Americans, unhappily, have the most remarkable ability to alchemize all bitter truths into an innocuous but piquant confection and to transform their moral contradictions, or public discussions of such contradictions, into a proud decoration, such as are given for heroism on the battle field.

-James Baldwin, Notes of a Native Son

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“When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.”

-Jonathan Swift, Thoughts on Various Subjects, Moral and Diverting

Hatred, which could destroy so much, never failed to destroy the man who hated and this was an immutable law.
It began to seem that one would have to hold in the mind forever two ideas which seemed to be in opposition. This first idea was acceptance, the acceptance, totally without rancor, of life as it is, and men as they are: in the light of this idea, it goes without saying that injustice is a commonplace. But this did not mean that one could be complacent, for the second idea was of equal power: that one must never, on one’s own live, accept these injustices as commonplace but must fight them with all one’s strength. The fight begins, however, in the heart and it now had been laid to my charge to keep my own heart free of hatred and despair.

-James Baldwin, Notes of a Native Son

… but no one was interested in the facts. They preferred the invention because this invention expressed and corroborated their hates and fears so perfectly. It is just as well to remember that people are always doing this. Perhaps many of those legends, including Christianity, to which the world clings began their conquest of the world with just some such concerted surrender to distortion.

-James Baldwin, Notes of a Native Son

I can conceive of no Negro native to this country who has not, by the age of puberty, been irreparably scarred by the conditions of his life. All over Harlem, Negro boys and girls are growing into stunted maturity, trying desperately to find a place to stand; and the wonder is not that so many are ruined but that so many survive.

-James Baldwin, Notes of a Native Son