"The thing so difficult to communicate is the difference between my experience as a black man and your experience as white people," novelist James Baldwin said last night. He spoke in the Christ Church parish house.
"People do not know what Hariem and the South Side are like. Why don't they know? Because they don't go to Hariem. They go to a night club. They have a Negro friend, or a Negro maid. They listen to Ornette Coleman and Miles Davis. But they don't wake up every morning in Harism."
Baldwin emphasized the relation beteen the Negro and white apprehension of the world. Recalling that "I choked on the words of the 'Star Spangled Banner'" he talked about the difference between the America a white sees and America as perceived by a Negro.
"I say--and no one seems to get my point--that what you do not know about me you do not know about yourself. The myths people have created about the Negro--about his sexual prowess, that he is a better Christian, or that he can never be civilized--reveal what is in them themselves. Who said I want to marry your sister--regardless of whether I do or not? Not we--you."
'Create Your Own Merality'
Although Baldwin condemned much of American society, he had favorite targets to which he continually referred. "You have to create your own morality," he said. "Not what President Kennedy said, or the Pope said, or the rest of the football team say." "Bobby Kennedy says that in forty years a Negro can be President. What he's saying is that in forty years a Negro can be like Bobby Kennedy."
Turning to Cuba in reply to a question, Baldwin said "let us suppose we invade Cuba and win. We can't keep doing that forever. The thing that makes me ill about Cuba is the assumption that arms can do something about it. Nothing can be done about Cuba--we lost it long before the revolution. The Western world has created more Cubas than it can handle."
Baldwin said the United States had used its wars as an excuse for doing nothing about the Negro problem. "We were told 'later for you--we have to go to France, then 'later for you--we're going to Germany, to Korea.' 'Later for you--we're going to Berlin. The Russians are on our backs--later for you.' It may be that we have reached the point where we can no longer say 'later for you.'"
"I'm not asking for a cup of coffee, or a house, or anything. I'm not asking for it anymore--I'm going to take it. It's my right."
Asked if he "saw an answer as long as the situation remains the same," Baldwin replied, "Don't you see--the situation cannot remain the same."