I had lunch at Sadlack's Heroes, and was once again served their delicious veggie wrap by my friend David. While there, sitting outside in the glorious sun on one of their picnic tables waiting for the place to open, and later inside while eating, I read three of James Baldwin's essays:
- Open Letter to the Born Again
Salient quote from this piece: "The people who call themselves "born again" today have simply become members of the richest, most exclusive private club in the world, a club that the man from Galilee could not possibly hope—or wish—to enter."
- If Black English Isn't a Language, Then Tell Me, What is?
Very, very interesting to me, from this essay: "A language comes into existence by means of brutal necessity, and the rules of the language are dictated by what the language must convey." And he points out, "Black English is the creation of the black diaspora. Blacks came to the United States chained to each other, but from different tribes: Neither could speak the other's language. If two black people, at that bitter hour of the world's history, had been able to speak to each other, the institution of chattel slavery could never have lasted as long as it did."
- A Fly in Buttermilk
This was by far my favorite essay, which is about the first time an African-American student went to a particular "white school" after integration was passed. This exchange, in which James Baldwin is speaking to the principal of the school, speaks volumes:
"Why," I asked, "is G. the only Negro student here?" According to this city's pupil-assignment plan, a plan designed to allow the least possible integration over the longest possible period of time, G. was the only Negro student who qualified.
"And, anyway," he said, "I don't think it's right for colored children to come to white schools just because [the schools are] white."
"Well," I began, "even if you don't like it..."
"Oh," he said quickly, raising his head and looking at me sideways, "I never said I didn't like it."
And then he explained to me, with difficulty, that it was simply contrary to everything he'd ever seen or believed. He'd never dreamed of a mingling of the races; and never lived that way himself and didn't suppose that he never would; in the same way, he added, perhaps a trifle defensively, that he only associated with a certain stratum of white people. But, "I've never seen a colored person toward whom I had any hatred or ill-will."
His eyes searched mine as he said this and I knew that he was wondering if I believed him.
I certainly did believe him; he impressed me as being a very gentle and honorable man. But I could not avoid wondering if he had ever really looked at a Negro and wondered about the life, the aspirations, the universal humanity hidden behind the dark skin. As I wondered, when he told me that race relations in his city were "excellent" and had not been strained by recent developments, how on earth he manged to hold on tho this delusion.
I later got back to my interrupted question, which I phrased more tactfully.
"Even though it's very difficult for all concerned—this situation—doesn't it occur t you that the reason colored children wish to come to white schools isn't because they want to be with white people but simply because they want a better education?"
We had a "working" staff meeting for about 45 minutes, after which the three of us crossed the street to the library to listen to an hour-long presentation and Q&A session with the first of three candidates applying for NSCU's open University IT Accessibility Coordinator, a position made available by Saroj's retirement last year.
After that, we got back together for another hour to finish what we'd started at our earlier meeting.
Between getting home and the time I left to go dancing, I completed my reading of, and feedback on, my friend and colleague's memoir. A well-written and poignant piece.
Dancing was fairly festive tonight. Carl and Bill were indeed back from their half-gay, half-straight line-dancing and two-stepping cruise, albeit Carl was in flip-flops and sporting a wrap around his ankle, which he had twisted pretty badly playing volleyball aboard ship.
A bit into the night, a couple (male & female) came into the bar, and we eventually met them—Irena ("I'm Russian," she'd said when introducing herself) and her friend John. She was from New Jersey and he was from Manhattan. Both were here on business. She was very impressed with the dancing and fun to be around to boot.
Needless to say, with our leader out of commission, we didn't have a lesson tonight.
Two times during the night, I made a turn or moved my left leg in such a way that a screaming pain went through my knee. Not good. I know it will not be pleasant tomorrow, and it worries me about the intense two days of dancing coming up at The Stomp. Grrrrr!