Post by Misha
And now, another entry in the ongoing unofficial Hullabaloo critical theory book club.
I just finished reading James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, a searing indictment of white America and what many describe as the spiritual predecessor of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between The World And Me, one of my favorite books last year.
One of Baldwin’s most compelling philosophies, for me, is his belief in love as the only way out of tyranny. But not love in a sappy sense. Not even love in a religious sense; not love without consequences, or love without defense against hate. His conception of love is huge and inspiring and, on the whole, far more generous than what we often imagine love to be.
“Love,” writes Baldwin, “takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.”
He argues that freedom is love, and love is not a mirror.
Further, he sees freedom as conceived now as merely the ability of the oppressed to mold themselves into mirror images of their oppressors, thereby both flattering the ego and conscience of the oppressors and ensuring that we never advance as a culture beyond a “civilization” of coveted whiteness.
But love is not a mirror. Love is seeing another as they truly are, and celebrating that otherness, and giving others the power and warm-hearted blessing to pursue themselves. It is welcoming new modes of being, and allowing someone else’s evolution to expose one’s own flaws and mistakes, to spur evolution in one’s self.
It is, and has always been, this kind of radical love that will answer our most urgent questions and heal our most gaping wounds.
“Everything now, we must assume, is in our hands; we have no right to assume otherwise.”
Alfa Mist is one of my favorite discoveries this year. I was sent a link to his 2017 album, Antiphon, by one of my friends and fell headlong in to his soothing blend of jazz and hip-hop. Created around a series of conversations with his brothers, the album is a sultry and compelling listen. Put it on at your most stressful family gathering this holiday season. Buy the album here.