NC’s own ‘beguiling, bewitching, deeply American lunatic’

“Contradictory, irrational, weird…these are the appropriate adjectives to assign to the phenomenon of racism we too often, and to our detriment, regard as something rational, to be dealt with linearly, bluntly. When it comes to race in America, the story is… always more complex. The most peculiar, most fantastic story I heard during the 2008 election prepared me for what would take place in America over the next few years — not a sudden awakening from a history of racism, but a mere recess from it; not a lunacy cured, but a madman’s revelatory wink: he knows this is madness, but he is committed to it, nevertheless….

“A friend was campaigning for then-candidate Obama in North Carolina. They had organized a town-hall meeting, where people could come to get their questions answered. The situation had grown heated and yet tired — the conversation was going around in circles. And finally one white man, in utter exasperation, rose and threw on his cap. ‘F–k it,’ he hollered, ‘I’m voting for the n—–!’

“Here is the cry of a confused and yet not-at-all-confused man — in short, here is the cry of a lunatic. And he is our lunatic. He is our beguiling, bewitching, deeply American lunatic….”

— From Uzoamaka Maduka‘s introduction to James Baldwin’s “Stranger in the Village” in the now-defunct American Reader (December 2012)

 

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