Posted by Doug Draper, September 26th, 2016 on Niagara At Large
“If we – and now I mean the relatively conscious whites and the relatively conscious blacks, who must, like lovers, insist on, or create, the consciousness of the others – do not faulter in our duty now, we may be able, handful that we are, to end the racial nightmare, and achieve our country, and change the history of the world. If we do not now dare everything, the fulfillment of that prophecy, recreated from the Bible in song by a slave, is upon us: God have Noah the rainbow sign, No more water, the fire next time.”
–from the late American writer James Baldwin’s epic 1960s epic essay ‘The Fire Next Time’ which still stands to this day as one of the most eloquent and stirring plea for racial reconciliation ever written.
When ‘The Fire Next Time’ was first published in the early 1960s, Harper’s and Atlantic magainzes .took turns praising it as “a compassionate and eloquent sermon, demanding the most agonizing self-examination from anyone who reads,” and as a work that is “scorching in its candor” and “plunges to the human heart of the matter.”
Yet apparently even Baldwin’s passionate words – still very much available in numerous newer editions of his writings on racial relations for anyone who cares to read them, have not been enough to dampen down the level of racial violence documented on American streets in recent years, or the hateful rhetoric spewing from the mouth of a certain candidate who is dangerously close to being voted in as the next president of the United States.
And for those of us in Canada who believe this is mostly an American problem, we might want to remind ourselves that the kind of prejudices and intolerances we are seeing play out south of the 49th parallel are still alive in this country for millions of people who vote for politicians at the federal, provincial and municipal level who want to ban from entry or screen certain classes of immigrants for whatever their definition is of “Canadian values” or who engage in bashing members of the LBGT community or others they viewas a threat to those values.
More than 50 years after James Baldwin wrote ‘The Fire Next Time’, we still have a long way to go in the peace and tolerance department and it might not hurt both Americans and Canadians to start with a collective re-reading of that essay and national discussions on what the essay was trying to say.
In that spirt, I’ll finish here with a few more words from ‘The Fire Next Time’.
“In short,” writes Baldwin in the final pages of the essay, “we, the black and the white, deeply need each other here if we are to become a nation – if we are really, that is, to achieve our identity, our maturity, as men and women.”
Find out about a new book of essays and poems inspired by James Baldin’s original essay, called ‘The Fire This Time – A New Generation Speaks About Race’, compiled by award-winning writer Jesmyn Ward by clicking on – http://www.simonandschuster.ca/books/The-Fire-This-Time/Jesmyn-Ward/9781501126345 .
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“A politician thinks of the next election. A leader thinks of the next generation.” – Bernie Sanders
– – a on …..