ames Baldwin credited his friend and mentor, Beauford Delaney, with showing him how to see. A painter, Delaney introduced Baldwin to the play of light and color and taught him to recognize, in grimy puddles and broken sidewalks, the life that had previously been invisible to him. I mention Baldwin's tribute to Delaney because Baldwin has served a similar function for so many readers. He certainly serves that function for me.
My interest in Baldwin is both scholarly and political. When people ask why a white political theorist would choose Baldwin as the subject of her research, the glib response I generally offer is that Baldwin chose me. But the answer is not really glib at all. What I mean is simply that Baldwin's words captured me, immediately and insistently. The Fire Next Time, in particular, enabled me to think through the complicated interrelation between democratic ideals and American racial history in a way that the traditional resources of the political theory curriculum had not. But his words speak beyond the concerns of political theory. By providing a moral vocabulary supple enough to contend with such issues as inequality, citi