The Fire Next Time
Racial Stereotypes in The Fire Next Time Novel
During the mid-twentieth in century America, racial tensions had risen to a level rarely encountered in recent history. White prejudice and hatred came face to face with blacks fighting for true equality. Although all are supposed to be created equal, many, including James Baldwin, experienced the sad truth; nobody is truly equal. Baldwin becomes a preacher in the church when he is a young boy to learn more about life as well as himself. The experiences that Baldwin encounters however, seem to contradict what he preaches. In his novel “The Fire Next Time”, James Baldwin offers thoughts and ideas about equality and the race relations. However, in order to fix these problems, America will need to fight religious hypocrisy that has a stranglehold on true equality and find solutions to these local and global issues
Many times during Baldwin’s novel, he preaches about the hypocrisy in the United States. The hypocrisy he sees not only damages race relations, but religious and gender relations. James Baldwin was a Pentecostal Christian, a religion that not as well-known as other denominations. Pentecostals differ from other Christian religions in its origin, services, and unique features. It originated around the Holiness Movement to try and perfect the Christian religion (Queen, Prothero and Shattuck 763). Their services are extremely charismatic and often spoke in glossolalia, or speaking in unknown tongues (Queen, Prothero and Shattuck 764). Pentecostals devoutly follow of the words of Jesus and use it to justify their points of view. Due to their seemingly blind following of the bible, many groups of people have suffered. Baldwin notes early in his work that blacks “[were] a descendant of Ham…and was therefore predestined to be a slave” (Baldwin 36). He also notes that the Bible was written by the white man. If all black Christians believed this were to be true, why should they work hard and fight for change? His actions to defy the Bible can either be seen as heroic, or defiant of faith. This experience was the first of many where he realizes religion to not have the best intentions. As he grows older he, begins to see big problems within the church. Religion and churches in general seem to preach love and acceptance, but only of a certain group of people. Baldwin notices this when he walks the streets and is harassed for being African American. Although he preaches love, and his harassers’ religion may as well, its effect is not shown. Baldwin wishes to fight against tradition and usher in a future that his parents would be proud of and his children would be proud of.
Baldwin also reminds the reader that location can predestine a person as well. Back in the early colonies, whites held the power and even slaves. White’s used religion as means to gain control over other groups of people, and an excuse to take over an entire continent. After slavery was abolished during the mid-nineteenth century, African’s were without basic education and skills because of their enslaved past. Then during the Great Migration, Black’s flocked to the earliest cities as the work was most plentiful there. Since the earliest cities, most minorities lived in areas of poor housing or ghettos because they could not afford to be in nice houses or neighborhoods. This was still true in the mid-1900s. Many blacks were born and raised into poor ghettos. This in turn resulted in poor living conditions, food, and schooling. If they tried to escape these wretched conditions and better themselves, they might receive hate filled comments such as “Why won’t you n*****s stay in uptown where you belong” among other racial slurs and comments (Baldwin 19). These horrible conditions and treatment are prime examples of the black man’s struggle in America. The ideas that the United States entails; life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, seem to only apply to whites, and nobody else. If religion was not hypocritical and destructive, the United States and history may have changed forever. Mr. Baldwin wishes all to be a spark plug of change, to make a difference for future generation. Nobody should be born into a situation they cannot get themselves out of. African American’s have the ability to “make America what America must become” (Baldwin 10).
After discussing the problems he has witnessed firsthand, Baldwin attempts to offer solutions to what he sees as dangerous to the future. He first wishes to address the church and Christianity in general. He believes that many of the beliefs and ideas taught are possibly destructive to society. The only way to solve this problem, is to completely ignore and stop teaching Christianity (Baldwin). This point as controversial as it might be, but proves relevant to today’s society. Many times in modern media, there is something on about homosexuality, race related violence, and other pressing topics. If Christianity was abandoned and open mindedness and love was brought to younger generations, people would be more open to new things and ideas. The closed-minded white America he believes is another issue. Every person is molded by their experiences and will affect their judgment and opinions differently. Baldwin believes both blacks and whites are being blinded by their experiences. A small town farmer from Wyoming will typically have a much different opinion than a black woman living in a large city. Baldwin wants people to open their minds beyond what they have seen and heard, challenge what they know. Everything people have been taught or forced to believe is a potential problem for personal, interracial, and international issues. Fighting for the truth and not being complacent is extremely important to make today into a better tomorrow.
“The Fire Next Time” by James Baldwin encaptures problems and possible solutions to them that affect every-day life in the United States. For many people, this novel opens their eyes to a side of life little known to them. Realizing what is wrong is the first step in solving the problem. It is society’s responsibility to better not only itself, but those within it. By embracing differences and being a catalyst for change, we will change America into what it must be.
African-Americans Identity In The Fire Next Time By James Baldwin
In the book, The Fire Next Time James Baldwin the author and narrator of the book writes about his childhood growing up in Harlem and what he witnessed and learned as he grew up. When Baldwin was fourteen he saw Harlem in a completely different way. He saw that the terrible influence of the streets were slowly trying to creep up to him and take him over. The people around him helped with these influences like his father who told him that he was heading down that road as well just like his friends. The only people who blocked off these influences were the good church going people and the girls who saw the influence of the streets and they wanted to be god’s decoy by saving the souls of the boys through marriage. The influence of the streets is one of the ways it could have shaped Baldwin’s identity. It could have shaped it for the worst if he had been completely succumb to it.
James Baldwin wants to find out is shaping and defending our identities more real to us than achieving our humanity. James Baldwin’s idea of humanity is that was needed to accept others and truly love them as individuals. Our identities are one of the most important things a human being can have and can relate to in some aspects. It gives us a footing in the world we live in and help us in our social lives. You can immediately relate to a person who has the same identity as you for example if he’s the same race as you it gives you a certain sense of understanding of the person and you can guess what they ‘ve experienced in life. Our identities mainly tell us who we are as a person compared to others but the only problem is that our identities are sometimes not shaped by us but by other people. James Baldwin describes in the book how the identities of the African-Americans were not shaped by them but by the white people or the “white liberals” of the US. The most noticeable way the white people had shaped the African Americans identity is when they took their last name and gave their last name to them instead for example Baldwin was probably the last name of the slave owner for James Baldwin ‘s ancestors. For most African-Americans there last name does not tell them who they are and where they came from. It only tells them that during a dark time in their ancestry they were owned as an item and not treated as a human being. From this understanding of African-Americans identity I can see why Elijah Muhammad changed his last name and started the Nation of Islam movement. Elijah wanted to go back to the roots of his ancestry and not become a Christian because the African’s back before they were captured and brought to the colonies believed in Islam. Elijah Muhammad wanted to shape his own identity instead of keeping his identity given to him by the white men. Sadly for Elijah this new Identity of his has caused him to lose some of his humanity. The new ideology he has for the Nation of Islam does not give room for any love for the white men for they can only surrender to them.
“But the policemen were doing nothing now. Obviously, this was not because they had become more human but because they were under orders and because they were afraid. And indeed they were, and I was delighted to see it. There they stood, in twos and threes and fours, in their Cub Scout uniform s and with their Cub Scout faces, totally unprepared, as is the way with American he men, for anything that could not be settled with a club or a fist or a gun. I might have pitied them if I had not found myself in their hands so often and discovered, through ugly experience, what they were like when they held the power and what they were like when you held the power. The behavior of the crowd, its silent intensity, was the other thing that forced me to reassess the speakers and their message.”
The police in this quote are trying to hold off the Nation of Islam ideals and demands instead of forcible making The Nation of Islam surrender their ideals. The police or authorities are not doing this because they might accept The Nation of Islam demands and ideals, they’re holding them off because they are afraid of what happens if they retaliate by doing what they do to all other black movements back then. The Nation of Islam movement is different from the others because they are not trying to find a peaceful solution to the problem but instead demanding the white men give them land to live in their own community and become self-governed mainly. To the white men it seems that the African Americans in The Nation of Islam might resort to violence if they are attacked. So this ideology that Elijah has for The Nation of Islam gives no room for the white men to accept the African Americans but only fear them. This is why Elijah has lost his humanity because he can’t accept the white men.
When James Baldwin was growing up in Harlem he was Christian like his father and everybody else in the neighborhood. Baldwin did not ask to be Christian or did he care about being a Christian, he was only Christian because his family and everyone around him chose Christianity for him. He never learned about other religions at his young age so he was never in an environment where he could choose or find that religion that’s right for him. Christianity was part of Baldwin’s identity whether he liked it or not. “One Saturday afternoon, he took me to his church. There were no services that day, and the church was empty, except for some women cleaning and some other women praying. My friend took me into the back room to meet his pastor — a woman. There she sat, in her robes, smiling, an extremely proud and handsome woman, with Africa, Europe, and the America of the American Indian blended in her face. She was perhaps forty-five or fifty at this time, and in our world she was a very celebrated woman. My friend was about to introduce me when she looked at me and smiled and said, “Whose little boy are you?” Now this, unbelievably, was precisely the phrase used by pimps and racketeers on the Avenue when they suggested, both humorously and intensely, that I “hang out” with them. Perhaps part of the terror they had caused me to feel came from the fact that I unquestionably wanted to be somebody’s little boy. I was so frightened, and at the mercy of so many conundrums, that inevitably, that summer, someone would have taken me over; one doesn’t, in Harlem, long remain standing on any auction block.“ Baldwin was perceived as a Christian and belonged to someone else’s church just because he was a black man living in Harlem. The way the pastor said who’s little boy are you sparked Baldwin’s thought of how the pimps and racketeers would say to someone. This made Baldwin feel like the churches own him just because he was Christian. The identity of being a Christian has made Baldwin feel like he’s a slave. Baldwin believes that if he hadn’t been a Christian someone else would have taken him over anyways because when you’re in Harlem, you don’t remain long in the any auction block.
“But there was nothing malicious or condemnatory in it. I had the stifling feeling that they knew I belonged to them but knew that I did not know it yet, that I remained unready, and that they were simply waiting, patiently, and with assurance, for me to discover the truth for myself. For where else, after all, could I go? I was black, and therefore a part of Islam, and would be saved from the holocaust awaiting the white world whether I would or no. My weak, deluded scruples could avail nothing against the iron word of the prophet.” Baldwin also felt this way when he was eating dinner with Elijah Muhammad. Elijah just like the pastor perceived Baldwin as a man of Islam just because he was black. They did simply did not care about Baldwin’s current identity but just gave him a new one just because he was black. To Baldwin though he did not care about what they thought about him or about who he was and belonged to because Baldwin knew what type of person he truly was and that no one in the world can perceived him as another. This is why shaping and defending our identities is more real to us than achieving our humanity. To give up our identity just so that we may be accepted by others and loved by others is truly wrong. Deep down inside you know you’re living a lie just so that others could love you and accept you. James Baldwin solution to this problem that everyone has with their identities and humanities is to truly give up their give up on their old identities.
“Rather, the white man is himself in sore need of new standards, which will release him from his confusion and place him once again in fruitful com m union with the depths of his own being. And I repeat: The price of the liberation of the white people is the liberation of the blacks — the total liberation, in the cities, in the towns, before the law, and in the mind. Why, for example — especially knowing the family as I do I should want to marry your sister is a great mystery to me. But your sister and I have every right to marry if we wish to, and no one has the right to stop us. If she cannot raise me to her level, perhaps I can raise her to mine.“
Baldwin wants the white men to give up their identities because their identity controls how they think about others for example their standards of other races like African Americans are inferior to them. If they gave up these ways of thinking the African Americans can truly be able to find their own identities because they no longer have to fear anything. This will also help people raise each other to their standards. This is a very hard demand to comply to for both sides. The white people would be scared to do this because they would feel very out of place. The only way for them to get rid of that feeling is if everyone does it so that it would be a norm. The African Americans would have some sort of resentment in them that would make it very hard to accept the white people but if they do accept them it would greatly improve their lives and give them time to find their own identity because they no longer have any standards that will stop them. This acceptance is the only way for everyone to achieve their humanity and avoid “The Fire Next Time.”
James Baldwin’s Book The Fire Next Time And Its Relevance In The Twenty-First Century
Published in 1962, James Baldwin’s book, The Fire Next Time is a book that reflects on the African-American experience during the Civil Rights Era. Now, over fifty years since its original publication and amidst many contemporary discussions concerning race and equality in the United States, many of the ideas that Baldwin speaks on feel once again relevant. In the following paper, I will argue that the central ideas and themes in Baldwin’s book The Fire Next Time are indeed still relevant in the 21st century, not only because he speaks to broad concerns of the human spirit, but because Baldwin was contending with issues that are still existent in modern American society. By examining recent studies, statistics, and news stories, I will show that concerns of the 1960’s Black American are still very much alive today, that Baldwin’s work is not irrelevant or dead, and — perhaps most importantly — that there is value in examining history for commentary on modern concerns.
To begin, I will discuss several core themes and ideas that Baldwin explores in The Fire Next Time. Broadly, the ideas in Baldwin’s book usually comment on some combination of two topics: 1) some aspect of universal human experience, and 2) concerns as they apply specifically to the Black American. Generally, I found he most often directs his commentary towards the latter — which makes sense; he often speaks to and about the Black American, as a Black American. But this does not mean that Baldwin shies away from touching on larger truths as they apply to society and humanity. For example, two broader “big picture” concepts he touched on that stuck out were how people think of and treat death and on love in context of hate. In this way, Baldwin doesn’t just provide commentary on finite, contextual issues but actually attempts to provide an explanation of the psychology that leads the American society to the specific challenges it faces as well as the reactions it has to such challenges. I mention the existence of these broader ideas now for several reasons. First, the existence of such commentary was the first evidence to me as reader and scholar that Baldwin’s ideas have not died with the times. When one can speak so effectually on universal concerns — universal themes that bridge through every human experience (after all, we are all ultimately subject to both love and death) — it is a first sign to me that his words would hold against the test of time. More important, however, and perhaps more pertinent to a rigorous academic inspection, were Baldwin’s central ideas that spoke on topics of race and racism in America and their apparent causes. There are three central ideas on these topics that I will describe in this paper, but do note that there are, of course, other themes and ideas that Baldwin spoke on. The following are simply those that I found most compelling and relevant in 21st century American society.
First of these central ideas is that narrow-minded thinking and biases propagated both knowingly and unknowingly by White people is the largest roadblock to progress, as it molds the minds of both Black American’s about themselves as well as White America’s expectations of them. Baldwin (1962) eloquently speaks on this saying: They [white men] have had to believe for many years, and for innumerable reasons, that black men are inferior to white men. Many of them, indeed, know better, but, as you will discover, people find it very difficult to act on what they know.
In this way, the negative image of Black America, despite being “known” to be false, despite being legislated against, is difficult to truly dispel, and without explicit attempts to destroy this negative image, progress cannot be made. To examine whether this core idea is still relevant and important in the 21st century, it seems important to first ask if such narrow-minded thinking about Black America still exists. In other words, do people still believe that being Black means being “a worthless human being” who is “not expected to aspire to excellence”? Are such stereotypes of the Black American still alive today? The answer, unfortunately, is yes. According to an AP poll reported on by USA Today, “…51% of Americans now express explicit anti-black attitudes…”. What exactly “anti-black attitudes” mean, however, is not clear. If we examine data provided by researchers at the University of Illinois, however, we can get a better idea of specific modern perceptions of Black America. According to their data from a 2012 survey, over 20% of White respondents perceived White people as more intelligent than Black people. In addition, over 30% of White respondents reported that they believed that White people work harder than Black people. The study also showed that the majority of modern Black Americans perceive that inequality is rooted in Black individuals not trying hard enough, with a little over 50% agreeing with that statement.
Based on these recent studies on the American perception of blackness, it is safe to say that stereotypical thinking and negative bias against Black ability and effort still exists today. The next question is whether or not such ideas actually impact Black Americans in negative ways. According to several studies related to education and employer perception, the answer is again yes. In a study done for the Journal of African American Men, researcher Herbert L. Foster (1995) found that in teachers and non-teachers alike, there is still plenty of existent stereotypical thinking about Black male students. In another study coming out of John Hopkins, it was revealed that “…non-black teachers have significantly lower educational expectations for black students than black teachers do”. If we examine graduation rates from the National Center for Education Statistics, we can see that such expectations are not entirely unfounded. “Nationwide, black students graduated at a rate of 69 percent; Hispanics graduated at 73 percent; whites graduated at a rate of 86 percent”. While it is difficult to point to the reason for such troubling statistics, it is indicative of existent inequity both in the way people think about Black ability and in the actual rates at which the Black American is able to succeed in existing institutions. Unsurprisingly, negative perceptions don’t just affect education, but they also affect the job market. In a study done by Marianne Bertrand and Sendhil Mullainathan (2003), they found that traditional “black” names were less likely to get a return on a resume compared to names perceived as traditionally “white.” In these ways, we can see that not only do narrow-minded thinking and biases still exist in American society in the 21st century but also that these ideas shape the perception of Black America and directly impact Black American’s ability to succeed and actualize themselves in the world. From this, we can see that Baldwin’s idea about the impact of stereotyping being a major road block to progress is still a relevant and important concern for modern America.
Next, I will examine another central idea that Baldwin discusses, which is the relationship between power and whiteness. Namely, Baldwin (1962) sees that the power of whiteness lies in the institutions we trust to hand down justice — namely, through the police and the criminal justice system. Baldwin implies that it is through these systems that racism and injustice can be widely enacted, and, because these are systems we are meant to trust, it makes their abuse towards the Black population all the more immoral: In any case, white people, who had robbed black people of their liberty and who profited by this theft every hour that they lived, had no moral ground on which to stand. They had the judges, the juries, the shotguns, the law — in a word, power. But it was a criminal power, to be feared but not respected, and to be outwitted in any way whatever. In this way, Baldwin saw the justice system at the time as having an inherent bias towards Black people that ultimately did not bring justice for Black Americans. The words “shotguns” necessarily brings up images of violence and death — all at the hand of the government.
In the above quote, we see that at the time Baldwin saw the American justice system as necessarily being in the hands of White America. Today, this is still largely true. Of the nine current Supreme Court Justices (as of December 10, 2017), only one is African American, and of the 112 Justices that have served over the history of the United States, only two (1.78%) have been African-American: Thurgood Marshall (began serving in 1967) and Clarence Thomas (began serving in 1991). With the Black population making up approximately 13% of the overall US population as of 2016, this means our highest courts in the land have not been adequately representing Black Americans. What about other facets of the US justice system? When it comes to police officers, approximately 12% are Black. Similarly, approximately 12% of state judges are Black. This means Black Americans are proportionately represented in these two jobs. However, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, in 2013, 37% of the male US prison population were Black; for the same year, 22% of the female US prison population was Black. Both of these percentages show that while the percentage of Black police offices and Black judges closely matches the overall percent of Black people in the general US population, the percentage of incarcerated Black Americans is extremely disproportionate when compared to the percentage of Black people in the general US population. This is significant on its own but is even more striking when put in perspective of White representation in the same areas. Approximately 77% of the general US population is White but only 32% of the male prison population and 49% of the female prison population is White. Additionally, approximately 78% of police officers are White, and approximately 70% of judges are White. So while both White and Black populations are proportionately represented in the office of judges and police officers, White people are massively underrepresented in the prison population; conversely, Black people are extremely overrepresented in the prison population.
These statistics suggest that the institutions of power — specifically those related to the execution of “justice” — still do not result in fair treatment of Black Americans. With these statistics in mind, this point is brought into even sharper relief when we consider the dozens of cases of Black Americans being killed or brutalized by police in recent years. In 2016, the LA Times reported on what it called “only a handful” of the wrongful deaths of Black Americans by the police; in all, the LA Times article sited twenty Black American deaths between 2012 and 2016 as examples of wrongful killings. Some names such as Freddie Gray, Michael Brown Jr., Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice, are likely familiar to readers as these stories and others attracted a lot of media attention. With these examples of injustice happening all around us, it is easy to see that Baldwin’s ideas surrounding power, whiteness, and our institutions of justice are still extremely relevant in 21st century America. Finally, I will examine one last central idea from Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time. This idea is the idea of integration and identity. Throughout his book, Baldwin (1962) discusses the idea that Black America should not and does not want to integrate into White American society. This is because integration implies a rejection of Black identity as inferior and an acceptance of White identity as “normal.” Baldwin speaks on this saying, “There is no reason for you to try to become like white people and there is no basis whatever for their impertinent assumption that they must accept you”. In this way, Baldwin recommends against disappearing into the White American society and accommodating the way the White people think Black people should be.
This idea is perhaps one of the most striking points in the book, both because of its general pervasiveness as well as its presence and relevance in modernity. In a piece by Orlando Edmonds (2016), Edmonds connects Baldwin’s idea of authentic integration with the Black Lives Matter movement. Here, he argues that the Black Lives Matter movement’s attitude is a modern embodiment of Baldwin’s thoughts on Black integration. In the article, Edmonds quotes Patrisse Cullors who speaks on the Black authenticity in Black Lives Matter: “The old civil rights really upheld the narrative around ‘respectability,’ around what we’re supposed to look like and be like. Folks in Ferguson said, “No, we’re not your respectable Negro, we are going to sag our pants, are going to be ratchet, and we’re okay with that.” We believe that have to show up in our full-selves, without closeting parts of ourselves, marginalizing parts of ourselves, and build together.” Here, there is an emphasis on accepting and loving what it can mean to be Black, even if those qualities are not accepted or seen as positive by White America. In this way, the Black Lives Matter movement fundamentally rejects the idea that there is something wrong with aspects of Black identity simply because they don’t fit into what White people have deemed as normal and appropriate. And interestingly enough, Baldwin has something to say about why White identity tries to assert its power and opinion over Black identity. On the topic he writes, “White Americans find it as difficult as white people elsewhere do to divest themselves of the notion that they are in possession of some intrinsic value that black people need, or want” and “…the danger, in the minds of most white Americans, is the loss of their identity”. These points are particular poignant in modernity as we see the rise of neo-Nazi groups, white nationalism, and the idea of the Alternative Right around America. Hauntingly, Baldwin’s writing comes alive before our eyes as the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) defines the Alt-Right saying, “The Alternative Right, commonly known as the Alt-Right, is a set of far-right ideologies, groups and individuals whose core belief is that ‘white identity’ is under attack…”. In these ways, it is obvious the ideas surrounding integration and identity struggle are extremely relevant today.
In conclusion, James Baldwin’s work The Fire Next Time has words that are still relevant and important today as evidenced by studies, statistics, new stories, and movements throughout modern day America. It is with a certain reluctance that I have defended this thesis, not because I wish Baldwin to be wrong, but because to see Baldwin’s words in today’s reality is to see the bias, racism, and problematic power structures from over 50 years ago still alive and well in modern society. Through the studies, statistics, new stories, and movements explored in this paper, it is clear that Baldwin’s central ideas can be confirmed not just by anecdotal evidence and stories of people’s experience, but by hard numbers and scientific studies of the reality of living as a Black American in the 21st Century. Future research may be able to explore the ways in which Baldwin’s words then have impacted the now, because though it is clear that his words are still relevant, I wonder what impact, if any, Baldwin may have had in influencing the way we speak, conceptualize, and ultimately think of the progress made and yet to be made towards true equality.
The Meaning Of Being Black In The Fire Next Time By James Baldwin
The historical context of The Fire Next Time shapes the reader’s understanding of the text because it shows how in detail how much the author cares about what he talks about in his stories and how passionate he is when it comes to them. It opens the reader to the harsh world of a black boy growing into a man in the poor city slums and all of the issues that a black man has to face. This book does more for the reader than anything released about the black’s living in poor cities in terms of exposure for the reader. The reason why it has this ability is how James Baldwin wrote it. He was able to express himself in the essay form with a storytelling technique. Together these two techniques combine to form a collection of essays on what blackness means. According to Baldwin, being black is unchangeable. It is a burden for a young person to carry. Being black means that one is intended for a particular life, a life with several disappointing outcomes.
Part one of his book portrays this idea perfectly. ‘You were born where you were born and faced the future that you faced because you were black and for no other reason.’ This shows that Baldwin believes that being black means that you are stuck in one type of life with no way out. This way of life is a brutal one as well. Baldwin brings up many examples of this in the different essays that you read. One line he writes hits you in the chest and makes you step back from the book and think for a second. ‘You were born into a society which spelled out with brutal clarity, and in as many ways as possible, that you are a worthless human being’. For a man to write this about his race makes you really understand what he is feeling and the power that he feels it with.
Baldwin starts to describe fear as ignorance. Baldwin joined the church because of his fear. He was scared to be with his friends who began to drink and smoke. To avoid these things, Baldwin was went into a church boy lifestyle because he ‘supposed that God and safety were a better route through life Timidity blinded him to believe that following God’s words shielded him from the evils of society” which he was wrong about because he still got treated just as bad as every other black individual. However, because of Baldwin’s love for his church, he reads the Bible, only to realize that was strictly learning about the teachings of White people. He thought that going to church will protect him, and shield him against what he feared. Instead of freeing the community from discrimination between Blacks and Whites, the Bible supported the racial barriers by teaching how one should behave against another race. Realizing the hypocrisy involved with Christianity, James Baldwin broke away from the congressional church, to search his own way of making society greater. Baldwin emphasizes that liberation is love, and ‘love is more important than color.’ James Baldwin states that fear creates the need for power which is true because you want to have more leverage over someone that you fear so you’re not even in a bad position. The Nation of Islam was fearful of the Whites having more control over the Blacks. Fear always dominated the minds of white people which is why they tried enslaving us and killing us off. This fear caused Elijah to strive for power to liberate the community so that his kids and kids growing up wouldn’t be beaten on and killed as much as its happening now. The Nation of Islam wanted absolute control of the White society. Baldwin was given the opportunity to become an influential figure in the Nation of Islam movement, he rejected Elijah Muhammed’s offer. James Baldwin declined this offer because he doesn’t like what this offer stood for. Baldwin says, ‘love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without and we know we cannot live within.’ Whites cannot love because they fear ‘to be judged by those who are not white’. Because Blacks are stereotyped to be ‘uncivilized’, “Animals”, and other terrible things. whites have the ‘private fears to be projected onto the Negro.’ Fear only promotes further racism and bring the worst attitudes out in people. He states that the problem with racial oppression will never be resolved unless the white man gives up power which don’t think is true I think that whites can still have the power they just need to direct it in another diction. Baldwin states that ‘mirrors can only lie,’ because they only reflect the surface of people instead of revealing the deep truth. Not only is this model limited, but limiting. If an assertive, loving, black Christianity can be realized in an embrace of an inclusive God and vision, it cannot be in the confines of conventional white Christianity. Thus, the book’s exploration of theology and culture proceeds. The progress, while neither neat nor systemic, brings the failures of Western culture to a task, then attempts to deconstruct them against the teachings offered in an extended interview with the Black Muslim leader Elijah Muhammad.
Baldwin’s discussion of the Nation of Islam had its origin in an August, 1961, meeting, actually an unplanned one. Baldwin had come to Chicago on business, and he was invited to the Chicago Temple after appearing on television with Malcolm X.
James Baldwin reflects his character in every story he tells by showing us how much he really cares for about the black community. He was like a Martin Luther king or a Malcolm X just not as known throughout history in my opinion it isn’t ok just because every story reflects on people differently and this story could’ve really helped someone understand what the black community goes through on a daily basis. “He begins by describing his own conversion to Christianity. When he turned fourteen, Baldwin felt overwhelmed by the crime and misery he saw around him in his Harlem community. He sensed that his only options were to leave his neighborhood through a special skill such as athleticism or music, to join a life of crime, or to join the church. He and his peers were limited in their possibilities and aspirations by the oppressive environment around them.” I chose to put this quote here because it shows what the black community was going through at the time and how it’s crazy but still happening to this day.
Elijah Muhammad and dedicated to the premises that, while Christianity is the white man’s wicked rationale for oppressing blacks, the true religion is that of Allah; all white people are cursed devils whose sway will end forever in ten to fifteen years, with God now black and all black people chosen by Him for domination under the theology of Islam. Baldwin describes an audience with Elijah: Muhammad is lucid, passionate, cunning – but he preaches a dogma of racial hatred that is no better than the reverse of whites’ hatred for blacks. Baldwin rejects it, saying to himself: “isn’t love more important than color?” He recognizes that the American blacks’ complex fate is to deliver white Americans from their imprisonment in myths of racial superiority and educate them into a new, integrated sensitivity and maturity. Should such an effort fail, then the words of a slave song may come true: “God gave Noah the rainbow sign, No more water, the fire next time!”
To sum up James Baldwin was an amazing black man who really cared what he spoke of about the black community, and I think his story should be shared more often.
"The Fire Next Time" by James Baldwin
In the book, “”The Fire Next Time””, composed by James Baldwin, there are two letters kept in touch with; one was to Baldwin’s 14-year-old nephew, and the second centered around race and religion dependent on Baldwin’s own encounters. James Baldwin was an African-American author, writer, dramatist, artist, and social faultfinder. Baldwin composed this book to advise America about the perpetual race issues that keep on plaguing our country.
The Fire Next Time was an elegantly composed book and completes an average occupation of portraying what was happening amid the 1960s and the race issues all through the world.
The primary letter that Baldwin kept in touch with his nephew was about the troubles he has experienced because of being African American. He represents what he considers himself and what he trusts that he can do when he winds up aging. Baldwin gives life exhortation and what he ought to do to influence change by the way he is treated as a strong black man. In the second paper he expounds on his involvement with Elijah Muhammad, and that he was a compelling and ground-breaking black leader. Moreover, Baldwin annals how the blacks are treated in the congregation, and how they don’t have a voice in what occurs at the church.
The Fire Next Time is an astounding showcase of Baldwin’s abilities. His gathering of articles is clear, strong, and right on the dot. To fortify his contention, Baldwin thinks about various perspectives, highly contrasting, Muslim and Christian. He pushes for the two races to trade off their solid perspectives and go to a concession to numerous civil right issues.
A portion of the strong key components of Baldwin’s book is his style incorporate structure, phrasing, and literary. His perplexing structure incorporates long sentences and numerous provisions. His word usage is amazing. Baldwin’s substantial utilization of suggestions, especially scriptural references, demonstrates him to be a knowledgeable man and draws broadly on the rich stylistic legacy of the African-American church. As indicated by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Baldwin got up Gates to another dimension of awareness. He says that Baldwin’s composition style is novel in that it contains “”magnificently long sentences that bristled with commas and capabilities. The scriptural rhythms addressed me with an uncommon promptness””. Baldwin drew on his encounters as a youthful Harlem priest to manage the cadence and example of his sentence structure.Baldwin’s lifted expression demonstrates that he is an informed man.
He has an incredible vocabulary with which to express his thoughts. In saying that white America is distant from whatever is left of the world, he thinks of, “”It is this individual vulnerability with respect to the white American people, this powerlessness to restore themselves at the wellspring of their own lives, that make the dialog, not to mention clarification, of any problem – that is, any reality- – so remarkably troublesome””. Baldwin’s style has helped him turned into a notable and regarded writer. The amazing writing style which is so particular of Baldwin joins certain complex components with an incredible contention for essential human rights in The Fire Next Time.
The Fire Next Time imparts different tales about how it resembled to live during the 1960s as a dark man. In general, I suggest that this perusing was useful about continuing racial strains, religious issues, and battles of being an African American as of now. It was extremely edifying when James Baldwin had the gathering with Elijah Muhammad about how he needed to roll out improvements in the congregation. When perusing this book, I thought that it was fascinating with respect to how vital religion was to a few, and how routine it was for others right now.
The Fire Next Time: Short Collection of Essays
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin is a short collection of essays that was first published in 1963. The first is called “My dungeon shook: letter to my nephew on the 100th anniversary of emancipation” and it’s a letter that James Baldwin wrote to his nephew on the 100th anniversary of emancipation. The message to his nephew is that he has been born into circumstances that limit his opportunities and it’s because he’s black and for no other reason.
Everything in his life has been set up for him to believe what white people say about him. You might expect him to jump in and say and “Don’t believe any of that”, but what he’s trying to do is provide a context for his nephew so he can understand the reality that he’s facing and the root of the problem which is that white Americans are stuck in history they don’t understand and we cannot be free of it until we understand it. I thought this first segment in the book was powerful because he touches of the status of our country. Baldwin writes: “This is your home, my friend, do not be driven from it; great men have done great things here, and will again, and we can make America what America must become.”
It is similar to Trump’s red-hatted mantra – but there’s a big difference between trying to make America “great again” and focusing on what it once was, rather than what it “must become”. This letter made me reflect on the state of our country, and the words Baldwin wrote are as relevant as ever. The second essay is titled: “Down at the cross: A letter from a region of my mind.” The essay itself displays the same themes as the letter, but mainly focusing on religion, and the role that is plays in race in America. He talks about his struggle with religion, and how it is tied to growing up and finding a place where he belongs. next time and one of them is a way he describes this coming of age and realizing that very little separated him from a life of crime or life on the streets he becomes aware as he describes it “the evil within and the evil around him.”
I think this part especially can be something students of my age can relate to, especially the part about trying to find a place where you belong, his being the church.He goes on to realize the church supports a hypocrisy among white people that allows us to not live as we say we do as our morals demand and to hide that even from ourselves. How then can the church expect African Americans to adopt these values? There is so much to cover with this section of the book because it makes up the bulk of this collection.
One of the final and most prominent arguments in the book is this : “ If white people could learn to love themselves and each other, there would be no race problem in America, because it would no longer be needed. He knows that he’s asking for the impossible, but he says: “What is human history and especially African American history but the perpetual achievement of the impossible.” The Fire Next Time is one of those books were in simply trying to describe it you use more words there in the book itself. It’s just so dense that I ended up underlining practically every word. I think the fire next time is a must read especially for Americans. It’s as relevant now as it’s ever been.
Integration as Acceptance: Martin Luther King and Malcolm X in the Context of ‘The Fire Next Time’
America claims to be a ‘melting pot,’ a land in which people of all cultures, backgrounds, and ethnicities come together to live in peace and prosperity. This assertion of acceptance and shared culture is merely a goal to strive towards and, unfortunately, is not nearly a reality. In actuality, different races, religions, and practices are often oppressed by American society, in particular, the black population. The constant oppression of the African American races dates back to Pre-Civil War America; black social progressives have been long at work fighting for true acceptance and integration of America. One progressive in particular, James Baldwin, fought for black liberation during a tumultuous time in American history. Through his 1963 novel, The Fire Next Time, Baldwin contemplates the controversial topic of integration, asserting that integration is based off of the acceptance of America’s past, one’s fellow citizens, and one’s self. Baldwin relates to other social progressives of the time, such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X by building off of their opposing ideas to form his own vision of integration in America.
Baldwin, the son of a preacher, develops a complication relationship to religion and it’s role in integration. While he sees a potential benefit for reform in its doctrine, he observes much hypocrisy within the actual application of Christianity in history. Throughout his lifetime, Baldwin observes white people distorting bible verses in an attempt to defend slavery, pastors using Church money to buy themselves new cars, people becoming divided as one religion is seen as ‘superior’ to others. Because of the apparent hypocrisy of the Christian church, Baldwin loses faith in the religion as a positive influence in the black struggle for integration. Martin Luther King Jr., on the other hand, fails to recognize this major fault in Christianity and believes it to be a powerful force that provokes radical social change. King alleges that Christianity causes blacks to rediscover their worth as it reveals to them “God loves all his children” (King, p. 119). He argues that, without Christianity, African Americans never would have fought for social justice, as they did not believe that they were worth equality. Unlike Baldwin, King thought religion to be the key to social equality and integration in America. Malcolm X, a follower of Islam, believes that religion is too polarizing, asserting that blacks would be far more successful if they were to keep their religion “in the closet,” or separate from their political, economic, and social philosophy (Malcolm X, p. 1). While this contrasts completely with King’s point of view, Baldwin comes to the same conclusion as Malcolm X but through different reasoning. Baldwin feels that religion has the potential to become a powerful tool to achieve integration but concedes that, if not used in a positive way, it must be disregarded, stating, “If the concept of God has any validity or any use, it can only be to make us larger, freer, and more loving. If God cannot do this, then it is time we got rid of Him.”
Baldwin shares similar ideas as King in how integration could be accomplished in America; both believe that social reform is only achieved through acts of nonviolence. Instead of gory revolutions one should practice love and understanding. African Americans needed to understand that whites had yet to adjust to a new social system and were involved in a power struggle; by understanding the white perspective, blacks could accept and love their neighbors, thus leading to integration. Baldwin instructs African Americans to help whites overcome their twisted view of reality, stating that “we, with love, shall force our brothers to see themselves as they are, to cease fleeing from reality and begin to change it” (Baldwin, p.10). Malcolm X adapts an entirely opposing view to Baldwin and King’s perspective of nonviolence and love, claiming that every successful revolution has been bloody and argues, “you don’t have a revolution in which you love your enemy” (Malcolm X, p. 2). No other group in history has had to fight a slow, nonviolent battle; because of this Malcolm X believes that African Americans have a right to bloodshed. King, however, judges that African American have the responsibility to stop the vehemence; stating, someone must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate” (King, p. 121). Baldwin sympathizes with Malcolm X’s point of view but ultimately discovers that love, or the acceptance of other people, is a more realistic approach to integration. He declares, “The universe . . . has made no room for you, and if love will not swing wide the gates, no other power will or can” (Baldwin, p.8). Despite an internal struggle with his resonation with Malcolm X’s teachings, Baldwin concludes that integration is only a realistic concept when accomplished through love and acceptance.
Malcolm X, a follower of the Islam community, fought for black separatism, thinking whites to be evil. The movement of Islam in America appealed to blacks as it created a sense of racial pride in which African Americans had never experienced. Black Muslim speakers held speeches and, for the first time in history, police were scared to disrupt them. In Malcolm X’s point of view, integrated America would have no integration at all; according to him, “the black man should control the politics and the politicians in his own community” (Malcolm X, p.2). Blacks would be in power of their own nation and whites would have no place. To Malcolm X, separation is freedom. While the movement intrigues Baldwin, he finds the outcome undesirable and unrealistic; he states, “What happens when the Negro is no longer a part of [the American] economy? . . . the American Negro’s spending power will obviously no longer be the same. On what, then, will the economy of this separate nation be based?” (Baldwin, p.80). Baldwin recognizes that without inclusion in white society, blacks have no power. Instead of domination, Baldwin preaches acceptance; asserting that integration occurs when the races accept each other, “there is no bias whatever for their [whites] impertinent assumption that they must accept you…[and] you must accept them” (Baldwin, p.8). Through acceptance America can prosper as one united, integrated nation.
In his novelThe Fire Next Time,James Baldwin defines the relationship between integration, love, and acceptance. He alleges that integration is accomplished through love, not in the romantic sense but in acceptance. Through understanding one can accept and love his neighbor and true integration is achieved. Baldwin shares similar ideas to two other great progressives of the time, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. While Baldwin shares Martin Luther King’s optimism, he adapts a sense of Malcolm X’s realism as well. Baldwin’s views more closely align to that of Martin Luther King Jr. but they conflict in their perspectives on the role of religion in the movement towards integration. Despite this conflict, Baldwin and King agree on the role of love and acceptance in integration. Baldwin may not agree with Malcolm X’s conclusion of black separatism but he understands the reasoning behind the movement and is able to sympathize with the Black Muslim community. Baldwin is able to build off of both the perspectives of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, despite their radically different views. Through love and understanding America can accomplish true integration and become the melting pot it claims to be.