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Chad Grant: “A Broken System”

A Broken System

James Baldwin’s essay entitled “Many Thousands Gone” in his book Notes of a Native Son still resonates today. In it he goes into Richard Wright’s novel Native Son and states that the protagonist, Bigger Thomas, was a byproduct of a broken system filled with poverty and racism. He goes on to state that Bigger truly felt “alive” when he accidentally smothers Mary, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Dalton, and cuts off her head and stuffs her body in the Dalton’s furnace. Baldwin goes on to state that every Black person secretary has his or her own Bigger Thomas. If it were not for such reasons which Mr. Baldwin conveyed in the essay, I would have had to deny that, but as a Black man who has been on the receiving end of racism, I digress.

“I believe, no American Negro exists who does not have his private Bigger Thomas living in the skull.”

Mr. Baldwin then attempts to separate the facade which White America paints of Bigger as a Monster (granted, he was just as guilty as anyone else who would have done the same thing), and shed some light on the reasoning behind his thinking. “We are confronting a monster created by the American republic and we are, through being made to share his experience, to receive illumination as regards the manner of his life and to feel both pity and horror at his awful and inevitable doom.”

When I “experienced” Native Son, I was gripped with a sort of aversion for I knew how the story ended. It reminded me a bit like Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, whose protagonist kills a pawnbroker and her sister. Gripped by the same poverty as Bigger, a product of “the American republic,” though Raskolnikov was Russian.

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Morning Routines

A handful of fingers
Rolled into a fist
A blossomed
Sign of peace.
Stirring the air
With a wave.
Plucking pedals
Finding the meaning of it all
Written somewhere in beauty,
Forgetting love in war,
Amid death a rose.
Plucked from radiant
Cool heat of dawn,
I sit in the shade of a winter willow
As the congestion of the day
Sprints by in a cloud of dust
Like runny noses.
Children play
In search of themselves.
Dreamers wake withering
In a morning eye
Drifting back to sleep.
The answer is in front of them.
Don’t lose your mind for the sake
Of a song once heard,
Learn to sing first
And then you can carry a tune.

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I Love You,___________

Marmalade daylight snags the window in radiant noontime heat
The dreamer resuscitated from revere in a return to self
As a peek of sunshine lifts his lids to toast
as depression pulls
and sleep is welcomed for lunch as well
a penny for a thought returned for two cents.
No words to express, no-
things to be said in ears but to sit and chew
on the words of one calling in the metaphors of flight
What rhetoric will be used to summon you from your soporific intoxication
as freedom dangles from your lips and a cherry falls to the ground below
for fools whisper in the open and some things need to be digested
Who can you hold onto when life calls you out of bed

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(Featured image is from the cover of Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin)

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