This week, we present an excerpt from a previously recorded conversation with author and historian Nicholas Buccola about his recent book The Fire Is Upon Us: James Baldwin, William F. Buckley Jr., and the Debate over Race in America. To watch the full program as well as view an accompanying photo slideshow, visit the American Writers Museum YouTube channel.
We hope you enjoy entering the mind of a writer.
“For Baldwin this is the human conundrum. If you want to understand racism, homophobia, xenophobia, any ideology of exclusion, at the core is that human paradox, that fear that we have.”
“Baldwin and Buckley were born in the same city, but they might as well have been born on two different planets.”
“What Baldwin concludes about human nature is that most of us most of the time are in a state of identity crisis. That we really don’t want to come to terms with who we really are. So what we tend to do is create identities that make us feel safe, which are fundamentally false.”
“Baldwin is somebody who sets out to find a way to escape that fate [of poverty] and the way he does that is through words.”
“At the bottom of all of Buckley’s views is an assumption that some lives matter more than others. That’s one of the things that I argue in the book is that there is this explicit white supremacy you can see, but there’s kind of an implicit white supremacy in all sorts of arguments that Buckley makes.”