The Evidence of Things Not Said: James Baldwin and the Promise of American Democracy

By Lawrie Balfour | Go to book overview

ONE

Speaking of Race

The Silences of the Majority

What could be more democratic than conversation among citizens about issues of national importance? What matter is in greater need of honest, thoughtful attention than the ongoing significance of race in American public life? 1 Though convinced that the appropriate answer to the first question is “nothing” and the answer to the second is “none, ” I have misgivings about the rage for racial dialogue. But why? One answer might simply be fatigue. Late in 1997, the New York Times summed up President Bill Clinton's national conversation on race with the following headline: “The Honest Dialogue That Is Neither.” The article reflects the weariness many Americans feel about “the country's never-ending discussion of race.” 2

Yet weariness is an inadequate response when matters of injustice are at issue. And neither the inconclusiveness of the president's initiative nor the disconnection of the dialogue from substantive policy measures alters the urgency of the need for race talk. Consideration of Lani Guinier's call for “a broad public conversation about

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The Evidence of Things Not Said: James Baldwin and the Promise of American Democracy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The Evidence of Things Not Said - James Baldwin and the Promise of American Democracy *
  • Contents *
  • Preface *
  • The Evidence of Things Not Said *
  • One - Speaking of Race *
  • Two - “a Most Disagreeable Mirror” *
  • Three - Blessed Are the Victims? *
  • Four - Presumptions of Innocence *
  • Five - The Living Word *
  • Afterword - Baldwin and the Search for a Majority *
  • Notes *
  • Bibliography *
  • Index *
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