By Alex Zamalin
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Extra resources for African American Political Thought and American Culture: The Nation’s Struggle for Racial Justice
Who wanted legal nondiscrimination, equal dignity and public respect. 6 But Baldwin always resisted thinking about freedom in ways understandable to Americans. Freedom was not alive in ways American patriots believed. 7 Equally puzzling was his belief that freedom was something private and existential. ”8 Emphasizing freedom rather than liberty meant eschewing the debate about its political manifestations. 9 He also refused to follow the modern tradition of natural rights thinking, which believed freedom was synonymous with birth.
Nonetheless, their belief in their own abstract patriotic myths, tropes of honor, fantasies of sexual purity, valor and faith in justice remained unshaken. Baldwin believed that what was missing here was both the corrective to this world-view and what both camps misunderstood: “Human freedom is a complex, difficult—private—thing. If we can liken life, for a moment to a furnace, then freedom is the fire which burns away illusion. ”34 As if to name the dynamic, individual life at its center, human rather than political freedom was a powerful force for destroying misconceptions and lies.
76 Baldwin’s call for such self-knowledge departed from African American political thought’s equation of knowledge with worldly education.
African American Political Thought and American Culture: The Nation’s Struggle for Racial Justice by Alex Zamalin