Negroes know how little most white people are prepared to implement their words with deeds, how little, when the chips are down, they are prepared to risk. And this long history of moral evasion has had an unhealthy effect on the total life of the country, and has eroded whatever respect Negroes may once have felt for white people.
If one is continually surviving the worst that life can bring, one eventually ceases to be controlled by a fear of what life can bring; whatever it brings must be borne. And at this level of experience one's bitterness begins to be palatable, and hatred becomes too heavy a sack to carry.
I can conceive of no Negro native to this country who has not, by the age of puberty, been irreparably scarred by the conditions of his life. All over Harlem, Negro boys and girls are growing into stunted maturity, trying desperately to find a place to stand; and the wonder is not that so many are ruined but that so many survive.
Ultimately, the artist and the revolutionary function as they function, and pay whatever dues they must pay behind it because they are both possessed by a vision, and they do not so much follow this vision as find themselves driven by it. Otherwise, they could never endure, much less embrace, the lives they are compelled to lead.
It comes as a great shock…to discover that the flag to which you have pledged allegiance…has not pledged allegiance to you. It comes as a great shock to see Gary Cooper killing off the Indians, and although you are rooting for Gary Cooper, that the Indians are you.
The colors on the river faded, the rain began, and the river began to rise. It was apparent that the sun would soon give up the tremendous struggle it cost her to get to Paris for a few hours every day.
And all this is happening in the richest and freest country in the world, and in the middle of the 20th century. The subtle and deadly change of heart that might occur and you would be involved with the realization that a civilization is not destroyed by wicked people; it is not necessary that people be wicked but only that they be spineless.
If men don't know what's happening, what they're doing, where they're going--what are women to do? If Richard doesn't know what kind of world he wants, how am I to help him make it? What am I to tell our sons?
Because only an artist can tell and only an artist have told, since we have heard of man, what it is like for anyone that gets this planet, to survive it. What it is like to die, or to have somebody die, what it is like to fear death, what is it like to fear, what it is like to love, what it is like to be glad.
I did not know, however, that ancient glories imply, at least in the middle of the present century, present fatigue and, quite probably, paranoia; that there is a limit to the role of intelligence in human affairs; and that no people come into possession of a culture without having paid a heavy price for it.
Perhaps now, though, he had hit bottom. One thing about the bottom, he told himself, you can't fall any further. He tried to take comfort from this thought. Yet there knocked in his heart the suspicion that the bottom did not really exist.
The relatively conscious whites and the relatively conscious blacks, who must, like lovers, insist on, or create, the consciousness of the others in order to end the racial nightmare and acheive our country.
Any society inevitably produces its criminals, but a society at once rigid and unstable can do nothing whatever to alleviate the poverty of its lowest members, cannot present to the hypothetical young man at the crucial moment that so-well-advertised right path.
You must pray,' she says, very soberly. I assure you. Even just a little prayer, from time to time. Light a little candle. If it were not for the prayers of the blessed saints, one could not live in this world at all.
Confession Who knows more of Wanda, the wan, than I do? And who knows more of Terry, the torn, than I do? And who knows more than I do of Ziggy, the Zap, fleeing the rap, using his eyes and teeth to spring the trap, than I do! Or did. Good Lord, forbid that morning's acre, held in the palm.
But as long as we in the West place on color the value that we do, we make it impossible for the great unwashed to consolidate themselves according to any other principle. Color is not a human or a personal reality; it is a political reality.
The body in the mirror forces me to turn and face it. And I look at my body, which is under sentence of death. It is lean, hard, and cold, the incarnation of a mystery. And I do not know what moves in this body, what this body is searching. It is trapped in my mirror as it is trapped in time and it hurries toward revelation.
It happened, as many things do, imperceptibly, in many ways at once. I date it - the slow crumbling of my faith, the pulverization of my fortress - from the time, about a year after I had begun to preach, when I began to read again. I justified this desire by the fact that I was still in school, and I began, fatally, with Dostoyevsky.