It is a great shock at the age of five or six to find that in a world of Gary Coopers you are the Indian. James Baldwin
The year would have been one in the late 1920s when James Baldwin was aged five or six, yet 75 years on, and many years after his death, few things have changed for people of minority; and it is as simple as cowboys and Indians. Because of immaterial issues such as a persons name, how they look, talk and act, they are persecuted by those who fear the different, just as when white man first inhabited America their fear of native Indians was provoked by them looking, acting and no doubt speaking differently. James Baldwin, in his quote, indicates the distress that an innocent child faces when the realization of discrimination being adamant in their lives is founded and at the same time comprehending that for no other reason than being different (than those who have claimed superiority) they have drawn the short stick in life. Hate has plagued society for longer than can be remembered with a historical process having developed in which one comes to know themselves in relation to someone different to them.
History is overwhelmed with discrimination, prejudice and intolerance. It was devastating when whites hated the Indians hundreds of years ago, it was ugly when the whites hated blacks through hundreds of years of slavery, it was repulsive when Hitler promoted hate against those of Jewish decent and in fact everyone different to himself and it is still considerably alarming in todays unstable society. Amongst the human race there has always been someone to be hated, and even more people to hate them. Discrimination is so prominent in society that groups are formed with generally no other common interests than their hate for other groups. The John Birch Society, Ku Klux Klan, Invisible Empire, NAAWP, White Aryan Resistance, American Front, Nazi Skinheads, Posse Comitatus, Aryan Nation, The Order and National Alliance, just to name a few. Furthermore, the formation of these groups calls for the people they target to feel hate towards them, creating one vicious cycle of extreme dislike. As James Baldwin once said, People who treat others as less than human must not be surprised when the bread they have cast on the waters comes floating back to them, poisoned. Unfortunately for society this hate, which in the past has caused the loss of numerous lives, and the images for certain races and people are formed on the basis of the actions of just one or two.
In many instances, both in the past and even more clearly now, racial discrimination has formed from the fear of few. One such incident of recent times is the terrorist view of Arabic, Middle Eastern people formed following the attacks on September 11. Since that time it suddenly has become very difficult for foreigners to keep their jobs, friendships and lives safe, particularly in the United States. When an American sees a Muslim walk down the street, while it may not be intentional, often their immediate thought is that of terrorism, thoughts provoked by the actions of a few people and the hate of many. It is views like these that invite hate to be tolerated in our society, but is this hate justified? (pause) Each individual is responsible for their own actions, yet, right or wrong, the actions of innocent bystanders are questioned because of the poor judgment of another individual. Furthermore, innocent children are born in to these stereotypes, and have been for many years; children of the minority are born hated.
For James Baldwin being a Negro in the 20th century meant living a life like that of an Indian surrounded by cowboys. In Germany and Europe during the 1930s and 1940s, the Jews were the Indians, hunted down and killed by their oppressors who considered themselves superior, Hitler playing the part of a Garry Cooper character. During the time of Christ, people feared him, just as whites feared Indians upon their arrival in America; both historical events resulting in hate and ultimately death. The truth is that human behavior, past, present and inevitably in the future will allow for discrimination, and very little can be done to stop this. However should you feel the urge to discriminate against anyone of any race, sex or age, stop and walk a mile in the shoes of a young black boy experiencing the slow, never-ending process of the integration of blacks and whites in America who has been born a victim, who has been born an Indian in Gary Coopers world; then decide if what you have to say, or the actions you wish to take are really necessary for your own life to be fulfilled.