I had to look at you [white people]. 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.
The world is not white, it never was white. It cannot be white. White is a metaphor for power.
I can’t be a pessimist because I am alive. To be a pessimist means that you have agreed that human life is an academic matter. So I am forced to be an optimist, I am forced to believe that we can survive, whatever we must survive. But 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 our representatives — it is entirely up to the American people whether or not they are going to face, and deal with, and embrace this stranger whom they maligned so long. What white people have to do, is try and 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 it. The question you have 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 a Negro, there’s no difference between the North and South. There’s just a difference in the way they castrate you. But the fact of the castration is the American fact. If I’m not a 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.
– James Baldwin (transcribed from I Am Not Your Negro, a documentary by Raoul Peck).