An excerpt from “The Black Boy Looks at the White Boy” by James Baldwin. Originally appeared in Esquire, May 1961.
Reprinted in Nobody Knows My Name (1961: The Dial Press):
There is a difference, though, between Norman [Mailer] and myself in that I think he still imagines that he has something to save, whereas I have never had anything to lose. Or, perhaps I ought to put it another way: the things that most white people imagine that they can salvage from the storm of life is really, in sum, their innocence. It was this commodity precisely which I had to get rid at once, literally, on pain of death. I am afraid that most of the white people I have ever known impressed me as being in the grip of a weird nostalgia, dreaming of a vanished state of security and order, against which dream, unfailingly and unconsciously, they tested and very often lost their lives. It is a terrible thing to say, but I am afraid that for a very long time the troubles of white people failed to impress me as being real trouble. They put me in mind of children crying because the breast has been taken away. Time and love have modified my tough-boy lack of charity, but the attitude sketched above was my first attitude and I am sure that there is a great deal of it left.
From the dedication for Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? by Martin Luther King, Jr. (1967: Harper & Row, Publishers):
To the committed supporters of the civil rights movement, Negro and white, whose steadfastness amid confusions and setbacks gives assurance that brotherhood will be the condition of man, not the dream of man