Since I didn’t get you anything for Christmas, here are a few thoughts to shop around at holiday parties: mementos from another year biting the dust: one that’s been pretty good for movies, and I haven’t even gotten to some of the big-ticket items yet: Roma, If Beale Street Could Talk . . .
One of the difficulties about being a Negro writer (and this is not special pleading, since I don’t meant to suggest that he has it worse than anyone else) is that the Negro problem is written about so widely. … Of the traditional attitudes there are only two—For and Against—and I, personally, find it difficult to say which attitude has caused me the most pain. I am speaking as a writer; from a social point of view I am perfectly aware that the change from ill-will to good-will, however motivated, however imperfect, however expressed, is better than no change at all.
-James Baldwin, 1955
I had decided to bone up on Baldwin’s essays before seeing Barry Jenkins’s adaptation of Beale Street, and found myself awed and ashamed: 63 years ago he’d stolen my thunder, articulated the thesis I wanted to make here.