Chamblee54

James Baldwin And The Six Letter Word

Posted in Library of Congress, Race by chamblee54 on July 11, 2014






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.





A 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 available, which makes today’s exercise a lot easier.

Mr. Baldwin was discussing this nasty word, and offered an insight into who the user of this nasty word was really talking about. Now, there is another nasty word being casually tossed about these days. This other nasty word is racist. What would happen if you took Mr. Baldwin’s talk, and substituted racist for nasty? It is an interesting way to look at things. What follows is not a perfect fit, and may be offensive to some. A few times, it is very close to the truth.

Who is the racist? Well i know this…and anybody who has tried to live knows this. What you say about somebody else (you know) anybody else, reveals you. What I think of you as being is dictated by my own necessities, my own psychology, my own uhm fears…and desires. I’m not describing you when I talk about you…I’m describing me.

Now, here in this country we got somebody called a racist. It doesn’t in such terms, I beg you to remark, exist in any other country in the world. We have invented the racist. I didn’t invent him, white people invented him. I’ve always known, I had to know by the time I was seventeen years old, what you were describing was not me and what you were afraid of was not me. It had to be something else. You had invented it so it had to be something you were afraid of and you invested me with it.

Now if that’s so, no matter what you’ve done to me I can say to you this, and I mean it…I know you can’t do any more and I’ve got nothing to lose…and I know and I have always known you know and really always..…I have always known that I am not a racist…but if I am not the racist…and if it is true that your invention reveals you…then who is the racist?

I am not the victim here. I know one thing from another. I know that I was born, am gonna suffer and gonna die. And the only way that you can get through life is to know the worst things about it. I know that a person is more important than anything else. Anything else. I’ve learned this because I’ve had to learn it. But you still think, I gather, that the racist is necessary. Well he’s not necessary to me, so he must be necessary to you. So I give you your problem back. You’re the racist baby, it isn’t me. This is a double repost.




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  1. […] about themselves. African Americans are now the people James Baldwin is talking about. This is a repost. Pictures are from The Library of Congress. These men are Union soldiers, from the War Between the […]

  2. […] are talking about themselves. They are now the people James Baldwin is talking about. This is a repost. Pictures are from The Library of Congress. These men are Union soldiers, from the War Between the […]

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    […] with me. ~ how racist is “fuck”? maybe it is racist to say “racist af” ~ James Baldwin ~ Jason Smith Facts don’t matter! Michele DiPietro You’ve been saying that For YEARS!! […]

  5. […] attitudes may not have changed, but most white people are careful how they say things. This is a repost. Pictures are from The Library of Congress. These men are Union soldiers, from the War Between the […]

  6. […] and call PG rude names. He must be doing something right. Later, there was a double feature about James Baldwin. In the first half, Mr. Baldwin expresses a few opinions about that word. In the second half, PG […]

  7. The Ta-Nehisi Coates Video | Chamblee54 said, on November 19, 2020 at 9:33 am

    […] and call PG rude names. He must be doing something right. Later, there was a double feature about James Baldwin. In the first half, Mr. Baldwin expresses a few opinions about that word. In the second half, PG […]

  8. […] attitudes may not have changed, but most white people are careful how they say things. This is a repost. Pictures are from The Library of Congress. These men are Union soldiers, from the War Between the […]


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