I Am Not Your Negro (2016) Movie Script

Mr. Baldwin,
I'm sure you still
meet the remark that:
"What are the Negroes...
why aren't they optimistic?
Um... They say, "But
it's getting so much better.
There are negro mayors,
there are negroes
in all of sports."
There are negroes in politics.
They're even accorded
the ultimate accolade
of being in
television commercials now.
I'm glad you're smiling.
Is it at once getting
much better and still hopeless?
I don't think there's
much hope for it, you know,
to tell you the truth,
as long as people are using
this peculiar language.
It's not a question of
what happens to the Negro here,
or to the black man here,
that's a very vivid question
for me, you know,
but the real question is what's
going to happen to this country.
I have to repeat that.
You're damn right,
I've got the blues,
From my head
down to my shoes
You're damn right,
I've got the blues,
From my head
down to my shoes
I can't win
'Cause I don't have
a thing to lose
I stopped by
my daughter's house
You know I just want to
use the phone
I stopped by
my daughter's house
You know I just want to
use the phone
The summer has scarcely begun,
and I feel already
that it's almost over.
And I will be 55.
Yes, 55, in a month.
I am about to undertake
the journey.
And this is a journey,
to tell you the truth,
which I always knew
that I would have to make,
but had hoped, perhaps,
certainly had hoped,
not to have to make so soon.
I am saying that a journey
is called that
because you cannot know
what you will discover
on the journey,
what you will do
with what you find,
or what you find will do to you.
Not only have a right
to be free,
- we have a duty to be free.
- Yeah.
And so when you sit down on the bus
and you sit down in the front,
or sit down by a white person,
you are sitting there because
you have a duty to sit down,
not merely because
you have a right.
The time
of these lives and deaths,
from a public point of view,
is 1955,
when we first heard of Martin,
to 1968, when he was murdered.
Medgar was murdered
in the summer of 1963.
Malcolm was murdered in 1965.
Here, take my hand,
Precious Lord
Lead me on
Let me stand
I am tired
I'm weak
I am worn
Through the storm
The three men,
Medgar, Malcolm, and Martin,
were very different men.
Consider that Martin
was only 26 in 1955.
He took on his shoulders
the weight of the crimes,
and the lies,
and the hope of a nation.
I want these three lives
to bang against
and reveal each other,
as in truth, they did
and use their dreadful journey
as a means of
instructing the people
whom they loved so much,
who betrayed them,
and for whom
they gave their lives.
The moment a negro child
walks into the school,
every decent, self-respecting,
loving parent
should take his white child
out of that broken school.
Go back to your own school.
God forgives murder
and he forgives adultery.
But He is very angry
and He actually curses
all who do integrate.
That's when
I saw the photograph.
On every newspaper kiosk
on that wide, tree-shaped
boulevard in Paris,
were photographs
of 15-year-old Dorothy Counts
being reviled and spat upon
by the mob
as she was making her way
to school
in Charlotte, North Carolina.
There was unutterable pride,
tension and anguish
in that girl's face
as she approached
the halls of learning,
with history jeering
at her back.
It made me furious,
it filled me
with both hatred and pity.
And it made me ashamed.
Some one of us should have
been there with her!
But it was on that
bright afternoon
that I knew
I was leaving France.
I could simply no longer
sit around Paris,
discussing the Algerian
and the Black American problem.
Everybody else
was paying their dues,
and it was time
I went home and paid mine.
If you was white,
You'd be alright
If you was brown,
Stick around
But as you's black
Oh, brother
Get back, get back, get back
I went to
an employment office
I got a number
and I got in line
They called
everybody's number
But they never did call mine
I said, if you was white,
You'd be alright
If you was brown,
Stick around
But as you's black
Oh, brother...
I had at last come home.
If there was, in this,
some illusion,
there was also much truth.
In the years in Paris,
I had never been homesick
for anything American.
Neither waffles, ice cream,
hot dogs, baseball,
majorettes, movies,
nor the Empire State Building,
nor Coney Island,
nor the Statue of Liberty,
nor the Daily News,
nor Times Square.
All of these things
had passed out of me.
They might never have existed,
and it made absolutely
no difference to me
if I never saw them again.
But I missed my brothers
and sisters, and my mother.
They made a difference.
I wanted to be able to see them,
and to see their children.
I hoped that
they wouldn't forget me.
I missed Harlem Sunday mornings
and fried chicken,
and biscuits,
I missed the music,
I missed the style...
that style possessed by
no other people in the world.
I missed the way
the dark face closes,
the way dark eyes watch,
and the way,
when a dark face opens,
a light seems to go everywhere.
I missed, in short,
my connections,
missed the life which had
produced me and nourished me
and paid for me.
Now, though I was a stranger,
I was home.
I am fascinated by the movement
on and off the screen.
I am about seven.
I'm with my mother, or my aunt.
The movie is
Dance, Fools, Dance.
I was aware that Joan Crawford
was a white lady.
Yet, I remember being sent
to the store sometime later,
and a colored woman who, to me,
looked exactly
like Joan Crawford,
was buying something.
She was incredibly beautiful.
She looked down at me
with so beautiful a smile
that I was not even embarrassed,
which was rare for me.
By this time,
I had been taken in hand
by a young white schoolteacher
named Bill Miller,
a beautiful woman,
very important to me.
She gave me books to read and
talked to me about the books,
and about the world:
about Ethiopia, and Italy,
and the German Third Reich,
and took me to see
plays and films,
to which no one else
would have dreamed
of taking a ten-year-old boy.
It is certainly
because of Bill Miller,
who arrived
in my terrifying life so soon,
that I never really managed
to hate white people.
Though, God knows,
I've often wished to murder
more than one or two.
Therefore, I begin to suspect
that white people
did not act as they did
because they were white,
but for some other reason.
I was a child of course,
and therefore unsophisticated.
I took Bill Miller as she was,
or as she appeared to be to me.
She too, anyway,
was treated like a nigger,
especially by the cops,
and she had no love
for landlords.
Can't get him up!
Can't get him up!
Can't get him up!
Lazy Richard!
Can't get him up!
In these days,
no one resembling my father
has yet made an appearance
on the American cinema scene.
Can't get him up!
We'll try to get him
on the phone
I was laying down
No, it's not entirely true.
There were, for example,
Stepin Fetchit and Willie Best
and Mantan Moreland,
all of whom, rightly or wrongly,
I loathed.
It seemed to me that they lied
about the world I knew,
and debased it,
and certainly I did not know
anybody like them,
as far as I could tell.
For it also possible that
their comic, bug-eyed terror
contained the truth
concerning a terror
by which I hoped
never to be engulfed.
Yet, I had no reservations
at all concerning the terror
of the Black janitor
in They Won't Forget.
Give me police!
Give me police!
Give me...
Give me police!
I think that it was
a black actor
named Clinton Rosemond
who played this part,
and he looked
a little like my father.
I didn't do it. I didn't do it!
I didn't do it! I didn't do it!
He is terrified
because a young white girl
in this small Southern town
has been raped and murdered,
and her body has been found
upon the premises
of which he is the janitor.
Good morning, Tump.
The role
of the janitor is small,
yet the man's face
bangs in my memory until today.
- I have done nothing.
- Nobody says you have, Tom.
But they might.
The film's
icy brutality both scared me...
What for?
...and strengthened me.
Because Uncle Tom
refuses to take vengeance
in his own hands,
he was not a hero for me.
Heroes, as far as I could see,
where white,
and not merely
because of the movies,
but because of the land
in which I lived,
of which movies
were simply a reflection.
I despised
and feared those heroes
because they did take vengeance
into their own hands.
They thought vengeance
was theirs to take.
And, yes, I understood that:
my countrymen were my enemy.
I suspect that all these stories
are designed to reassure us
that no crime was committed.
We've made a legend
out of a massacre.
Leaving aside
all the physical facts
which one can quote.
Leaving aside rape or murder.
Leaving aside the bloody catalog
of oppression,
which we are, in one way,
too familiar with already,
what this does
to the subjugated
is to destroy
his sense of reality.
This means, in the case
of an American negro,
born in that
glittering republic,
and in the moment you are born,
since you don't know any better,
every stick and stone
and every face is white,
and since you have not yet
seen a mirror,
you suppose that you are too.
It comes as a great shock
around the age of five,
or six, or seven,
to discover that Gary Cooper
killing off the Indians,
when you were
rooting for Gary Cooper,
that the Indians were you.
It comes as a great shock
to discover the country,
which is your birthplace,
and to which you owe
your life and your identity,
has not, in its whole system
of reality,
evolved any place for you.
I know how to do it,
It is a matter of research
and journeys.
And with you or without you,
I will do it anyway.
I begin in September,
when I go on the road.
"The road" means
my return to the South.
It means briefly, for example,
seeing Myrlie Evers,
and the children.
Those children
who are children no longer.
It means going back to Atlanta,
to Selma, to Birmingham.
It means seeing
Coretta Scott King,
and Martin's children.
I know that Martin's daughter,
whose name I don't remember,
and Malcolm's oldest daughter,
whose name is Attalah
are both in the theatre,
and apparently are friends.
It means seeing Betty Shabazz,
Malcolm's widow,
and the five younger children.
It means exposing myself
as one of the witnesses
to the lives and deaths
of their famous fathers.
And it means much,
much more than that.
"A clod of witnesses,"
as old St. Paul once put it.
I saw Malcolm before I met him.
I was giving a lecture
somewhere in New York.
Malcolm was sitting
in the first row of the hall,
bending forward at such an angle
that his long arms
nearly caressed the ankles
of his long legs,
staring up at me.
I very nearly panicked.
I knew Malcolm only by legend,
and this legend,
since I was a Harlem street boy,
I was sufficiently astute
to distrust.
Malcolm might be the torch
that white people claim he was,
though, in general,
white America's evaluations
of these matters
would be laughable
and even pathetic
did not these evaluations
have such wicked results.
On the other hand,
Malcolm had no reason
to trust me either.
And so I stumbled
through my lecture,
with Malcolm never
taking his eyes from my face.
Don't know why
There's no sun up in the sky
Stormy weather
Since my man and I
ain't together
Keeps rainin' all the time
As a member
of the NAACP,
Medgar was investigating
the murder of a black man,
which had occurred
months before,
had shown me letters
from black people
asking him to do this,
and he had asked me
to come with him.
Raise up!
Get yourself together,
And drive that funky soul
I was terribly frightened,
but perhaps that fieldtrip
will help us define
what I mean by the word
I was to discover that the line
which separates a witness
from an actor
is a very thin line indeed.
Nevertheless, the line is real.
I was not, for example,
a Black Muslim,
in the same way,
though for different reasons,
that I never became
a Black Panther.
Because I did not believe that
all white people were devils,
and I did not want young
black people to believe that.
I was not a member of any
Christian congregation because
I knew that they had not heard
and did not live
by the commandment,
"Love one another
as I love you."
And I was not a member
of the NAACP
because in the North,
where I grew up,
the NAACP was fatally entangled
with black class distinctions,
or illusions of the same,
which repelled
a shoe-shine boy like me.
I did not have to deal with the
criminal state of Mississippi,
hour by hour and day by day,
to say nothing
of night after night.
I did not have to sweat
cold sweat after decisions
involving hundreds
of thousands of lives.
I was not responsible
for raising money,
or deciding how to use it.
I was not responsible
for strategy
controlling prayer-meetings,
voting registration drives.
I saw the Sheriffs,
the Deputies,
the Storm Troopers,
more or less in passing.
I was never in town to stay.
This was sometimes
hard on my morale,
but I had to accept,
as time wore on,
that part of my responsibility,
as a witness,
was to move as largely
and as freely as possible.
To write the story,
and to get it out.
We should all be concerned
with but one goal,
the eradication of crime.
The Federal Bureau of
Investigation is as close to you
as your nearest telephone.
It seeks to be your protector
in all matters
within its jurisdiction.
It belongs to you.
White people
are astounded by Birmingham.
Black people aren't.
White people are endlessly
demanding to be reassured
that Birmingham
is really on Mars.
They don't want to believe,
still less to act on the belief,
that what is happening
in Birmingham
is happening
all over the country.
They don't want to realize
that there is not one step,
morally or actually,
between Birmingham
and Los Angeles.
Move on, move on!
We've invited three men,
on the forefront
of The Negro Struggle,
to sit down and talk with us
in front
of the television camera.
Each of these men, through
his actions and his words,
but with vastly different
manner and means,
is a spokesman for some segment
of the Negro people today.
Black people in this country
have been the victims
of violence at the hands
of the white man for 400 years.
And following the ignorant
negro preachers,
we have thought that it was
Godlike to turn the other cheek
to the brute
that was brutalizing us.
Malcolm X, one of the most
articulate exponents
of the Black Muslim philosophy,
has said of your movement
and your philosophy
that it plays into the hands
of the white oppressors,
that they are happy
to hear you talk about
love for the oppressor,
because this disarms the Negro
and fits into the stereotype
of the Negro as a meek,
turning the other cheek
sort of creature.
Would you care to comment
on Mr. X's beliefs?
Well, I don't think of love
in this context,
as emotional bosh,
but I think of love
as something strong
and that organizes itself
into powerful direct action.
This is what I've tried to teach
in the struggle in the South.
We are not engaged in a struggle
that means we sit down
and do nothing.
There is a great deal
of difference between
non-resistance to evil
and non-violent resistance.
Martin Luther King is just a
20th century or modern Uncle Tom
or a religious Uncle Tom,
who is doing
the same thing today
to keep Negroes defenseless
in the face of attack
that Uncle Tom did
on the plantation
to keep those Negroes
in the face of the attacks
of the Klan in that day.
I think, though,
that we can be sure
that the vast majority
of Negroes
who engage in
the demonstrations,
and who understand
the non-violent philosophy,
will be able to face dogs
and all of the other brutal
methods that are used
without retaliating
with violence,
because they understand
that one of the first principles
of non-violence
is a willingness
to be the recipient of violence,
while never inflicting violence
upon another.
As concerns Malcolm and Martin,
I watched two men,
coming from unimaginably
different backgrounds,
whose positions, originally,
were poles apart,
driven closer
and closer together.
By the time each died,
their positions had become,
virtually, the same position.
It can be said, indeed,
that Martin picked up
Malcolm's burden,
articulated the vision
which Malcolm had begun to see,
and for which he paid
with his life,
and that Malcolm
was one of the people
Martin saw on the mountain-top.
Medgar was too young
to have seen this happen,
though he hoped for it, and
would not have been surprised.
But Medgar was murdered first.
I was older than Medgar,
Malcolm and Martin.
I was raised to believe that
the eldest was supposed to be
a model for the younger,
and was, of course,
expected to die first.
Not one of these three
lived to be forty.
Two, four, six eight,
we don't want to integrate!
Two, four, six eight,
we don't want to integrate!
We want King! We want King!
We want King!
We need an organization
that no one downtown loves.
We need one that's ready
and willing to take action,
any kind of action,
by any means necessary.
When Malcolm talks,
or one of the Muslim
ministers talk,
they articulate for all
the Negro people who hear them,
who listen to them,
they articulate their suffering.
The suffering which has been
in this country so long denied.
That's Malcolm's great authority
over any of his audiences.
He corroborates their reality.
He tells them that
they really exist, you know.
Get back. Get back!
I am!
I am!
There are days,
this is one of them...
...when you wonder...
...what your role is
in this country
and what your future is in it.
How precisely
are you going to reconcile...
to your situation here,
and how you are going
to communicate...
...to the vast,
heedless, unthinking...
...cruel white majority
that you are here.
I'm terrified
at the moral apathy,
the death of the heart,
which is happening
in my country.
These people have deluded
themselves for so long
that they really don't think
I'm human.
I base this on their conduct,
not on what they say.
And this means that they
have become, in themselves...
...moral monsters.
Most of the white Americans
I've ever encountered,
really, you know, had
a Negro friend or a Negro maid
or somebody in high school,
but they never, you know,
or rarely, after school was over
or whatever,
came to my kitchen, you know.
We were segregated
from the schoolhouse door.
Therefore, he doesn't know,
he really does not know,
what it was like for me
to leave my house,
to leave the school
and go back to Harlem.
He doesn't know
how Negroes live.
And it comes as a great surprise
to the Kennedy brothers
and to everybody else
in the country.
I'm certain, again, you know,
that again like most white
Americans I have encountered,
they have no...
I'm sure they have nothing
whatever against Negroes...
That's really not the question.
The question is really
a kind of apathy and ignorance,
which is the price we pay
for segregation.
That's what segregation means.
You don't know what's happening
on the other side of the wall,
because you don't want to know.
I was in some way,
in those years,
without entirely realizing it,
the great Black Hope
of the great White Father.
I was not a racist,
or so I thought.
Malcolm was a racist,
or so they thought.
In fact, we were simply
trapped in the same situation.
Well, you tell that
to my boy tonight,
when you put him to sleep
on the living room couch.
And you tell it to him
in the morning,
when his mother goes out of here
to take care
of somebody else's kids.
And tell it to me, when we want
some curtains or some drapes
and you sneak out of here and
go work in somebody's kitchen.
All I want is to make
a future for this family.
All I want is to be able to
stand in front of my boy
like my father
never was able to do to me.
Lorraine Hansberry
would not be very much younger
than I am now,
if she were alive.
At the time of the
Bobby Kennedy meeting,
she was thirty-three.
That was one of the very last
times I saw her on her feet,
and she died at the age
of thirty-four.
I miss her so much.
People forget how young
everybody was.
Bobby Kennedy, for another,
quite different example,
was thirty-eight.
We wanted him
to tell his brother,
the president,
to personally escort to school,
on that day or the day after,
a small black girl,
already scheduled
to enter Deep South School.
"That way," we said,
"it will be clear that
whoever spits on that child
will be spitting on the nation."
He didn't understand this
"It would be," he said,
"a meaningless moral gesture."
"We would like," said Lorraine,
"from you, a moral commitment".
He looked insulted,
seemed to feel that
he'd been wasting his time.
Well, Lorraine sat still,
watching all the while.
She looked at Bobby Kennedy,
who, perhaps for the first time,
looked at her.
"But I am very worried,"
she said,
"about the state
of the civilization
which produced that photograph
of the white cop
standing on that Negro woman's
neck in Birmingham."
Then she smiled.
And I am glad
that she was not smiling at me.
"Goodbye Mr. Attorney General,"
she said,
and turned
and walked out of the room.
And then, we heard the thunder.
...He stopped at his house
on the way to the airport
so I could autograph my books
for him, his wife and children.
I remember Myrlie Evers
standing outside, smiling,
and we waved,
and Medgar drove to the airport
and put me on the plane.
Months later,
I was in Puerto Rico,
working on my play.
Lucien and I
had spent a day or so
wandering around the island,
and now we were driving home.
It was a wonderful,
bright, sunny day,
the top to the car was down,
we were laughing and talking,
and the radio was playing.
Then the music stopped...
...and a voice announced
that Medgar Evers
had been shot to death
in the carport of his home,
and his wife and children
had seen the big man fall.
Medgar Evers was buried
from the bullet he caught
They lowered him down
as a king
But when the shadowy sun
Sets on the one
That fired the gun
He'll see by his grave
On the stone that remains
Carved next to his name
Only a pawn in their game
The blue sky seemed
to descend like a blanket.
And I couldn't say anything,
I couldn't cry.
I just remembered his face,
a bright, blunt, handsome face,
and his weariness,
which he wore like his skin,
and the way he said "ro-aad"
for road.
And his telling me
how the tatters of clothes
from a lynched body hung,
flapping in the tree for days,
and how he had to pass that tree
every day.
Baby, please don't go
Baby, please don't go
Baby, please don't go
Back to New Orleans
You know I love you so
Baby, please don't go
In America,
I was free only in battle,
never free to rest,
and he who finds no way to rest
cannot long survive the battle.
And the young,
white revolutionary remains,
in general, far more romantic
than a black one.
White people have managed
to get through entire lifetimes
in this euphoric state,
but black people
have not been so lucky.
A black man who sees the world
the way John Wayne,
for example, sees it...
would not be
an eccentric patriot,
but a raving maniac.
The truth is that this country
does not know what to do
with its black population,
dreaming of anything like
"The Final Solution".
The Negro has never been
as docile as white Americans
wanted to believe.
That was a myth.
We were not singing
and dancing down the levee.
We were trying to keep alive,
we were trying to survive
a very brutal system.
The nigger has never
been happy in his place.
One of the most
terrible things,
is that,
whether I like it or not,
I am an American.
My school really was
the streets of New York City.
My frame of reference was...
George Washington
and John Wayne.
But I was a child, you know,
and when a child puts his eyes
on the world,
he has to use what he sees.
There's nothing else to use.
And you are formed
by what you see,
the choices you have to make,
and the way you discover
what it means
to be black in New York
and then throughout
the entire country.
I know how you watch,
as you grow older,
and it's not a figure of speech,
the corpses of your brothers
and your sisters
pile up around you.
And not for anything
they have done.
They were too young
to have done anything.
But what one does realize
is that when you try to stand up
and look the world in the face
like you had a right to be here,
you have attacked
the entire power structure
of the western world.
Forget "The Negro Problem".
Don't write any voting acts.
We had that. It's called
The Fifteenth Amendment.
During the Civil Rights Bill
of 1964,
what you have to look at is what
is happening in this country,
and what is really happening
is that brother
has murdered brother,
knowing it was his brother.
White men have lynched Negroes,
knowing them to be their sons.
White women
have had Negroes burned,
knowing them to be their lovers.
It is not a racial problem.
It's a problem of whether or not
you're willing
to look at your life
and be responsible for it,
and then begin to change it.
That great western house
I come from is one house,
and I am one of the children
of that house.
Simply, I am the most
despised child of that 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.
My blood, my father's blood,
is in that soil.
Good afternoon, Ma'am.
It's raining so hard,
I brought rubbers and coat
to fetch my little girl home.
I'm afraid
you've made some mistake.
Ain't this the 3B?
- Yes.
- Well, this is it.
It can't be it.
I have no little
colored children in my class.
Oh, thank you.
There's my little girl.
Peola, you may you home.
Gee, I didn't know
she was colored.
Neither did I.
I hate you,
I hate you, I hate you!
Peola! Peola!
I know very well
that my ancestors
had no desire
to come to this place.
But neither did the ancestors
of the people who became white,
and who require of my captivity
a song.
They require a song of me,
less to celebrate my captivity
than to justify their own.
I have always
been struck, in America,
by an emotional poverty
so bottomless,
and a terror of human life,
of human touch,
so deep that virtually no
American appears able to achieve
any viable, organic connection
between his public stance
and his private life.
This failure of the private life
has always had the most
devastating effect
on American public conduct,
and on black-white relations.
If Americans
were not so terrified
of their private selves,
they would never have become
so dependent
on what they call
"The Negro Problem".
They said it wasn't nice
to say "nigger".
Nigger! Nigger!
Poor little nigger kids,
love the little nigger kids.
Who loved me?
Who loved me?
This problem,
which they invented
in order to safeguard
their purity,
has made of them
criminals and monsters,
and it is destroying them.
And this, not from anything
Blacks may or may not be doing,
but because of the role
of a guilty and constricted
white imagination
has assigned to the Blacks.
Look man,
don't give me that look.
You should have got
what was coming to you
after spitting
in that guy's face.
Why you...
It is impossible to
accept the premise of the story,
a premise based on the profound
American misunderstanding
of the nature of the hatred
between black and white.
That time is now.
The root of the black man's
hatred is rage,
and he does not so much
hate white men
as simply wants them
out of his way,
and more than that,
out of his children's way.
The root of the white man's
hatred is terror.
I'm gonna kill you.
A bottomless
and nameless terror,
which focuses
on this dread figure,
an entity which lives
only in his mind.
Come on!
I can't make it,
I can't make it!
When Sidney
jumps off the train,
the white liberal people
were much relieved and joyful.
But when black people
saw him jump off the train,
they yelled, "Get back
on the train, you fool!"
The black man
jumps off the train
in order to reassure
white people,
to make them know
that they are not hated,
that though they have made
human errors,
they done nothing
for which to be hated.
I'm Chiquita Banana
And I'm here to say
I am the top banana...
In spite of
the fabulous myths
proliferating in this country
concerning the sexuality
of black people,
black men are still used,
in the popular culture,
as though they had
no sexual equipment at all.
Sidney Poitier,
as a black artist, and a man,
is also up against
the infantile,
furtive sexuality
of this country.
Both he and Harry Belafonte,
for example,
are sex symbols,
though no one dares admit that,
still less to use them as any of
the Hollywood he-men are used.
Black people have been robbed
of everything in this country...
I've got something
to say to you, boy.
...and they don't want to be
robbed of their artist.
Black people
particularly disliked
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner,
because they felt that
Sidney was, in effect,
being used against them.
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
may prove,
in some bizarre way,
to be a milestone,
because it is really quite
impossible to go any further
in that particular direction.
If you ever plan
to motor West...
The next time,
the kissing will have to start.
Well, you've got your ticket?
Here you are.
Thank you.
I am aware
that men do not kiss each other
in American films, nor,
for the most part, in America
nor do the black detective
and the white Sheriff kiss here.
You take care, you hear?
But the obligatory,
in the classic American film,
did not speak of love,
and still less of sex.
It spoke of reconciliation,
of all things
now becoming possible.
I knew a blond girl
in the village
a long time ago,
and eventually,
we never walked
out of the house together.
She was far safer
walking the streets alone
than when walking with me.
A brutal and humiliating fact
which thoroughly destroyed
whatever relationship
this girl and I
might have been able to achieve.
This happens
all the time in America,
but Americans
have yet to realize
what a sinister fact this is,
and what it says about them.
When we walked out
in the evening, then,
she would leave
ahead of me, alone.
I would give about five minutes,
and then I would walk out alone,
taking another route, and
meet her on the subway platform.
We would not
acknowledge each other.
We would get into
the subway car,
sitting at opposite ends of it,
and walk, separately,
through the streets
of the free and the brave,
to wherever we were going...
a friend's house, or the movies.
All over the country,
families such this
are enjoying new prosperity.
They have new interests,
news standards of living,
a buying power
they've never enjoyed before.
There are good prospects
for practically all types
of goods and services.
All too often though,
they are overlooked prospects.
Since 1940,
in San Francisco alone,
the Negro market
has increased by 89%.
Here are millions of customers
for what you have to sell.
Customers with
15 billion dollars to spend
Someone once said to me
that the people in general
cannot bear very much reality.
He meant by this
that they prefer fantasy
to a truthful recreation
of their experience.
People have quite enough
reality to bear,
by simply getting
through their lives,
raising their children,
dealing with the eternal
of birth, taxes, and death.
Negroes are continuously making
progress here in this country.
The progress in many areas
is not as fast as it should be,
but they are making progress,
and we will continue
to make progress.
There's no reason that they, in
a near and foreseeable future,
that a Negro could also be
president of the United States
I remember, for example,
when the ex-Attorney General,
Mr. Robert Kennedy,
said that it was conceivable
that in 40 years in America,
we might have a Negro president.
And that sounded like
a very emancipated statement,
I suppose, to white people.
They were not in Harlem...
...when this statement
was first heard.
And did not hear,
and possibly will never hear,
the laughter and the bitterness
and the scorn
with which this statement
was greeted.
From the point of view of the
man in the Harlem barbershop,
Bobby Kennedy
only got here yesterday.
And now he's already
on his way to the Presidency.
We've been here for 400 years
and now he tells us
that maybe in 40 years,
if you're good,
we may let you become president.
It was a dream,
Just a dream I had on my mind
It was a dream,
Just a dream I had on my mind
And when I woke up, baby
Not a thing could I find
I dreamed I was an angel
And had a good time
I dreamed I was satisfying
And nothin' to worry my mind
But it was a dream
Just a dream
I had on my mind
Let me put it this way,
that from a very literal
point of view,
the harbors and the ports
and the railroads
of the country,
the economy,
in the southern states,
could not conceivably be
what it has become
if they had not had,
and do not still have,
indeed, and for so long,
so many generations,
cheap labor.
It is a terrible thing
for an entire people
to surrender to the notion
that one ninth of its population
is beneath them.
And until that moment,
until the moment comes,
when we, the Americans,
we, the American people,
are able to accept the fact
that I have to accept,
for example,
that my ancestors
are both white and black.
That on that continent we are
trying to forge a new identity
for which we need each other,
and that I am not
a ward of America.
I am not an object
of missionary charity,
I am one of the people
who built the country.
Until this moment,
there is scarcely any hope
for the American Dream,
because people who are denied
participation in it,
by their very presence...
...will wreck it.
And if that happens, it is a
very grave moment for the West.
Thank you.
We're here in the studio today
with seven men who have
two things in common:
they are entertainers
and artists;
and they've all
come to Washington.
They are seven out of some
two hundred thousand
American citizens
who came to the capital
to march for freedom
and for jobs.
Will this tremendous outburst
now lead to a course of action,
Mr. Belafonte?
The now that is being
spoken about is the fact that
in a hundred years, finally,
through whatever the causes
have been in history,
and most of them have been
because of oppression,
the Negro people
have strongly and fully
taken the bit in their teeth,
they're asking absolutely
no quarter from anyone.
But I do say that
the bulk of the interpretation
of whether this thing
is going to end
successfully and joyously,
or is going to end disastrously,
lays very heavily
with the white community,
it lays very heavily
with the profiteers,
it lays very heavily
with the vested interests.
It lays very heavily
with a great middle stream
in this country,
of people who have refused
to commit themselves,
or even have
the slightest knowledge
that these things
have been going on.
I am speaking as
a member of a certain democracy
in a very complex country,
which insists on being
very narrow-minded.
Simplicity is taken to be
a great American virtue,
along with sincerity.
I am sorry.
I am deeply sorry.
And I am sorry.
I'm deeply sorry about that.
They are no excuses.
I am solely...
We have made
plenty of mistakes.
For that, I apologize.
I am very sorry.
I'm sorry I did this to you,
but you gotta get used to it.
It's one of those
little problems in life.
I take full responsibility.
I'm here today
to again apologize.
I'll just apologize for that
to her.
For any mistakes I've made,
I take full responsibility.
It's an honor to serve
the city of Ferguson
and the people who live there.
One of the results of this
is that immaturity
is taken to be a virtue too.
So that someone like that,
let's say John Wayne,
who spent most of his time
on screen
admonishing Indians,
was in no necessity to grow up.
We were free and we decided
to treat ourselves
to a really fancy,
friendly dinner.
The head waiter came and said
there was a phone call for me,
and my sister Gloria
rose to take it.
She was very strange
when she came back.
She didn't say anything,
and I began to be afraid
to ask her anything.
Then, nibbling at something
she obviously wasn't tasting,
she said,
"Well, I've got to tell you
because the press
is on its way over here.
They have just killed Malcolm."
There is nothing in the evidence
offered by the book
of the American republic,
which allows me really to argue
with the cat who says to me,
"They needed us
to pick the cotton,
and now they don't need us
Now they don't need us,
they're gonna kill us all off,
just like they did the Indians".
And I can't say
it's a Christian nation.
though your brothers
will never do that to you,
because the record is
too long and too bloody.
That's all we have done.
All your buried corpses
now begin to speak.
I say violence is necessary.
Violence is a part
of America's culture.
It is as American as cherry pie.
Black power, Brothers.
If we were white,
if we were Irish,
if we were Jewish,
if we were Poles,
if we had, in fact,
in your mind,
a frame of reference,
our heroes would be
your heroes too.
Nat Turner would be a hero
for you instead of a threat.
Malcolm X might still be alive.
Everyone is very proud
of brave little Israel,
a state against which I have nothing,
I don't want to be misinterpreted,
I'm not an anti-Semite.
But, you know,
when the Israelis pick up guns,
or the Poles, or the Irish,
or any white man
in the world says,
"Give me liberty,
or give me death",
the entire white world applauds.
When a black man says
exactly the same thing,
word for word,
he is judged a criminal
and treated like one
and everything possible is done
to make an example
of this bad nigger,
so there won't be
any more like him.
Look out
across this land we love,
look about you whatever you are,
this unending scenic beauty,
and there's freedom,
it's an inherent American right
meaning many different things
to every single citizen.
It's a leisurely afternoon
of golf along a pleasant course.
It's an amusement park,
a rollercoaster ride.
A day at the county fair.
A day of excitement,
unrestricted travel
across all our 50 states,
unlimited enjoyment
of all these jewels
in the continent's crown.
For all of us,
there's all of America,
in all of its scenic beauty,
all of its heritage of history,
all of its limitless
We've dropped too many bombs
on Vietnam now.
Let us save our national honor!
Stop the bombing,
and stop the war!
What I am
trying to say to this country,
to us,
is that we must know this.
We must realize this,
that no other country
in the world
have been so fat
and so sleek, and so safe,
and so happy,
and so irresponsible,
and so dead.
No other country can afford to
dream of a Plymouth and a wife
and a house with a fence,
and the children
growing up safely
to go to college
and to become executives,
and then to marry,
and have the Plymouth
and the house
and so forth.
A great many people
do not live this way,
and cannot imagine it,
and do not know that when
we talk about "democracy",
this is what we mean.
The industry is compelled,
given the way it is built,
to present
to the American people
a self-perpetuating fantasy
of American life.
Their concept of entertainment
is difficult to distinguish
from the use of narcotics.
What worries you about
them having black partners?
Do you think people are
gonna look down on them,
- or judge them?
- Yes, I think people look down.
To watch the TV screen
for any length of time
is to learn some really
frightening things
about the American
sense of reality.
We are cruelly trapped between
what we would like to be
and what we actually are.
And we cannot possibly become
what we would like to be until
we are willing to ask ourselves
just why the lives we lead
on this continent
are mainly so empty,
so tame, and so ugly.
These images are designed
not to trouble,
but to reassure.
They also weaken our ability
to deal with the world as it is,
ourselves as we are.
I would like to add someone
to our group here,
Professor Paul Weiss,
the sterling professor
of philosophy at Yale.
Were you able to listen
to the show backstage?
I heard a good deal of it,
but then I was behind
the whatsitmajig.
- Yes.
- So I heard only some of it.
Did you hear anything
that you disagreed with?
I disagreed with
a great deal of it,
and of course, there's
a good deal I agree with.
But I think he's overlooking
one very important matter,
I think.
Each one of us,
I think, is terribly alone.
He lives his own
individual life.
He has all kind of obstacles,
the way of religion or color
or size or shape
or lack of ability,
and the problem
is to become a man.
But what I was discussing
was not that problem, really.
I was discussing
the difficulties, the obstacles,
the very real danger of death
thrown up by the society
when a Negro, when a black man,
attempts to become a man.
All this emphasis
upon black man and white,
does emphasize
something which is here,
but it emphasizes,
or perhaps exaggerates it,
and therefore makes us
put people together in groups
which they ought not to be in.
I have more in common
with a black scholar
than I have with a white man
who is against scholarship.
And you have more in common
with a white author
than you have with someone
who is against all literature.
So why must we always
concentrate on color,
or religion, or this?
There are other ways
of connecting men.
I'll tell you this.
When I left this country
in 1948,
I left this country
for one reason only,
one reason...
I didn't care where I went.
I might've gone to Hong Kong,
I might have gone to Timbuktu.
I ended up in Paris,
on the streets of Paris,
with 40 dollars in my pocket
and the theory
that nothing worse
could happen to me there
than had already happened
to me here.
You talk about making it
as a writer by yourself,
you have to be able then
to turn up all the antennae
by which you live,
because once you turn your back
on this society,
you may die.
You may die.
And it's very hard
to sit at a typewriter,
and concentrate on that,
if you are afraid
of the world around you.
The years I lived in Paris
did one thing for me:
they released me from
that particular social terror,
which was not the paranoia
of my own mind,
but a real social danger visible
in the face of every cop,
every boss, everybody.
I don't know what most white
people in this country feel.
But I can only include
what they feel
from that state
of their institutions.
I don't know if white Christians
hate Negroes or not,
but I know we have a
Christian church which is white
and a Christian church
which is black.
I know,
as Malcolm X once put it,
the most segregated hour
in American life
is high noon on Sunday.
That says a great deal for me
about a Christian nation.
It means I can't afford to trust
most white Christians
and I certainly cannot trust
the Christian church.
I don't know whether the
labor unions and their bosses
really hate me.
That doesn't matter,
but I know
I'm not in their unions.
I don't know
if the Real Estate Lobby
has anything against
black people,
but I know the Real Estate Lobby
is keeping me in the ghetto.
I don't know if the board of
education hates black people,
but I know the textbooks
they give my children to read,
and the schools
that we have to go to.
Now, this is the evidence.
You want me to make
an act of faith,
risking myself,
my wife, my woman,
my sister, my children,
on some idealism
which you assure me
exists in America,
which I have never seen.
Hold on a second.
All of the Western nations
have been caught in a lie,
the lie of their pretended
This means that their history
has no moral justification,
and that the West
has no moral authority.
"Vile as I am,"
states one of the characters
in Dostoevsky's The Idiot,
"I don't believe in the wagons
that bring bread to humanity.
For the wagons
that bring bread to humanity,
may coldly exclude
a considerable part of humanity
from enjoying what is brought."
For a very long time,
America prospered.
This prosperity cost millions
of people their lives.
Now, not even the people who are
the most spectacular recipients
of the benefits
of this prosperity
are able to endure
these benefits.
They can neither understand
them nor do without them.
Above all, they cannot imagine
the price paid by their victims,
or subjects,
for this way of life,
and so they cannot afford
to know why
the victims are revolting.
- On the ground!
- Get on the ground, now!
Damn, man!
This is the formula
for a nation
or a kingdom decline.
For no kingdom can
maintain itself by force alone.
Force does not work the way its
advocates think in fact it does.
It does not, for example,
reveal to the victim
the strength of the adversary.
On the contrary,
it reveals the weakness,
even the panic
of the adversary.
And this revelation
invests the victim with passion.
There is a day in Palm Springs
that I will remember forever,
a bright day.
I was based in Hollywood,
working on the screen version
of the autobiography
of Malcolm X.
This was a difficult assignment,
since I had known Malcolm,
after all,
crossed swords with him,
worked with him,
and held him
in that great esteem
which is not
easily distinguishable,
if it is distinguishable,
from love.
Billy Dee Williams
had come to town
and he was
staying at the house.
I very much wanted Billy Dee
for the role of Malcolm.
The phone had been
brought out to the pool,
and now it rang.
And I picked up.
The record player
was still playing.
"He's not dead yet,
but it's a head wound."
I have some very sad news
for all of you,
and I think sad news
for all our fellow citizens
and people who love peace
all over the world.
And that is that
Martin Luther King
was shot and was killed tonight.
I hardly remember
the rest of the evening at all.
I remember weeping, briefly,
more in helpless rage
than in sorrow,
and Billy trying to comfort me.
But I really don't remember
that evening at all.
Mother dear,
May I go downtown
Instead of out to play,
And march the streets
of Birmingham
In a Freedom March today?
But Mother,
I won't be alone
Other children
will go with me,
And march the streets
of Birmingham
To make my country free
The church was packed.
In the pew before me
sat Marlon Brando,
Sammy Davis, Eartha Kitt.
Sidney Poitier nearby.
I saw Harry Belafonte
sitting next to Coretta King.
I have a childhood
hand over thing
about not weeping in public.
And I was concentrating
on holding myself together.
I did not want to weep
for Martin.
Tears seemed futile.
But I may also have been afraid,
and I could not have
been the only one,
that if I began to weep,
I would not be able to stop.
I started to cry,
and I stumbled.
Sammy grabbed my arm.
The story of the Negro
in America
is the story of America.
It is not a pretty story.
What can we do?
Well, I am tired.
I don't know how
it will come about,
I know that no matter
how it comes about,
it will be bloody,
it will be hard.
I still believe that we can do
with this country
something that
has not been done before.
We are misled here
because we think of numbers.
You don't need numbers,
you need passion.
And this is proven
by the history of the world.
The tragedy is that
most of the people
who say they care about it
do not care.
What they care about is
their safety and their profits.
When I was laying in jail
With my back turned
to the wall
When I was laying in jail
With my back turned
to the wall
I just laid down
and dreamed I could...
The American way of life
has failed
to make people happier,
or make them better.
We do not want to admit this,
and we do not admit it.
We persist in believing
that the empty and criminal
among our children
are the result of some
miscalculation in the formula
that can be corrected.
That the bottomless
and aimless hostility
which makes our cities among
the most dangerous in the world
is created and felt
by a handful of aberrants,
that the lack, yawning
everywhere in this country,
of passionate conviction,
of personal authority,
proves only our rather appealing
tendency to be gregarious
and democratic.
To look around
the United States today,
is enough to make
prophets and angels weep.
This is not the land
of the free.
It is only very unwillingly
and sporadically...
...the home of the brave.
I sometimes feel it
to be an absolute miracle
that the entire black population
of the United States of America
has not long ago
succumbed to raging paranoia.
People finally say to you,
in an attempt to dismiss
the social reality,
"But you're so bitter!"
Well, I may
or may not be bitter,
but if I were, I would have
good reasons for it.
Chief among them that American
blindness, or cowardice,
which allow us to pretend
that life presents no reasons
for being bitter.
In this country,
for a dangerously long time,
there have been
two levels of experience.
One, to put it cruelly,
can be summed up in the images
of Gary Cooper and Doris Day,
two of the most grotesque
appeals to innocence
the world has ever seen.
And the other,
subterranean, indispensable,
and denied,
can be summed up, let us say,
in the tone and in the face
of Ray Charles.
Hey mama,
Don't you treat me wrong
Come and love your daddy
All night long
I know it's all right now
Hey, hey
When you see me in misery
Come on baby, see about me
There has never been
any genuine confrontation
between these two levels
of experience.
Should I be bad
Or nice?
Should I surrender?
His pleading words
so tenderly
Entreat me
Is this the night that love
Finally defeats me?
You cannot lynch me
and keep me in ghettos
without becoming
something monstrous yourselves.
And furthermore, you give me
a terrifying advantage.
You never had to look at me.
I had to look at you.
I know more about you
than you know about me.
Not everything that is faced
can be changed,
but nothing can be changed
until it is faced.
History is not the past.
It is the present.
We carry our history with us.
We are our history.
If we pretend otherwise,
we literally are criminals.
I attest to this.
The world is not white.
It never was white,
cannot be white.
White is a metaphor for power,
and that is simply a way of
describing Chase Manhattan Bank.
I can't be a pessimist,
because I'm alive.
To be a pessimist means
you have agreed that human life
is an academic matter,
so I'm forced to be an optimist.
I am forced to believe
that we can survive
whatever we must survive.
...the Negro in this country...
...the future of the Negro
in this country...
...is precisely as bright
or as dark as the future
of the country.
It is entirely up to
the American people
and not representatives.
It is entirely up to
the American people
whether or not they are going
to face and deal with
and embrace the stranger
they have maligned so long.
What white people have to do
is try to find out,
in their own hearts,
why it was necessary
to have a "nigger"
in the first place,
because I'm not a nigger,
I'm a man.
But if you think I'm a nigger,
it means you need him.
The question you've got to
ask yourself,
the white population of this
country has got to ask itself,
North and South,
because it's one country,
and for the Negro,
there is no difference between
the North and the South...
it's just a difference
in the way they castrate you,
but the fact of the castration
is the American fact.
If I'm not the nigger here
and you invented him,
you the white people
invented him,
then you've got to find out why.
And the future of the country
depends on that,
whether or not it's able
to ask that question.