GOD IS NOT THERE

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Go Tell It on the MountainGo Tell It On the Mountain

Written by: James Baldwin

Narrated by: Adam Lazarre-White

JAMES BALDWIN (1924-1987 AMERICAN NOVELIST & SOCIAL CRITIC)
JAMES BALDWIN (1924-1987 AMERICAN NOVELIST, SOCIAL CRITIC)

Go Tell It on the Mountain because God is not there.  Go Tell It on the Mountain because no one listens.  Go Tell It on the Mountain because no one cares.  James Baldwin rages against culture that makes one, what one is not.  Baldwin wins fame from a book that defines the chains of discrimination.  He explains why and how culture is a curse.  Baldwin tells a story that explains why being different denies equal opportunity.

Go Tell It on the Mountain is partly auto biographical.  It tells of the author’s remembrance of his childhood and formative years.  In broad perspective, Go Tell It on the Mountain shows how Americans are born as equals but deprived of potential by culture.  Though published in 1953, the truth of Baldwin’s observations about culture is institutionalized in America.

Baldwin writes a story about three economic opportunities for early 20th century black Americans.  They are announced by Baldwin as robber, pimp, or preacher.  Today, some believe blacks are still not suited for more.

STEREOTYPING
Only when human beings are treated as equal will stereotypes disappear.

Baldwin’s story is about two fathers of the same boy.  One is the natural father; the other is a stepfather.  The birth father is characterized as naturally smart.  He moves from the rural south to the urban north with a woman he does not marry.  The father is arrested for being at a store when two black men rob it.  Because the father is in the wrong place at the wrong time, he is sent to jail for trial.  The father is accused but not convicted.  He is so shaken by the experience; he slits his wrists and dies.  What would this father have become if he had not been arrested and jailed?  The innate skill of a human being may be a combination of genetics and environment but if one’s color says you can only be a robber, a pimp, a preacher, a sports star, or an entertainer; being smart is not enough.  Only when human beings are treated as equal will stereotypes disappear.

BLACK PREACHER
The irony of a stepfather/ preacher’s abuse is that he is biblically as sinful as most human beings.  (In retrospect, knowing that Baldwin is gay, one surmises how abusive a religious stepfather might be.)

The second father of the same boy, a stepfather, also gravitates from the rural south to the north but he is older and knows success as a preacher.  He is not characterized as particularly smart but he believes in God and talks the talk of a good man who will rescue an unwed mother and her child from a life of despair.  However, the stepfather is a martinet.  He severely punishes his wife and children for what he considers sin or disrespect.  The irony of the preacher’s abuse is that he is biblically as sinful as most human beings.  (In retrospect, knowing that Baldwin is gay, one surmises how abusive a religious stepfather might be.)

What makes Baldwin’s book important is its reflection on a part of American culture that denies equal opportunity for all.  A smart man kills himself because he is black and has experienced the hate and inequality of discrimination.  A preacher beats his wife and sons because he believes he has a right, given by God, to assay sin and punish those who violate his limited understanding.

EQUAL OPPORTUNITY
What makes Baldwin’s book important is its reflection on a part of American culture that denies equal opportunity for all.
INSTITUTIONAL DISCRIMINATION
INSTITUTIONAL DISCRIMINATION

Being smart or being religious is not enough; particularly if you are a minority or a woman because cultures stultify individuality and restrict opportunity.  Individuality and opportunity are hindered by poor education and biases that are eternally engendered (institutionalized) by discrimination.  Blacks have shown they are more than criminals, preachers, sports stars, and entertainers.  And women have shown they are more than child bearers and housewives but America continues to struggle with equal opportunity for all.  Baldwin exemplifies America’s struggle in Go Tell It on the Mountain.

Author: chet8757

Graduate Oregon State University and Northern Illinois University, Former City Manager, Corporate Vice President, General Contractor, Non-Profit Project Manager, occasional free lance writer and photographer for the Las Vegas Review Journal.

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