According to James Baldwin's essay "My Dungeon Shook" are black people at an advantage or disadvantage because of their skin colour?


James Baldwin

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This letter above all concerns the way in which, ironically, on the hundreth anniversary of emancipation, there still exists a critical imbalance of power and profound inequality between black and whites in America. Consider the following quote from the letter which states this very clearly:

You were born into a society which spelled out with brutal clarity, and in as many ways as possible, that you were a worthless human being.

If you look at this quote in context, you can see that everything about Baldwin's nephew's life was almost fixed in stone because of the way in which whites had and maintained power over their country. Blacks were born into poverty, and were educated, but with no expecation that they would make anything of their lives. Blacks were "a fixed star" or "an immovable pillar" to the whites in terms of the way in which the whites had power to fix them and keep them in an inferior position. The whole driving force of this essay therefore is to demonstrate stridently that so much of a person's life chances depend on nothing more than the colour of their skin.


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