On the 30th Anniversary of his death Baldwin’s words punch and echo with powerful contemporary relevance. A renewed public interest sees a campaign where celebrities urge the public to Know Your Baldwin. Led by Samuel L. Jackson, Lupita Nyong’o, Ashton Sanders (of Moonlight fame) and others contribute to a short video where each take turn to emphatically articulate what they are not!
‘I’m Not Your Negro; Not Your Thug; Not Your Servant; Not Your Noble Savage; Not Your Moving Target!
I applauded what I initially saw as a powerful tool to reclaim Black identity from stereotypes. The good and the great then tell the viewer exactly what they are; a list that eventually includes just about every possible embodiment of humanity.
‘I’m a man; a son; a brother; a chief; a wife; a revolutionary; an artist; an ally; a student; a friend; a mentor …..’
I thought at least one! One will say what I am; validate me as a Black gay man. It’s Baldwin they’re talking about after all. But then the video ended!A meaningful and critical engagement with Baldwin’s ideas, must recognize all that is Baldwin.
No one said ‘I am a homosexual’ or ‘I am Queer.’
Baldwin’s words written long ago alight to give wisdom to a contemporary context:
“The American (add Western) idea of racial (add sexual) progress is measured by how fast I become (add behave) white (add straight).”
During a 1968 Dick Cavett Show appearance Baldwin offered a rational and logical response to the presenter’s cunning question- if Baldwin thought White people hated Black people; what White people felt about Black people. I don’t know how straight people feel about homosexuals and Queers. I don’t know if they hate me or think my Queer disposition a disease. I can only determine as much by what they do and sometimes what they say. With the marginalization of Queerness and particularly that of Baldwin’s; at the very least I conclude, they value me less.
Baldwin evidenced and validated our existence! We must be vigilant and ensure the Queer part of Baldwin not ever be erased!
Do you agree there should be a vigilant preservation and recognition of Baldwin’s Queer legacy?