Teju Cole on James Baldwin’s Stranger In The Village


81vLzNFRzFL._SL1500_English: James Baldwin, Distinguished Visiting Professor at Miami Dade College (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“The rage of the disesteemed is personally fruitless…but it is also absolutely inevitable.”

The above quote is James Baldwin’s and part of the sentences in the last paragraph written by Teju Cole in The New Yorker this week. He noted that:

“There are glances all over Europe and in India, and anywhere I go outside Africa. The test is how long the glances last, whether they become stares, with what intent they occur, whether they contain any degree of hostility or mockery, and to what extent connections, money, or mode of dress shield me in these situations. To be a stranger is to be looked at, but to be black is to be looked at especially.”

Teju also wrote about the inner turmoil older generation of blacks faced when it came to the appreciation of art as it relates to their own culture and inner leanings. He perceived that the present generation isn’t shackled by that; he wrote:

There’s no world in which I would surrender the intimidating beauty of Yoruba-language poetry for, say, Shakespeare’s sonnets, nor one in which I’d prefer the chamber orchestras of Brandenburg to the koras of Mali. I’m happy to own

all of it. This carefree confidence is, in part, the gift of time. It is a dividend of

the struggle of people from earlier generations.

The essay is one of the best I have read this year. It is subtle, sharp, and clear as it captures the inner turmoil of identification, belonging, and the indignity racism brings upon us all, regardless of colour.


Every Day is for the Thief: Teju Cole: Books

ISBN: 0571307922
ISBN-13: 9780571307920


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