From ‘Victim’ to ‘Threat’: James Baldwin and the Demands of Self-Respect | The Nation

If you wish to be taken seriously, there are a few things you need to do before speaking critically of the police. Suggesting that such a vaunted American institution may be fallible is a sin only mitigated by pre-emptively issuing certain caveats. If you’re going to talk about police brutality, for example, you must first say, “The police have a very dangerous job.” If you’re going to talk about unjust laws, you first have to acknowledge that “the police are here to protect us.” If you want to talk about racist profiling tactics, you have to note that “most police officers aren’t racist.” And if you wish to talk about how aggressive policing disproportionately affects black, brown and poor people, subjecting them to daily harassment in addition to pushing them into our nation’s prison system, which has consequences on their economic, political, and social futures, you must first reassure your audience that “not all cops are bad.”

James Baldwin did none of these things.

There is probably no other writer, living or deceased, who has diagnosed the problems of American racism better than Baldwin, and that’s due, in large part, to his refusal to issue those sorts of caveats. We can still turn to him to glean a deeper understanding racism, which he sought to weed out of the American garden, root and branch. He didn’t hedge. He wasn’t especially concerned about being alienated from the mainstream for telling the truth—as a black gay man who had grown up poor in America, he was plenty alienated to begin with. Articulating a vocal and radical critique of the American institutions responsible for that alienation could hardly have left him more powerless than he already was.

In 1966 he turned his big, penetrating eyes toward the police. Here in the pages of The Nation (which has the distinct honor of having been the first publication to carry his work), Baldwin wrote “A Report from Occupied Territory.” A group of young black boys were harassed and beaten by the police, and for their crime of being young black boys, they were punished with long prison sentences. To read it in 2015 is to read an all too familiar story. In some ways, eerily so. I paused in rage upon reading this passage:

via From ‘Victim’ to ‘Threat’: James Baldwin and the Demands of Self-Respect | The Nation.

One comment

  1. Reblogged this on .

Doña Dulcinea

The Sun Shines Behind The Clouds Through The Raindrops Falling On My Head

Socialist Action

In Solidarity With Workers and the Oppressed Everywhere

Richardson Reports

News you can't get anywhere else....


The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry Fukushima Chernobyl Mayak Three Mile Island Atomic Testing Radiation Isotope

AGR Free Press

Quaker Inspired Art/Humor, Sarcasm, Satire, Magic, Mystery, Mystical, Sacred, 1984 War=Peace, Conspiracy=Truth, Ignorance=Strength, Sickness=Health, Ego=Divine


News, data and insight about the powerful forces that shape the world.


Louise Mensch, National Security Journalism

Angry White Men

Tracking White Supremacy

Tina Ngata

Dismantling Frameworks of Domination, Rematriating Ways of Being.


News, politics, insights, inside information from the left

Mike Rothschild

Conspiracy theory researcher and debunker

caged but undaunted

stanley l cohen


We are a group of grassroots activists from all over the world. Palestine Unites Us. News about Palestine and its supporters worldwide

settler colonial studies blog

A blog for the advancement of settler colonial studies


Longreads : The best longform stories on the web


"In a time of universal deceit, to tell the truth is an act of revolution." ~ George Orwell

%d bloggers like this: