As far as politics goes, 2017 has been one of the roughest years no matter where you live. In the UK, the topic of Brexit has seemed to create a domino effect with other countries wanting to exit as well. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel has yet to even secure a fully-realized governmental body. I could go on endlessly about our United States president.
I’m happy to say that I was recently able to examine the state of our racial and political system as it relates to racial identity by reading two works by celebrated black intellectual and author James Baldwin—and he didn’t disappoint.
The Fire Next Time
“There are too many things we do not wish to know about ourselves.” James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time
I started reading Baldwin with the non-fiction novel The Fire Next Time. Throughout the book, a thought continued to come up in my mind: This is exactly what he’d say to Trump if he were alive today.
Throughout the two letters, (Which, at the time, were both written on the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation), Baldwin speaks on doubting his religion, the hypocrisy of the American political system among the races, and being friends with a white person. It’s almost as if he saw Trump coming from a mile away, even in 1963.
“People can’t, unhappily, invent their mooring posts, their lovers and their friends, anymore than they can invent their parents. Life gives these and also takes them away and the great difficulty is to say Yes to life.” James Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room
Giovanni’s Room directly deals with the idea of the complexity of human love. It follows a character named David as he travels to Paris and falls in love with a man named Giovanni, the title’s namesake. It easily creates an avenue to talk about race relations and more.This book seems to be the muse for the 2016 movie Moonlight.
Baldwin’s impact on The Trump Era
Reading both books in the era of Trump felt utterly freeing.This isn’t just some two-dimensional, at-surface-value view on the subjects. Both novels have deep layers that spark immediate conversation among anyone who reads it. In today’s author landscape, Ta-Nehsi Coates is hailed as the spawn of Baldwin’s literary career. In the present political climate, it makes you wonder if Trump has read Baldwin. I’m sure if he had, he’d understand so much more about the full varsity of human compassion and what it means to live as a queer person of color in the position of power he holds. The fire has come again and I personally don’t believe that Trump realizes the spark he has helped to reignite.