by Walter Dellinger
“Baldwin reached a snap judgment that resonated with me. “The Southern landscape — the trees, the silence, the liquid heat,” he wrote, “seems destined for violence.” After all, “what passions cannot be unleashed on a dark road in a Southern night!” A nation that averts its eyes from the hell of subjugation — and what subjugation does both to the oppressor and to the oppressed — is one that will never truly understand race.
Reading Baldwin made me see white men, including myself, differently as well. What price were we paying for the inhumanity of the system of which we were a part? Baldwin led me to understand how much of the “race problem” was a white problem. As Chris Rock would later put it, our national problem is not about “race relations.” It is about the fact that “white people were crazy. Now they’re not as crazy.”