Now here in this country, we’ve got something called a nigger..
We have invented the nigger.
I didn’t event him.
White people invented him.
I’ve always known,
I had to know by the time I was 17 years old,
What you were describing was not me,
And what you were afraid of was not me
It has to be something else,
Something YOU were afraid of – you invested me with.
Now, if that’s so…
No matter what you’ve done to me,
I can say to you this, and I mean
And I know,
And I’ve always known,
And really always – that’s part of the agony –
I’ve always known that I am not a nigger.
But if I am not the nigger,
And if it’s true that your invention reveals you,
Then who is the nigger?
I’m not the victim here.
I know one thing from another…
I know I was born, I’m gonna suffer and I’m gonna die.
The only way to get through life is know the worst things about it.
I’ve learned this because I had to learn it.
But, you still think, I gather,
That the nigger is necessary.
Well, he’s unnecessary to me,
So he must be necessary to you.
So I give you your problem back.
You’re the nigger, baby; it isn’t me.
-James Baldwin: Who is the Nigger? (excerpt from a 1963 television transcript)