DuBois Professor of the Humanities Henry Louis Gates Jr. discussed James Baldwin and political correctness last night in a panel discussion sponsored by the Institute of Politics.
In a talk entitled "Remembering James Baldwin: A Case Study of Political Correctness," Gates, who chairs the Afro-American Studies department, discussed his admiration of the Black author.
"I wanted to approach [the topic] in a different way by focusing in someone who lost their voice," said Gates before a crowd of over 200.
Calling Baldwin his "own personal oracle," Gates told the audience how Baldwin's personal and public struggles with being Black and gay had inspired and influenced him.
"We love our heroes once they're dead," Gates said.
Later speaking of pivotal experiences he had as a youth concerning his race, Gates said "I knew actions of other people had become my responsibility."
As a youth, Gates first contact with Baldwin's works left him with an impression that Black and white culture could not be separated.
"I had come to realize that Black culture has a texture and a logic of its own but was inextricable from white culture," Gates said.
Gates also addressed more general questions of race relations and urged Black Americans not to intentionally seek adversaries.
"Black America needs allies more than it needs absolution," he said.
Other speakers at the forum included Richard Brookhiser, senior editor of the National Review, who spoke about the different methods for handling the great degrees of diversity in America.
"A culture is dealt a certain hand by its own history," Brookhiser said. "The tug [of uniculturalism] has to be strengthened.