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.
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