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I Am Not Your Negro

“I Am Not Your Negro” (2016) is a documentary based on James Baldwin’s narration of the Negro struggle and sacrifices of three great Black revolutionists Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther. He unravels the deep-rooted racism in the institutions of the American state in the forms of strict segregation in public and personal spheres of life. He also mentions the issues of segregated educational institutions and difficulties faced by students. He narrates a scene of 15 years old Dorothy Counts who one of the first Black students to be admitted to an all-white high school in North Carolina. She was harassed and spat upon by a white mob while making her way to school on her first day. She even mentioned later that adults aggravated the bullying or stayed quiet. The radical change of admitting black children to all-white schools happened after Brown v. Board of Education case's landmark judgment of Supreme Court in 1954 which ruled that racial segregation of children in public schools was unconstitutional. It is such a powerful and my most favorite case which always gives me happy chills. This documentary also made me think about the African American community's struggle to get their right to quality education that was given to white children in all-white schools. These struggles started in the form of non-violent protests by the black community but state-sanctioned violence was used against black revolutionary leaders. The leaders were murdered in cold blood, hundreds of black people were also killed in protests and retaliation by the black community. One of Baldwin dialogue stuck with me in which he recalls a negros’ place in America by saying, “I am the most despised child of the house and it is because the American people are unable to face the fact that I am flesh of their flesh, bone of their bone, created by them” (I Am Not Your Negro). Instead of accepting the shackles of racism, the privileged white expressed their remarks as, “Why aren't negros optimistic? It’s getting so much better” (I Am Not Your Negro). It shows that despite losing their loved ones and continuously living in fear and conflict, the spoonful of rights that the black community got were also despised by the whites. It is similar to what most men and even women say about the Aurat march and women's rights that they have got enough, what do they need more?


ps: pls read the summary or watch the Brown v Board of Education videos on youtube. It's sooo good, makes me cry happy tears every time.


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Well written, Zoha! I first saw this documentary for Introduction to Sociology (SOC 100) back in my first-year. From my viewing and after reading your post, I am reminded of how Baldwin recognized that racism in America is not driven by hatred of the average black person; rather, it is defined by the structure of institutions. A particularly powerful scene highlighting this appears towards the end of the film, where in a clip from The Dick Cavett Show, Baldwin says “I don’t know what most white people in this country feel. I can only include what they feel from the state of their institutions,” and then goes on to describe how institutions like the Christian church, labor unions, real estate…

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Thank you for sharing this with us.

It is interesting to notice Baldwin’s unique ability to expose the ways anti-black sentiment constituted not only American social and political life but also its cultural imagination.

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This is an incredible ruling - one of those that alter the course of human history. But I can't help but feel that sometimes laws are passed by the government as a means to rid themselves of responsibility. It was not enough for this law to be put in place, without acknowledging that the white community would find and exploit loopholes to still ensure the black community feels unwelcome. It almost seems like a way to stay on the good side of both communities and curtail any protests or rebellions. Had they truly wanted equal rights for the black community, how had they not anticipated and tried to legalize punishment for those members of the white community who tried to…

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Eman Rashid
Eman Rashid
Apr 25, 2021

I watched this documentary for my sociology class and what has stuck with me ever since is the role of law in granting citizens rights. Although, after this landmark case, black children had the right to attend the same schools as white children, that didn’t mean that all their obstacles to accessing this necessity were removed, as seen so clearly in the way Dorothy Count was treated. This made me think that although equal rights under law are a great step, they do not recognise that certain groups have been systemically disadvantaged and there is no level playing field. Maybe we need to take a step further and insure equality in the way the laws are implemented and the impact…

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Even after the passing of landmark ruling such as Brown Vs Board of Education, the terrible struggles of people like Dorothy Count and so many others in accessing their rights makes me think of W.E.B Dubois text, 'The Souls of Black People', particularly this one line from it, "The Nation has not yet found peace from its sins; the freedman has not yet found in freedom his promised land."

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