Paying Our Dues


The powerful documentary¬†“I am not your negro” by Raoul Peck recently introduced me to the important figure of James Baldwin. By juxtaposing recent events with clips of his interviews and excerpts from his final project, the film provides a striking demonstration of the relevance of Baldwin’s words on the state of racial relations in today’s United States. The reaction of part of the public to Peck’s work further attests to the timeliness of Baldwin’s ideas on this subject. The documentary also offers a glimpse on other, but not all, aspects of this thinking.

While, as Baldwin writes, “When one begins to live by habit and by quotation, one has begun to stop living“, a number of quotes from his writing on culture, progress and information, are worth reproducing here:

— “The paradox of education is precisely this – that as one begins to become conscious, one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated.

— “No people come into possession of a culture without having paid a heavy price for it.

—¬† “It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.”

— “No one can possibly know what is about to happen: it is happening, each time, for the first time, for the only time.”


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