I get asked all the time, “Why do you quote James Baldwin so much?” My answer oftentimes, “Why don’t you quote him at all?” Baldwin is the epitome of what art should resemble. His writings are piercing critiques of an (a)merican system that refuses to honor a morality that it proclaims on paper. Baldwin requires that the system do a self-examination, however painful and uncomfortable, he places a mirror before the (a)merican power structure and says, “LOOK!!!”
James Baldwin is a paradox as El Kornegay so aptly states in his book The Queering of Black Theology. G.K. Chesterton describes a paradox as truth standing on its head screaming to get everyone’s attention. Baldwin becomes this paradox not by shameful antics for attention but by mere activation of a love that drives his compassion for humanity. He is driven by this insane love for humanity.( I reference his love as insane because it would appear that the work of getting others to understand humanity and the treatment of humanity is an impossible task.) The hatred that revolves around this country is unfathomable to most and ignored by many unless you are considered a minority. Baldwin’s daunting attempt to reconcile people to truth is what makes people uncomfortable with his art. This sacred beauty that invites us to grapple with injustice and explore a world of diversity. His ability to perichoretically improvise life, gives us a sense of what a true community in God might resemble –the ability to be honest, authentic, in/with love filled with compassion.