James Baldwin tells us: “Who is the Ni**er?

Who is the Ni**er?

Well i know this…and anybody who has tried to live knows this.

What you say about somebody else (you know) anybody else, reveals you. What I think of you as being is dictated by my own necessities, my own psychology, my own uhm fears…and desires. I’m not describing you when I talk about you…I’m describing me.

Now, here in this country we got somebody called a ni**er. It doesn’t in such terms, I beg you to remark, exist in any other country in the world. We have invented the ni**er. I didn’t invent him, [people who identify themselves as] white people invented him.

I’ve always known, I had to know by the time I was seventeen years old, what you were describing was not me and what you were afraid of was not me. It had to be something else. You had invented it so it had to be something you were afraid of and you invested me with it.

Now if that’s so, no matter what you’ve done to me I can say to you this, and I mean it…I know you can’t do any more and I’ve got nothing to lose…and I know and I have always known you know and really always..that is part of the agony…I have always known that I am not a ni**er…but if I am not the ni**er…and if it is true that your invention reveals you…then who is the ni**er?

I am not the victim here. I know one thing from another. I know that I was born, am gonna suffer and gonna die. And the only way that you can get through life is to know the worst things about it.

I know that a person is more important than anything else. Anything else. I’ve learned this because I’ve had to learn it. But you still think, I gather, that the ni**er is necessary. Well he’s not necessary to me, so he must be necessary to you. So I give you your problem back. You’re the ni**er baby, it isn’t me.James baldwin

“Take This Hammer” filmed with James Baldwin in the spring of 1963 was produced for National Education Television by the KQED film unit, San Francisco


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