1. Compare and contrast “Letters From the Birmingham City Jail” by Martin Luther King Jr. and the documentary I Am Not Your Negro featuring the words of James Baldwin.
2. What can they tell us about contemporary race relations in the United States; in particular, how is racism a “white problem” rather than a “negro problem”?
3. As with all of our discussion boards, you are required to thoughtfully reply to at least two of your colleagues.
Recommended Length: 5-8 paragraphs
Note: I am using the language of the source material here (Negro, Black, etc.). If you care to, you may address this in your post.
To help you get started, here are a sample of possible topics. You do not need to address these specific questions directly:
- The degree to which racial inequality has been ingrained in television, movies, music, etc. and the resulting effects.
- The role of the White moderate who is apathetic and/or ignorant of racial inequality.
- How or why Whites need racial injustice and how this ultimately affects both the Negro and Whites.
- The tradeoff between freedom and oppression.
- The legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, and racial injustice both in the 1950s and today.
- Various tactics used in the struggle for civil rights.
- I Am Not Your Negro documentary. Available on Netflix and elsewhere.
- Here are some argument-based questions from the Baldwin documentary that may help focus your thoughts. You do not need to address each of these specific questions directly in your essay:
- (12:30) What experiences did Baldwin have as a child that prevented him throughout his life from hating white people? How would you paraphrase this conclusion that he draws: “White people don’t act the way they do because they are white, but for some other reason”? What does he mean here? (18:00) What argument is Baldwin making in the clip we see from a debate he took part in at Cambridge University in 1965? What is his claim? What support does he provide for it? (44:00) What do you think Baldwin is getting at when he says that the problems of racism in America is actually not a racial problem? What kind of problem is it, then? What is Baldwin’s support for this claim?(47:00) Summarize Baldwin’s complex argument premised on the distinction between white America’s public face and its private self, as it pertains to their relationship to black people.(49:00) Baldwin explains that when white and black people hate each other, there is a different underlying, root emotion behind the hatred. What is the root of black people’s hatred of whites? What is the root of white people’s hatred of blacks? How does the imagery from the late-1950s film “The Defiant Ones” comment on these views?(1:04:00) What does the video montage of apologies, along with Baldwin’s words underneath them, say about apologies and American immaturity or childishness?(1:11:00) What is Baldwin’s argument when the film shows images of happy and affluent white families?(1:22:00) Baldwin declares, “The story of the negro in America is the story of America. It is not a pretty story.” Is this the main argument of this documentary? Explain and substantiate your response.(1:28:00) Baldwin states, “Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.” What significance does this statement have in the context of race relations? Why does Baldwin say that this principle gives African-Americans a “terrifying advantage”?(1:30:00) Baldwin concludes: “The future of the negro of this country is entirely the same as the future of this country.” What does the future of the country depend on, in the film’s closing words from Baldwin?
- Chapter 4, American Government Examined Reader, “Letters From the Birmingham City Jail” by Martin Luther King Jr.
- Chapters 3 and 4 of your Open to Debate e-text
- References of your choice to contemporary race relations. Spike Lee’s Will History Stop Repeating Itself 0:94 sec. https://twitter.com/SpikeLeeJoint/status/1267269978320826368?s=20
- Here is a link to a New York Times review of The Sum of Us by Heather McGhee that addresses some of the ways in which racism imposes a cost to all of us: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/23/books/review-sum-of-us-heather-mcghee.html?.?mc=aud_dev&ad-keywords=auddevgate&gclid=CjwKCAjwy7CKBhBMEiwA0Eb7akRj3gRqTunwUMz0X27qhJA9sIkSKOCOJVX8f19ChlB1wjM05GvHDxoCR_4QAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds
Tips for Success:
- I will be looking for direct references to assigned material
- I recommend composing your content in an offline text editor and then copying and pasting in post. That way you will have an offline copy of all of your hard work.
- You are required to reply to two of your peers in this forum; reply first to those students who have not had a lot of replies. In your replies, provide some thoughtful feedback on their ideas. Are you all basing your decisions on the same type of reasoning? Might you be able to point someone to some resources from the course that they would find helpful
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