James Baldwin in the Spring of 1963

Beyond Capitalism Now

James Baldwin: Who is the Nigger?

Well, I know this, and anyone who has ever tried to live knows this: what you say about somebody else, anybody else, reveals you.  What I think of you as being is dictated by my own necessities, my own psychology, my own fears and desires.  I’m not describing you when I talk about you.  I am describing me.

Now here in this country we’ve got something called a nigger.  There’s not such term, I beg you to remark, exists in any other country in the world.  We have invented the nigger.  I didn’t invent it.  White people invented it.

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…

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