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"baldwin buckley" Discussed on The Book Review

The Book Review

12:20 min | 8 months ago

"baldwin buckley" Discussed on The Book Review

"Hello Paul McCartney here. My new picture bouquet ground dude is out now and it's raided by me it's about a grandfather granddad. Grand Dude who uses this is margie compass to whisk his grandchildren away on adventures around the world. A lot of fun writing in the raising it on. I hope you enjoy too. You can download it. Start listening today. Hey Grandma how James Baldwin and William F Buckley end up on a stage together in one thousand nine hundred sixty five at Cambridge University to debate one another on Race Nicholas Koby here to talk about his book. The fire is upon us. What's it like growing up black and gay and the south poet and now L. Memoir Ist Sii Jones will be here to talk about his book? How we fight for our lives Concepcion de Leon will give us an update from the literary world last? We'll talk about what we the and the wider world are reading this book view. PODCAST from the New York Times. I'm Pamela Paul. Nicholas Cola is here in the studio to talk about his new book. The fire is upon us. James Baldwin William F. Buckley junior and the debate over race in America. His two previous books were the essential Douglas and Abraham Lincoln and Liberal Democracy Nicholas. Thanks for being here. Thanks thanks for having me. I'm honored to be here all right. This is a change of subject for you why this book. This book emerged through Baldwin. I was invited to write essay about Baldwin and I devoted voted the few months just reading everything could get my hands on. And then I dug into the Youtube Archives of all these video Baldwin and I found the debate with Buckley and I became transfixed was just such a dramatic moment of these two men who embodied movements in a way and they have them on the international stage clashing. I was just sort of became mildly obsessed with it and so I wrote that essay Using the debate as a framing device in is I worked on the ESA I kept thinking. There's there's a book in here and then that book kind of grew and grew and grew to a joint intellectual biography. They're born about a year apart from each other and so I thought I could sort of weave their intellectual biographies against the backdrop of the the rise of the civil rights and conservative movements. I have to say you know word favor of Youtube. All of these things are on there and you can go online and Google Baldwin Buckley debate and it comes right up up. I just want to play a quick clip from that to be. This is a bit. We have a civil rights bill. Now we had an amendment the Fifteenth Amendment nearly one hundred years ago I hate to see them again like an Old Testament prophets whether the amendment was not honor. Then I don't have any reason to believe in the Civil Rights Bill. We'll we'll be on it now and after all one's been there since before you know. A lot of people got their if one has got to proved once title to the land isn't four hundred years enough one hundred years at least three worlds later on will play play another clip from Buckley. But let's start with something you just mentioned Nicholas. which is that? These two men were born. Only fifteen months. Apart in New York City could not have had more different circumstances in terms of their births and upbringing. Let's start with James Baldwin Baldwin born in August nineteen twenty four in Harlem and he's the oldest of nine children and Baldwin describes his childhood as being one the Chili marked by domination His experience is is one in which he has. There's all sorts of individual people in his life police officers landladies landlords that he's seizes is enforcing kind of boundaries Andres on his his growth as a as a human being and he sees his parents victimized by racial oppression by economic anxiety by a lack of economic opportunity and so Baldwin I'm describes growing up in Harlem and is auto biographical writings and a really powerful way of of really a set of circumstances in which he feels so limited as a human being. I mean he has to try to figure out way to find some modicum of power to fight back against the suppression so Baldwin is somebody who eventually finds his lover. He calls it in language words. He's obsessed with books you know from a very young age reading everything and get his hands on trying to find ways in which to make sense of his experience through books and then he begins writing at a very young age and actually actually devote himself to writing often. He can in the ends up becoming a young minister. His father was a lay pentecostal preacher in Haarlem storefront churches and so Baldwin becomes the young minister at the age of fourteen and has really taken by the power of language to connect him to his congregation and although he leaves the church by seventeen he remains a preacher's entire life including the ninety debates. Buckley it really is sermon. Tell us what was his formal education like so Baldwin. was somebody who you know. He says that he was not the best of students students. But that he you know because he had a hard time staying interested in a lot of the things he was learning in school so within a lot of ways he was not died act but he had the opportunity a couple of really really important teachers in his life and those teachers encouraged him to apply for a program at dewitt Clinton high school and he he went to Clinton which of course is this story. Place it's produced to all sorts of important intellectual and political figures and so that experience was important because Baldwin at dewitt Clinton was able to work for the. The High School Literary magazine had some outlets outlet for his creative abilities but he was somebody who did not have an opportunity to go to college so in many ways. You know you sort of you. All people familiar Baldwin's writings assume that he has some sort of you. You know lead education. But but in fact he didn't he was somebody who was largely self educated and was really just a a student you know from a very early age. You know that that he died all right. That's it's a good moment to just pivot quickly to Buckley because we associate him so much with the institutions that he attended of course God and man at Yale but let's start start with his birth in New York City. Buckley is you know as I say at the beginning of the book He May as well been born in on a different planet. You know the same city but my as miserable been a different planet. Buckley really is somebody who was born into immense wealth so Buckley's father is somebody who made in lost and regained fortunes in the real estate and oil businesses. His mother is a comes from old money proud daughter of the confederacy. So I say that you know that his father had new money. His mother had old money. The keyword there's money and they. I used that money to provide their children with a very rich upbringing in a lot of ways and especially educationally ten children yet there were ten. Attendance goes both came from very large families. They did say one thing they have in common. The Buckley's had an estate in Sharon Connecticut known as Great Elm Forty seven Acre estate and they had a a elaborate homeschooling for their children so every subject under the Sun. They had live in tutors. That were there fulltime. They brought in part time tutors to cover. Every other subject to the Buckley's really devoted voted in and they were especially devoted to teaching their children in particular world view and so the Buckley's were taught a kind of they. Call it individualism. But it was really a kind of elitism. They were taught hot to be very suspicious of any form of collectivism socialism communism and the new deal policies of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. But they're also taught to be very suspicious of democracy. I'm they were taught taught that some people are fit to rule others are fit to be ruled and they were among those who were to rule of course and so Buckley really he'd ever really desires to become his father he he doesn't want to follow him into business but he really wants to devote his life to defending the world view that his father taught him on his mother taught him and so in that hierarchy household whether they're todd these values of hierarchy those values thoroughly racial is is one of the key themes the book and so- Buckley's racial politics in many ways you know emerged at a very young age and he sustains those throughout his life so it's interesting that both Buckley and Baldwin for very different reasons are suspicious of certain aspects of American democracy. That's true that's true. And it's it's these moments you know now in the in the book when I say there is kind of surprising there's some surprising overlaps where you know Baldwin and Buckley Ha of crowd the suspicion of liberalism. They have some suspicion of democracy mcreavy they have some suspicion of the capacity of law needs to bring about social change but those moments were there the the there's overlaps very different reasons why they take those positions and so oh I think but in that overlap we can we can learn something about our politics and also in the the reasoning that they you know both of them used to arrive at those conclusions can really help us make sense of our political moment I mean is it in those moments of auto alignment that the tension is greatest in terms of their differences. I think that's true. I mean I think maybe not. There's definitely a lot of tensions just running through The the story but I think that those moments are you know really fascinated me one example. Is that Baldwin and Buckley are both great critics northern hypocrisy on race. You know they they they will often say you know the one line that's uses the Jim Crow has the north simply more sophisticated Baldwin. Say that sort of thing and Buckley would see that sort of thing. Of course Buckley's point point. Was He would say that to get northerners to lay off of the south and Balden would say that to get all of us delay into the north right and so those moments I think are are especially powerful to think about. Okay why is it the Baldwin is looking at somebody you know particular politician that he really does not trust and Buckley's looking at saint politician. It does not trust that person. They have these radically different different reasons for that distrust and I think that's that's really informative for us all right. Let's come from their childhood circumstances right to nineteen sixty five the year in which this debate the subject have your book. The fire is upon US takes place. Where is James Baldwin at this point in his life and career? Nineteen sixty five Baldwin's really at the height of his fame name so Baldwin had published his first novel in Nineteen fifty three and he he'd published by then three novels go tell in the Mountain Giovanni in another country so you establish himself as a fiction writer but also then published several essay collections and in one thousand nine hundred sixty three the next time is published. And that's that's really a book that I mean Baldwin Star was already ascending but that that book sort of sent Baldwin to the height of literary fame I mean so. He's among the most famous writers in the world at that time in Baldwin's connection connection to the civil rights movement was was always a complicated one. I mean he describes himself as a witness in his first interactions with the Jim crow south or as a journalist he goes down to the south to cover. What's happening the black liberation struggle for particular magazines and publications and so Baldwin says my job is to write it all down but he of course feels in this sense of obligation to be go beyond writing it all down of course journalism always has kind of normative dimension to it but he he says you know? He spends a lot of his life if it's what he calls a transatlantic commuter living in Europe and living in the US but he feels a sense of obligation to to engage in the struggle and so by sixty three he's kind of identified as a kind of spokesman when he didn't like that label at all didn't like most labels but he really wants to eat engaged in this that both through his fiction and nonfiction writing. What he's really trying to do is provide his readers years with the sense of what the world looks like through the eyes of of a variety of people in the south and also elsewhere in the country who are in the midst of this struggle to change the country such really I Baldwin? It's up to them so at that moment. Sixty five Cambridge Baldwin's internationally famous. So those students that are packed into that union debating hall. They're really there to see Baldwin. Because Buckley hadn't quite achieved international fame yet all right. Let's talk about William F.. Buckley where is he. Nineteen sixty five in terms of his career. So Buckley by sixty five is second only only to Barry Goldwater in terms of a sort of face of the American conservative movement and Buckley had played really this outsized role in shaping what we now call the conservative movement. So Buckley in Nineteen fifty-five starts at National Review magazine which the idea the magazine was to try to do what progressive magazines had done in the first half of the twentieth century Maksim like the nation and the republic had done so much to shape. The American left and so- Buckley has idea that there's not really anything that we could call it an conservative movement a coherent conservative conservative movement. Fifty five so he has this idea to use a magazine to bring folks together a coalition Together and so he founds national review and very right at the same aim moment. He's founding national review. The civil rights movement the latest phase in the civil rights struggle is occurring the lynching of Emmett till the reaction to that the rest of Rosa parks the Montgomery Montgomery bus boycott..

James Baldwin Baldwin William F Buckley James Baldwin William F. Buckl Baldwin Baldwin Buckley Buckley Ha Cambridge Baldwin New York City Paul McCartney Sii Jones Concepcion de Leon Jim Crow New York Times Pamela Paul Cambridge University dewitt Clinton high school Nicholas Koby Youtube
"baldwin buckley" Discussed on KCRW

KCRW

12:46 min | 9 months ago

"baldwin buckley" Discussed on KCRW

"Else's with for nothing for nothing our dog which has until the days so much power in Washington and therefore some power in the world what's great about my labor and my sweat Lockley argued against the motion well I don't know of anything that has ever been created without the expense of something all of you hope for a diploma here are going to do that at the expense of a considerable amount of that vote and I would thank you a please not alive of the fact that a considerable amount of effort went into the production of a system which grants a greater degree of material well being to the American Negro than that and that is enjoyed by ninety five percent of the other peoples of the human race now nearly fifty five years later political science professor at Nicholas be Cola argues in a new book that the debate still informs the racial divide in America today your call is book is called the fire is upon us James Baldwin William F. Buckley junior and the debate over race in America and necklaces son a good of you to come on the show today thanks so much Barbara I'm so happy to be here so before we delve into Baldwin and and Buckley another reason that you say that this debate was so significant is the historical context so remind us what was happening in the civil rights movement at the time the debate took place yeah it's a remarkable thing the debate took place as you said on February eighteenth nineteen sixty five at the same day was a we're in the midst of the summer campaign on the central issue there was the pursuit of a voting rights acts of the the night that ball gonna Buckley Matt Cambridge across the ocean there was a civil rights activity in Merion Alabama that many people have seen featured in the film sama it was civil rights activity that led to the death of a civil rights activist and Jimmie Lee Jackson so we're sort of at the apex of the civil rights movement so many ways the Civil Rights Act has been adopted a we're fighting for the voting rights act and so it's in the midst of that turmoil the Baldwin Buckley medic Cambridge right that turmoil in that violence and here you have Baldwin and Buckley already establishes outspoken liberal and conservative writers what did they believe and why don't we start with Buckley's background what kind of conservative was he well William F. Buckley had a brand of conservatism that was all his own he was raised in a family that was staunchly Catholic and deeply individualistic called his political doctrine individualism and by individual is it was really a catch all term the Buckley used a for a view that was skeptical of government power especially government power in the economy it was a a political view that was deeply suspicious of the welfare state and deeply suspicious of democracy in and Buck the Buckley is I believe through and through and and I believe they believe the hierarchy they believed in that there were some people who are fit to rule and others who are fit to be ruled and they count themselves among those who were fit to rule and so Buckley thought of himself as a defender of a particular kind of conservatism that was unabashedly elitist and his beliefs and hierarchy were often racialized which is one of the themes of the book now let's turn to Baldwin because he's pretty fastening here he wasn't the most radical of leftists in fact he disagreed strongly with the nation of Islam what what was his position on civil rights and and how did he describe what a quality would look like yeah James Baldwin is somebody who defied categorization in every way and that's one of things I think is most fascinating about him he said very early on his career that all theories are suspect in and he learned from a very young age it was impossible to indoctrinate him so he somebody who grows up in you know Harlem storefront churches spend some time as a young minister you know language the power of words is really something that Baldwin is able to use to resist that sort of oppression he's experiencing as a young man in Harlem but he ends up falling away from the church if it sees he's a deep spiritual hypocrisy I in the minister's these working within and doesn't see them as true believers and then he also has this short period as a teenager where he's identifies himself as a socialist and then he discovers around the same time he falls away from the church that he's never really going to be comfortable as I it hearing to any one particular ideologies as politics requires us to be dynamic and so I think he has a very clear moral core and what he's trying to do and that is the freedom and fulfillment the dignity of every human being that is a balding cares about more than anything else but in terms of how we go about achieving that Baldwin is never comfortable align himself with any one particular group or any one particular ideology he's always in the state of trying to think through these issues through the eyes of others and trying to get us to recognize a kind of moral core of all of our political problems now let's get back to the debate on the motion before the house again was the American dream is at the expense of the American Negro and let's talk about their different debate strategies and we should say that this wasn't the kind of debate where there was any back and forth James Baldwin gave the first speech in that Buckley gave his full speech but let's listen first to this excerpt from James Baldwin is a hundred years enough one hundred years at least three wall the American soil is full of a call to the Mike and says why is my freedom of my citizenship my right to live there how is a concealed their question now and I suggest further and in the same way the moral life about about my sheriffs and Paul Alabama lady white lady the Monalisa been destroyed by the plague called Kalla but the American sense of reality has been corrupted by any right in the book the bottom put himself in the role of the of the prophet Jeremiah at the very beginning of his argument and you hear it here in this in this excerpt and and he made a moral argument that racism wounded all Americans so what do you take away from this part of his his speech and and what do you make of the strategy yeah it's really remarkable in the hundred and fifty years of the Cambridge union existed I don't think I I feel confident saying that no one who had sat in that chamber it ever experience something quite like the speech the Baldwin deliver that night you know formal debate is this combination of kind of intellectual combat and and performance art and there's there's often this kind of you know combination of of word smithing and and jocular already but Baldwin's speech was deadly serious there were a couple moments of levity but he was there to deliver a Jeremiah in which he exposes white supremacy I not only in the ways it impacts the lives of its victims with the way that impacts the lives of its would be beneficiaries as he says in that passage that you just played for us Baldwin says that the moral lives the moral lives of those were the would be beneficiaries of white supremacy are destroyed by the play called color will Baldwin is getting at there is he says well you know there's nothing more depressing inside than looking at a a poor white person in the south and the only thing that person has the one thing they're hanging on to to give them any sense of worth in the world is this delusion of white supremacy in Baldwin looks at someone whose life is controlled by the solution and says that this person is a victim of this way that we've convinced ourselves that we need to think about one another and so bald one is there to say to this audience right to this largely sympathetic audience of college students that we are all the creators and perpetuate ours of the system of white supremacy in is our responsibility to do something about it and that's what is there to say to the Cambridge audience into obviously that the television audience is going to see that that debate on both sides of the Atlantic rate and Baldwin spoke from this place of empathy and Buckley on the other hand went on the attack right away here he is right out of the gates the fact that the you sit here as is your words are and lay the entire waves of the Negro ordeal on your own home there's a relevant to the argument that we are here to discuss this and will you hear his verbal tics in in that clip so clearly he also went on to chide Baldwin for attacking American ideals as insufficient and then he inserts this little jab at our ideals rather us some sort of a superficial coating which we come up with at any given moment in order to justify what I love commercial and noxious experiment we are engaged in a loss of Mister Baldwin can write his book the fire next time in which he threatens America he didn't in writing that book speak with a British accent city used exclusively tonight language is threatened America with the necessity of bras so what is Buckley referring to when he says Mister Baldwin threatens America in his book the fire next time the illusion is in the title of your book and also this British accent line it seems like such a cheap shot was even accurate yeah you know so Buckley you know his his way of approaching the debate and he's sitting there listening to Baldwin speech Baldwin doesn't you know no no one in the audience questions bald when you know the students have the opportunity to stand up and raise questions and and points of information with speakers but no one stood up during bald and speech would have been almost profane to do so because he's delivering this powerful sermon and and it would have been kind of absurd in some ways to interrupt him and so but but Buckley sees that he sees Baldwin get the standing ovation which is very rare thing to happen the union and he decides that he is he put it later is not going to give them one god damn inch and so he goes on the attack immediately which was kind of Buckley style he was never comfortable defending his own views he was always felt much more comfortable going back to his debating days in high school being on the attack and so Buckley's argument and this is where the the British accents point comes in is Buckley's argument as the Baldwin is fundamentally misleading the audience and that what he's doing this this reference to British accents I don't think is meant to be taken literally Buckley was using accents in a way to sort of say the Baldwin was using a vocabulary that he thought the audience would accept and so Buckley read Baldwin as this radical hell bent on overthrowing western civilization you should view him he says to with these this elite college audience as your enemy and you're actually showing him a great deal of disrespect he says to the Cambridge students by treating him with such adulation and so Buckley sees the same thing happening on the other side Atlantic with the fire next time when that comes out of the book comes out in nineteen sixty three a few critics have anything negative to say about it and Buckley of following one of his National Review writers Gary wills says this is a sign of great disrespect for bald when you're showing him you're you're showing him a kind of unction is the word that Buckley uses in the speech because you're not respecting what he's written on the page you're sort of giving the argument over to him because he is a black man in your on willing to challenge him because he's a black man and so Buckley that was his strategy was basically to say I am the only one here taking Baldwin's ideas seriously and he argues that he is there defending western civilization against Baldwin who is hell bent on overthrowing it which you know I again the book is is is really the wrong way to read what Baldwin's up to if you're just joining me I'm speaking with the necklace pure Cola he's the author of the fire is upon us James Baldwin William F. Buckley junior and the debate over race in America well one thing that you point out in the book is something that Buckley and Baldwin both actually agreed on and that's that they both took a dim view of the law's ability to resolve racial conflict in the US flesh that out for us yeah this is this is one of the few areas of of agreement you know of course Buckley's argument is that you know he he Buckley resist the idea that he is a racist or a white supremacist in it because for Buckley being a racist means that you have views that are rooted in racial animus and and Buckley claims that he didn't have user routed racial animus he had these views that were rooted in this kind of view of of racial paternalism that what white supremacy is is not a permanent condition of it is a condition based on the the superiority of.