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Uploaded on Nov 29, 2008


James Baldwin: It was a great shock to me -- I want to say this on the air -- The attorney general did not know --

Dr. Kenneth Clark: You mean the attorney general of the United States?

Baldwin: Mr. Robert Kennedy -- didn't know that I would have trouble convincing my nephew to go to Cuba, for example, to liberate the Cubans in defense of a government which now says it is doing everything it can do, which cannot liberate me. Now, there are 20 million people in this country, and you can't put them all in jail. I know how my nephew feels, I know how I feel, I know how the cats in the barbershop feel.

A boy last week, he was sixteen, in San Francisco, told me on television -- thank God we got him to talk -- maybe somebody thought to listen. He said, "I've got no country. I've got no flag." Now, he's only 16 years old, and I couldn't say, "you do." I don't have any evidence to prove that he does. They were tearing down his house, because San Francisco is engaging -- as most Northern cities now are engaged -- in something called urban renewal, which means moving the Negroes out. It means Negro removal, that is what it means. The federal government is an accomplice to this fact.

Now, we are talking about human beings, there's not such a thing as a monlithic wall or some abstraction called the Negro problem, these are Negro boys and girls, who at 16 and 17 don't believe the country means anything that it says and don't feel they have any place here, on the basis of the performance of the entire country.

In the first place, the Negro has never been as docile as white Americans wanted to believe. That was a myth. We were not singing and dancing down on the levee -- we were trying to keep alive; we were trying to survive. It was a very brutal system.

The Negro has never been happy in this place. What those kids first of all proved -- first of all, they proved that. They come from a long line of fighters and what they also prove (I want to get to your point, really) is not that the Negro has changed, but that the country has arrived at a place where he can no longer contain the revolt, he can no longer, as he could do once --

Let's say I was a Negro college president, and I needed a new chemistry lab, so I was a Negro leader, I was a Negro leader because the white man said I was, and I came to get a new chemistry lab, "please suh," and the tacit price I paid for the chemistry lab was to control the people I represented. And now I can't do that.

When the boy said this afternoon -- we were talking to a Negro student this afternoon who has been through it all, who's half dead and only about 25, Jerome Smith. That's an awful lot to ask a person to bear. The country sat back in admiration of all those kids for three or four or five years, and has not lifted a finger to help them.

Now, we all knew. I know you knew, and I knew too, that a moment was coming when we couldn't guarantee, that no one can guarantee, that he won't reach the breaking point, you know? You can only survive so many beatings, so much humiliation, so much despair, so many broken promises, before something gives. Human beings are not by nature non-violent. Those children had to pay a terrible price in discipline, in moral discipline -- an interior effort of courage which the country cannot imagine, because it still thinks Gary Cooper, for example, was a man -- I mean his image, I have nothing against him, you know, him.



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