James Baldwin's 'a Talk to Teachers

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Ian Crum
AP Junior English
Bi-Weekly Journal #1

Though no idea of how this relates to the audience, the teachers, comes to mind, this speech by James Baldwin gave me some ideals to contemplate. It recounted the horrors that the American “way of life” afflicted the African American populous. Furthermore, Baldwin connects the American “way of life” to how “it is the American white man who has long since lost his grip on reality.”(p.128) Truly, this is not a speech intended for school teachers, but an explanation of how racism forced children to believe the lies; the lies about their humanity.

Baldwin ties many of America’s problems to the foundation of the thought of society itself. Societies, according to Baldwin, want only one thing, a citizenry who will follow that society’s rules. Once this is achieved, the civilization as a whole breaks down. His message in this speech is conflicting. The beginning explains that rule breakers are a necessity to the continuity of civilization. However, later in the speech, it is made clear that deviants will be crushed under a socially depriving hammer. Yet again he contradicts himself, saying that the oppressors follow the rules of their society. Then why is it that our social structure stands? If the majority of the social classes follow the rules, and following the rules leads to destruction, how is it that our socially inept, ignorant, intolerant civil classes manage to stay somewhat stable?

Baldwin recounts his experiences in life as a poor black child. He connects the socially depriving factors of the ghetto inflicted upon the people by themselves as well as those put on by their oppressors. He appeals to the audience’s sense of logos through his explanation of how many blacks thought they deserved the treatment they received. Baldwin lists many of the racial stereotypes used against the blacks in the ghetto, appealing to the audience’s sense of pathos. Finally, his previous works of literature and his...
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