Racial Tensions in America
Racism and how to rectify racial tensions in America are central themes throughout both essays. Baldwin mixes his personal experiences of growing up as a black man in Harlem with passionate and nuanced arguments on how we can begin to address the problems of racism and racial inequality in America. In his arguments, Baldwin appeals specifically to young black men, urging them to acknowledge their anger but also have the strength to put it aside in order to achieve lasting power.
In the concluding section of “Down at the Cross,” Baldwin acknowledges the overwhelming “spiritual resilience” it takes for black people to not only find it in themselves to love white people but also teach their children to love their oppressors. Baldwin believes that white people need and desire black people’s love much more than black people need love—or anything—from white people. Baldwin emphasizes that the only thing white people have that black people need is power, and hatred is not the way to obtain it. Instead, black people can achieve lasting power in America by embracing white people and racial integration.