Chamblee54

James Baldwin And The Six Letter Word

Posted in Race by chamblee54 on July 18, 2013







In the spring of 1963, KQED filmed a show, “Take this hammer”, about James Baldwin. The snippet in the video above seems to have been the last three minutes of the show. Here is a transcript. Mr. Baldwin discusses a six letter insult. The n-word is more about the speaker, than the spoken of. A 2010 blogger had this to say.

What resonated with me about this particular video though, is the universal experience we’ve all had being referred to, thought of as, or called something we inherently are not. Not because of something we’ve done, mind you – but because of the way others “interpret” us. Those of us that “transgress” gender norms are often given titles and names that don’t fit who we are – but are more representative of the fears and desires of others. I’ve often felt that people’s projections of me are oftentimes just that – their projections. However, Baldwin’s ending sums up a solution to this perfectly: “But you still think, I gather, that the n****r is necessary. Well he’s unnecessary to me – he must be necessary to you. Well, I’m going to give your problem back to you…you’re the n****r, baby…not me.”

It is now 2013. (All discussions of race must mention the year.) The TV show was fifty years ago. A few things have changed. To many white people, overt expressions of racism are seen as bad manners. The n-word is taboo in polite company. The overall attitudes may not have changed, but most white people are careful how they say things.

African America is keeping the n-word alive. But it is still about the speaker, not the one spoken of. When people say the nasty word, they are talking about themselves. They are now the people James Baldwin is talking about. Pictures are from The Library of Congress. These men are Union soldiers, from the War Between the States.






4 Responses

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  1. Ivy (Mommy Dourest) said, on July 19, 2013 at 9:40 am

    “most white people are careful how they say things. African America is keeping the n-word alive.”

    I found your sweeping generalizations naïve and, frankly, offensive. Plenty of white people are quite careless with this racial slur. I have had educated white people use that word in my presence. Blacks aren’t the only ones keeping the “N word” alive.

  2. […] about how your neighbor thinks, worry about how you think. If you don’t like the nasty word don’t use it. To some, racism is the ultimate taboo. It is the worst charge you can make about a person, and […]

  3. Who Is The Racist? | Chamblee54 said, on September 10, 2013 at 5:57 pm

    […] few weeks ago, this blog published a feature, James Baldwin And The Six Letter Word. At the center was selection of James Baldwin talking about the n word. There was a transcript […]

  4. […] few weeks ago, this blog published a feature, James Baldwin And The Six Letter Word. At the center was selection of James Baldwin talking about the n word. There was a transcript […]


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