property of the haves against the have nots. Ninety percent of U.S. law is Roman Property Law which is why lawyers must know the dead language of Latin. Along with the law all western empires have sought to copy the Roman Empire and the U.S. Empire is the latest.

Capitalism is what it is wether it be the state capitalism of China or the corporate monopoly capitalism of the U.S. Empire. In either system social or party rank and wealth determine justice. It cannot be otherwise in a class system no matter how class is determined. In economically good times there will be more opportunity for an individual to succeed through personal effort but studies have shown that even during the boom decades in the U.S. following WWII most people did not rise far above the class they were born into. The whole social and economic system in a class system is set up to keep people in place in order to protect and enrich those at the top; most of it is so subtle that even those at the bottom think it's right. The biggest flag wavers and the best soldiers of empire are those from the lower classes.

Socialism gives opportunity and greater freedom to all by doing away with the class system. Freedom to mercilessly exploit others and profit even at the expense of the ecology and the very existence of the human race should not be allowed just as certain freedoms, such as killing whomever you want, are not allowed and are criminalized.

In a falling empire more control must be exercised to protect the propertied and privileged few. The First Amendment has always been relative, as is all U.S. law. One gets as much justice as one can afford and demand. Protest is now penned off, kept out of sight, and limited in length. Protest is also being spun as "terrorism". The U.S. Empire has had it's rise and soon, in its fall, there will be no place to flee to as it will precipitate a worldwide crash. Reaction and revolution will be as violent as state repression makes it.

The answer though is not in another redistribution through revolution but in finally ending the class system. I do not believe that anything new is possible except under a socialist system which abolishes the class system with its hatred and racism. There is nothing but more of the same and worse under capitalism. Consumer capitalism is now ecologically unsustainable and it is destroying the human race. The deluge has already begun.

Nevertheless the owners have divided up the world amongst themselves.

The owners don't want to see you, they don't want to hear you, they just want to plan their conquests in relative peace and tranquility.

The owners continue adding to a vast jail and prison complex for any who cause trouble.

So just play with your electronics, don't think, work hard and do as you're told slaves! To make it easier you’ll be helped to hate each other as much as possible.


or a corollary to that question: 'great for whom?'

I used to have an informal weekly klatsch with some of my brighter students when I taught at university. One of the most important things that most of them learned to do was to refuse to think of America in the singular. Precocious little mice, they generally learned to answer any question about America with this question: "which one?"


Certain Doom!


A black person can tell us the meaning of whiteness the way a white person can tell us the meaning of blackness.

If you want to know about the meaning of America, go talk to the poor. Any race.


If they're in a university, are they even aware if the third world country in America's midst?


The other day I spotted this James Baldwin quote, and it stuck with me:

"Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced."

James Baldwin continues to counsel and educate, and "I am not Your Negro" looks like a most worthwhile film to see.


Rusty, your post is an excellent, well-worded summary of everything that's been running through my mind the last few years, especially the last several months. It is so obvious to most of us who follow
this forum, that it is tragic that most other Americans are too absorbed with the demands of day-to-day survival, and/or hypnotized by their electronic gadgets, and/or have been programmed so thoroughly
that they really believe all of the lies that they've been told, that they really believe in the illusions of the "American Dream", and cannot see the upcoming, onrushing crash that is the end of capitalism as
we've known it.

The ONLY chance for any kind of solution must be some form of Socialism, and a banning of class, and an end to war!


This was quite a few years ago, although conditions for working class Americans were poor then, too.

But these were mostly privileged kids--I taught in the Pac 10--so this was all news to them. That was, however, the point. To open a world bigger than the one they thought they knew.


Chris Hedges, as always, writes the brutal, honest truth. It may be uncomfortable to read, but his article is critically important to read, ponder, and discuss.

Thank you, Mr. Hedges. We need the antidote to the bullsh*t storm all around us these days!


People, take a look at the incredible solutions found in The Humanity Party!!


We also need to remember that the story about Caucasian nomads migrating east and west is pure fiction concocted by Max Mueller, who was amply paid by the patrons of the British East Indies Company to validate the occupation and plundering of India. The piece about an Aryan race is another fiction lifted out of the context of Cyrus The Great's declaration of jubilee in the establishment of the Persian Empire. It is also referred to as the first declaration of human rights and included the freeing of the Israeli war debt slaves in Babylonia. He refers to himself as an "Aryan" ruler. The bs of the lift by Mueller is that "Aryan" as a word is a Sanskrit word meaning "noble" or "civilized." It has NO racial connotation at all. Anthropologist have already dispensed with the fiction of a Caucasian migration, yet the imperial and racist fiction lives on. There was a mass migration out of the former Sarasvati River valley due to a major seismic/tectonic uplift in that region that diverted major tributary rivers causing a massive drought, hence the major evidence of common word stems east, west, north and south. The category of race on the governmental forms where one choice is Caucasian, then other choices is itself a racist fiction that still persists. Knock down these racist walls in your mind, you are human. To the extend that this information might be used counter check racial discrimination, there might be a value to categories, but "Caucasian" is itself a racist narrative. My fore bearers were debtor who had lost their lands and were forced to migrate by debt, but still not treated as property based upon race. This is intended to add to Hedges's article, not to contest it at all.


"The category of race on the governmental forms where one choice is Caucasian, then other choices is itself a racist fiction that still persists."
So well said. There is no other than one human race - scientifically. The very existence of this scientifically incorrect word in governmental forms or public conversations - is so typical american.


I’m from Toledo so I know the dynamic ad nauseum. I was born in the 70’s, yours is my mother’s generation. Same shit different shovel. The only real differences were unlimited guns & gangs-race relations were the same for the most part. Indeed it was frightening enough to know what people were thinking and feeling but for the floodgates to open-to watch what’s been building up just pour out, and to be lauded is far too much!