In this open letter, James Baldwin challenges his nephew to accept white people despite their oppression of African Americans over the centuries. He says that, while it would be impertinent of his nephew to expect white people to accept him, he must accept them, and accept them with love. The reason for this is that, according to Baldwin, white people are innocent; they are trapped in a history they do not understand. And until they do understand that history, they will never truly be released from it.
Baldwin then goes on to offer a radical new interpretation of what integration means, an interpretation closely related to his point about acceptance. On his definition, integration involves African Americans forcing their white brothers—through acts of love—to see themselves as they really are so that they can begin to change reality instead of running away from it.