In "My Dungeon Shook" by James Baldwin, what does "You can only be destroyed by believing that you really are what the white world calls a nigger," mean?

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James Baldwin's "My Dungeon Shook" is simultaneously an introduction to his powerful essay The Fire Next Time and a touching letter written to his nephew, also named James. The piece intertwines an analysis of the ideological system of race relations in the United States with personal, heartfelt advice to a young African American male. Baldwin wants to impress on his nephew the importance of thinking for oneself. "Take no one's word for anything, including mine," he writes, "but trust your experience."

Most importantly, Baldwin wants to make sure his nephew (and by extension, his readers) do not accept the view of the world that prevails in white America. It is white people's oblivious condescension, hatred, and fear that lead them to think of blacks in prejudicial, derogatory terms. Baldwin's point—and his urgent advice to his nephew— is that absorbing the white world's attitudes will inevitably lead to the destruction of a black person's self-esteem. Such attitudes must be resisted,...

(The entire section contains 2 answers and 570 words.)

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