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Principally, No Name in the Street is a book written by James Baldwin. It was first published in 1972 and depicts many several historical events from the writer’s time. Primarily, Baldwin recollects some of the vivid childhood experiences that shaped his early consciousness. Furthermore, he expounds on the painful events of Africans beginning with the murder of Martin Luther King to the assassination of Malcolm X. Consequently, he elaborates on his stay in Hollywood and Europe and concludes with his return to the American South where he has gone to confront violent United States (Baldwin, 2007). Therefore, this paper seeks to reflect on James Baldwin’s ideas in his book No Name in the Street.
Chiefly, Baldwin emphasizes the American abortive civil rights movement where suspicion has been substantiated. His passion, persuasiveness, and honesty made an impact on the life of the African Americans by freeing the standoffs in racial discourse. Notably, this helped in creating a fleeting illusion that whites could sympathize with the blacks and seriously comfort them concerning the issue of racism. Together with Martin Luther King, Baldwin was able to shape the idealism upon which the sixties civil rights protest was founded. During the demonstration participants insisted on referring to the blacks as the conscience of the nation, as they were able to expose the American obstinacy regarding the racial matter. For this reason, they were instrumental in exhausting the dream of an operative upright appeal to Americans, and this set a stage for Malcolm X. Moreover, other persons such as Stokely Carmichael, Elridge Cleaver, Huey Newton among others were able to react in a purely realistic manner to the shattered expectations of the sixties’ unsuccessful idealism (Baldwin, 2007).
Next, Baldwin was a witness to the unrestrained and corrupt period of the Civil Rights Movement. Broadly, he discusses his whereabouts amidst the murder of three of the movements’ most influential and significant persons. Some of these people included Malcolm himself, Martin, and Medgar. Further, he describes his involvement in the movement and philosophizes its meaning as well. He points out the key players and impacts in the United States and his eventual change of attitude to the possibility of America ever accomplishing racial accord. Consequently, Baldwin gives a historical glance at an era of systematic hatred, deep racism, and oppression. Seemingly, this happens to an uncertain innocent Harlem friend who escapes to Germany in order to avoid a murder, which is essentially a gay hate crime. Later on, the suspect is caught, brought back to New York, and eventually convicted of the crime of which Baldwin is not sure (Mower, 2014). Ostensibly, Baldwin does not care so much about this issue compared to the symbolism of the possible exoneration. Meaningfully, he is more concerned about the American judicial system, especially the evil and wicked relation to the McCarthy phenomena. Besides, he tries to look at the criminally corrupt New York system under which his friend is to be put on trial.
In addition, Baldwin seems to be aware of how crooked the American police can be in case they realize no one is observing them. For this reason, he becomes more interested in getting his colleague off the hook just for the purpose of sticking to the legal system. Markedly, the American lawful system has always mistreated, assassinated, and destroyed a larger number of black men than the rest, and, therefore, his comrade would not be an exception. As a result, his friend’s innocence is predicated on the idea that whether he is guilty or not, he deserves to be set free, because he will never get a free trial in the court. Apparently, Baldwin seems quite sure that the court will not believe him and will hence imprison his friend by virtue of skin color (Magill, 2013). As a result, the trial of his colleague becomes a symbol of objection and revolt against the American judiciary system for its endless history of injustice towards the Africans in America.
Afterward, Baldwin was able to notice in advance that the Algerian situation would still exist. Seemingly, he had gone to France in order to escape racism and live with Africans in relative peace. He goes to Paris without money and frequents almost all the Arab cafes. Through all these experiences, he fails to understand why Camus produced William Faulkner’s Requiem for a nun. In his reflection, he sees that Faulkner is attempting to exorcise history which seems to be a curse in his work. In his argument, he contends that cultural pretensions of history are just a mere mask of power. He had already known this would happen in 1956 when he saw a picture of a school child being jeered by a crowd as he sought to integrate her school when he would be leaving Europe to return to America. Upon his return in 1957, he noted that New York was in a different outlook and opted to go to the south (Lipsitz, 2011). Astoundingly, he claims that he has always been struck with the emotional poverty in America, but that could not be compared to the terror he experienced in the south. He relents that that the people in the south who were facing the civil rights movement were real heroes. Apparently, he had never seen such horror or poverty in his entire life. Later on, Baldwin came to the realization that in the fifties and sixties, he was indeed a great black hope of the great white father.
Subsequently, Baldwin’s ideas seem to be biased in a particular way. For instance, in general, he refers to the Germans as they know nothing regarding what happens to them. Even though he inexplicably compares the American citizens to the Nazi German citizens, not all Americans could be described as being uncritical in such a general way. Seemingly, there was a countable number of Americans who had acted, protested, and even died just in the defense of the black people’s rights. Baldwin was able to give an example of the Rosa Park’s incident that was responsible for the survival of Martin Luther King during the era. King was a man who had been born and bred to fight injustice and lead the path of struggle (Baum, 2010). It was the Rosa Park’s issue that had sparked interest in him, and, as a result, he led one of the great movements of the 20th century. On the same note, Baldwin does not mention the importance of black women during the civil rights period. Notably, a number of African women were in one way or another involved in the Rosa Park’s problem. They had planned, rehearsed, and participated in realizing that it was a success. Despite this, he fails to acknowledge some of these women such as Ella Vekar, Hamer and other poor women who were involved at the grassroots level. Consequently, he does not mention some of his friends such as Simon and Hansberry, who were involved in the Panther movement. Likewise, he does not highlight the positive contributions that Eleanor Roosevelt made to better the lives of the blacks in America.
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Presently, a number of issues that Baldwin brought up still continue to exist in Baltimore up to date. First, most individuals are still attending schools in underfunded and moldy facilities. Notably, large percentage of the learning institutions are segregated by race. For instance, almost 60% of black individuals make up the city schools, whereas about 80% of them do attend the k-12 classrooms. Consequently, the number of high school dropouts tends to be high particularly among the African Americans, even though this trend has improved steadily since 1990 (Mower, 2014). In addition, Baltimore has continued to experience high poverty rates, but the figures ascend when filtered through the prisms of race and locality. Joblessness is still a problem in most of the cities with most African Americans still unemployed. Overall, almost 30% of Baltimore's African Americans currently live below the centralized poverty line, which is nearly double the rate of whites. Moreover, unemployment has shot up markedly among the black youth (Magill, 2013).
In conclusion, Baldwin’s book No Name in the Street reflects on the history life of the black Americans in the United States. They experienced racism and inequalities from the whites, and such people as Martin Luther King were mistreated and killed at some point. Notably, most of Baldwin’s passages are insightful and candid regarding what took place during the era. Moreover, his views should provide a more serious impeachment against individuals and a palpable indication of their moral degeneration. Unless the issues of racism and inequality become irrelevant in the current world, Baldwin’s sights can be regarded as relevant.