I have a confession. I am embarrassed to type these next words. Please forgive me. Before sitting down to watch "I Am Not Your Negro," I knew nothing of the life of James Baldwin. I didn't know about his writing. I didn't know about his speeches. I didn't know about his television appearances. I didn't know about his relationship with Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. After watching this documentary, I have never been more proud of a lesson. Baldwin taught me things about systemic white privilege that I never realized. His words and teachings forced me to look introspectively and analyze how what I do everyday perpetuates the system. This film did exactly what any great documentary should do; it changed my worldview. For days and weeks now, I have been unable to shake it.
Now, I wouldn't dare and try, to sum up, what it means to black in America. I have not walked a mile in my fellow citizens' shoes. I have not lived their history. Their story is different than mine. Yet, I live with an unquenchable thirst. I live with a desire to learn more. I want to develop empathy and compassion. I want to know the truth even if that truth impacts my worldview. I am open to change, growth, and understanding. I stand ready for powerful films and the conversations they can inspire. More than any documentary that I have seen in the last 12 months, this film inspired me. It planted a seed in my head that is only beginning to grow.
While I can't string together a stirring sentence of what it means to be black in America, I do know that the struggle continues. I know, despite all of the struggles we've overcome as a nation, we are far from a perfect union. That work is still before us and what comes next may be the most challenging. It will require the ruling class to analyze their systems. They will have to analyze where their power comes from and who is held powerless because of their systems. This is arduous work. No one documentary can fix that, but this is a step in the right direction. It is the continuation of an unyielding conversation; one we must continue no matter the consequences.
Be good to each other,