A Few Quotes from James Baldwin

Baldwin“If one really wishes to know how justice is administered in a country, one does not question the policemen, the lawyers, the judges, or the protected members of the middle class. One goes to the unprotected — those, precisely, who need the laws’s protection most! — and listens to their testimony.” No Name in the Street (1972)

“People who have been wronged will attempt to right the wrong; they would not be people if they didn’t. They can rarely afford to be scrupulous about the means they will use. They will use such means as come to hand. Neither, in the main, will they distinguish one oppressor from another, nor see through to the root principle of their oppression.” The New York Times (9 April 1967)

“All over Harlem, Negro boys and girls are growing into stunted maturity, trying desperately to find a place to stand; and the wonder is not that so many are ruined but that so many survive.” “The Harlem Ghetto” in Commentary (February 1948); republished in Notes of a Native Son (1955)

“I love America more than any other country in the world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually. I think all theories are suspect, that the finest principles may have to be modified, or may even be pulverized by the demands of life, and that one must find, therefore, one’s own moral center and move through the world hoping that this center will guide one aright.” “Autobiographical Notes” (1952)

“Words like ‘freedom,’ ‘justice,’ ‘democracy’ are not common concepts; on the contrary, they are rare. People are not born knowing what these are. It takes enormous and, above all, individual effort to arrive at the respect for other people that these words imply.” “The Crusade of Indignation,” The Nation (New York, 7 July, 1956), published in book form in The Price of the Ticket (1985)

“Any real change implies the breakup of the world as one has always known it, the loss of all that gave one an identity, the end of safety. And at such a moment, unable to see and not daring to imagine what the future will now bring forth, one clings to what one knew, or dreamed that one possessed. Yet, it is only when a man is able, without bitterness or self-pity, to surrender a dream he has long cherished or a privilege he has long possessed that he is set free — he has set himself free — for higher dreams, for greater privileges.” “Faulkner and Desegregation” in Partisan Review (Fall 1956); republished in Nobody Knows My Name: More Notes of a Native Son (1961)

[Quotes thanks to Wikiquote: http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/James_Baldwin]


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This post was written by Heather Voke on October 4, 2007

2 Comments so far

  1. butlerr October 4, 2007 6:50 pm

    Mr. Baldwin uses a word that tends to drive our entire society. That word is safety, which I would like to make even broader and use the word security. Everything that we do could be based off of security. It’s all about how secure we feel. Insecurity causes fear and in turn actions that might not always be rational. You only need security if you are afraid of something. The quote from James Baldwin “Any real change implies the breakup of the world as one has always known it, the loss of all that gave one an identity, the end of safety” shows why it is so hard to change certain aspects of society which cause disadvantages for some. For example, prep schools and private schools, which we discussed today, give advantages to those who attend them. Many of them tend to be bottlenecked into elite institution. Students and parents know that if they attend a particular school, their chances of entering an elite institution is higher and the elite institutions realize the overall success of students from these schools so they continue to accept them—a never-ending cycle. As intelligent as I am (or that I perceive myself (lol)), I would have never gotten into this university if I would have continued to stay in my hometown, or in that case, my home state. There are less than 10 people in the entire school from the state of Mississippi. I had to move to out of state. There was and still is only one charter school in my state. First, the state is limited to six charter schools because the law says on one school per district. It just happens that the charter school is in my district. However, it takes an 40 minutes to get to. My mother is a teacher and my father was on a military tour. I had no one to take me. If it wasn’t for my grandfather, I would not have been able to go to a progressive head start. Luck would have it that my father’s next assignment would allow me to travel with him to Europe and that is when my preparation for college begins. Another example crosses my mind where a very bright person who just graduated high school from my area was accepted into the Mississippi State Engineering program, which is top 25 in the country. When he returned from the summer introduction program, he stated flatly that he wasn’t prepared. It wasn’t because he wasn’t smart. It was because he didn’t have any access to proper materials or even knowledge of those materials. There is definitely a gap between public and prep school education as well as the knowledge of what causes that difference.

  2. jrc59 October 6, 2007 11:03 pm

    Response to “Socialization of Youth in a Democracy”

    I am recently reading a book for my Foundations of Education class called “Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the classroom” by Lisa Delpit. Delpit complicates the theories of socialization and counter socialization brought up by Engle and Ochoa. Engle and Ochoa believe that traditional topics that are covered in elementary school such as home, community helpers, local community and state can be viewed in a socialized way. Engle and Ochoa state “The point her is that the perspective that influences the treatment given to a specific topic is more crucial to fostering democratic citizens than the topic itself.” So basically, as long as the teacher teaches these topics in a very broad, diverse way, he/she can help children develop the thinking skills consistent with a reflective decision-making curriculum. The problem with this model is that there is not enough consistency. Engle and Ochoa do not take into account the very different nature of schools, teachers, and hidden curriculums across the country. Schools are becoming more segregated each day therefore how can diversity be taught within a hegemonic environment?
    The second issue with this article is how students of different cultural, racial, and socioeconomic backgrounds should be taught. Lisa Delpit is an African American teacher who is debating whether an open model of teaching or a skills based model of teaching is more effective. She sees that African American and white students benefit differently from each curriculum. Currently there is a move away from skills based learning. Delpit states, “Skills are a necessary but insufficient aspect of black and minority students education. Students need technical skills to open doors, but they need to be able to think critically and creatively to participate in meaningful and potentially liberating work inside those doors.” The problem is though that black children rarely “need” those critical thinking skills. Most African Americans and minorities only need skills based learning to perform low-level functioning jobs. In our society, is every child being counter socialized and if so are these skills necessary in all children/adults? We see that education may differ amongst groups drastically. Although this country is a democracy, the way we are going about educating (socializing/counter socializing) all children seems to make it evident that we are not in favor for all societies members to be critical thinkers, to question, and to demand change.


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