Today is James Baldwin’s birthday. James Baldwin is my hero, so I’m going to post some quotes that might make you wonder if he’s still alive.
“I suppose it has always been difficult to be a writer. Writers tell us so & so does the history of any given time/place & what one knows of the world’s indifference. But I doubt there has ever been a time which demanded more of the writer than these present days.”—James Baldwin
“What the times demand, and in an unprecedented fashion, i that one BE—not SEEM—outrageous, independent, anarchical...That one resist at whatever cost the fearful pressures places on one to lie about one’s experience.”—James Baldwin
The president tweeted a video of one of his supporters shouting “white power” and people are on this website like “omg, so STUPID lol” and I really need y’all to understand that white supremacy is not “stupid,” it’s evil and deadly and how the fuck don’t you understand that?
Every time the president does something dangerous and atrocious, folks trip over themselves to laugh at him. Gawk at how “stupid” and “childish” he is. “He’s such a toddler.” But he’s not. He’s the president and he’s dangerous and you need to stop infantalizing him.
“Oh just wait, he’ll tire himself out.” But he hasn’t, has he? He’s tired you out. And me the fuck too. That’s because he is not a toddler and he’s not doing this shit on accident. There’s method here and part of it depends on your infantalization and dismissal.
I have a feeling a lot of people don’t really know what the word “neoliberal” means but they’re too embarrassed to admit it and too lazy to look it up and I have that feeling because I’m one of those people and I don’t want to be alone.
I am learning that it’s impossible to learn what neoliberal means without learning what a shit ton of other words mean. Basically a whole other ass language. I’m good.
The language of the left is impenetrable. No wonder it doesn’t persuade.
So last night I was on a zoom happy hour that got bombed by nazis who zeroed in on me (for some reason) and called me every nigger under the sun and told me to show my t*ts. So, yeah, I slept great last night. How about you?
I’m not sharing this to get anyone to feel sorry for me. I’m sharing it as a reminder that what we often dismiss as “just trolls” are often real people with real faces and voices. And votes.
And the rabid racism and bigotry that I too often hear ascribed to “boomers” is alive and well in the millenial generation and younger. These were not old men. All of them weren’t even men. I took screenshots. I won’t be tweeting them.
The Price of the Ticket: Collected Essays by James Baldwin
If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin
Why We Can’t Wait by Martin Luther King
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Coming of Age in Mississippi by Anne Moody
Ready for Revolution by Stokely Carmichael
Kindred by Octavia Butler
Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
A Gathering of Old Men by Earnest Gaines
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
For Colored Girls by Ntozake Shange
Masters of the Dew by Jacques Roumain (where my middle name comes from)
The Dew Breaker by Edwidge Danticat
Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth by Warsan Shire
No Telephone to Heaven by Michelle Cliff
As promised, a thread of my favorite climate pieces from 2019, in no particular order. As an intuitive, emotional literary geek, I’m always looking for writing that takes me somewhere, that breaks me down and builds me back up. These 7 pieces did that and more.
1. From @EricHolthaus “It’s a jarring feeling, knowing that we have to do centuries worth of work in just a few years. We have to re-learn how to love each other, how to share moments of stress, how to just exist during a moment of rapid change.” thecorrespondent.com/98/on-being-a-…
2. From @amywestervelt: “These dominant voices are agreed that climate change stories can be serious, sad, occasionally funny or hopeful, always “smart” and “knowledgeable,” more recently a bit alarmist, but never too emotional. And especially not angry.” popula.com/2019/08/19/the…
I suspect that people’s “shut down” around the climate crisis has less to do with the enormity and severity of the problem than with the overemphasis on personal responsibility for such a severe and enormous problem. Just a hunch.
The overemphasis on personal action is so bizarrely unique to climate action. Reproductive rights activists don’t tell ppl to stock up on IUDs as a solution. Prison reform advocates don’t say “just don’t get arrested” as a solution.
Why? Because the problems are bigger, they are collective. So is climate! Our reliance on individual action is really just a willful fall into the trap of individualism. Time to stop falling for it.
I’ve noticed a trend at almost every climate panel/discussion/interview I’ve participated in: someone (almost always a man) will want to short circuit the conversation straight to solutions. “Yeah, but what do we do with it?” There’s two problems with this.
Problem 1: It eliminates the room to fully analyze the problem, to really get to the roots of it and discover the inextricable links to colonialism and racism and patriarchy.
When you try to solve a problem without really understanding it, any solution you come up with WILL be, at best, half-assed. It will leave people behind. You’re not really solving the problem, you’re just buying yourself time.
If you think people of color should have to check the rest of their identity, their humanity, and their problems at the door in order to join the environmental movement, you don’t get to then be confused about why the movement is anemic.
We are too big of a demographic to be told to “wait,” to “get in line,” that you’ll “get around” to our “other problems.” We are the global majority. Put some respect on our names.
And real talk: we have been waiting FOR 👏🏽CENTURIES👏🏽bruh. Ain’t nobody got no more patience! And if you’d taken our “other problems” seriously then, we wouldn’t be here!
This #EarthDay, I want to talk about my journey toward finding my voice in the environmental/climate movement. Cause, in the words of Langston Hughes, it ain’t been no crystal stair.
Ever since I got involved in the environmental space 5 years ago, it became real clear real fast why the movement was so anemic. Simply put, the movement was telling itself an incomplete story that rendered people—esp. people of color—to the margins.
People of color are largely invisible in this color-blind movement. And I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel about that. But I know how I do feel: dismissed, silenced, erased. But also motherfucking determined to make you see me.