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[musical intro] [music] [Announcer] The following program is from NET, the National Educational Television Network. [Announcer] Debate: James Baldwin versus William Buckley. Subject: Has the American Dream been achieved at the expense of the American Negro? This debate was held recently at the Cambridge Union, Cambridge University, England, and was recorded for use by NET. [Presenter] Here we are in the debating hall of the Cambridge Union -- hundreds of undergraduates and myself waiting for what could prove one of the most exciting debates in the whole 150 years of the Union history. And really, I don't think I've ever seen the Union so well attended. There are undergraduates everywhere, they're on the benches, they're on floor, they're in the galleries, and there are a lot more outside clamoring to get in. Well, the motion that has drawn this huge crowd tonight is this: that "The American Dream has been achieved at the expense
of the American Negro." The debate will open with two undergraduates speakers, one from each side, and then we shall have the first distinguished guest, Mr. James Baldwin -- the well known American novelist who's achieved worldwide fame with his novel "Another Country." Then opposing the motion will be Mr. William Buckley, also an American, very well-known as a conservative in the United States. I must stress a conservative in the American sense, author of the book called "Up From Liberalism," and editor of the National Review, one of the early supporters of Senator Goldwater. This is the setting of the debate, and any moment now the president will be leading in his officers and his distinguished guests, he'll take his chair and the debate will begin. [Applause] [Applause] [Applause]
The motion before the house tonight is "The American Dream is at the expense of the American Negro." The proposer is Mr. David Heycock of Pembroke College and opposer Mr. Jeremy Burford of Emmanuel College. Mr. James Baldwin will speak third, and Mr. William F. Buckley, Jr. will speak fourth. Mr. Hancock has the ear of the house. [Applause] [Applause] Mr. President, sir, it is the custom of the house for the first speaker in any debate to extend a formal welcome to any visitors to the House. I can honestly say however, that it is a very great honor to be able to welcome to the House this evening Mr. William Buckley and Mr. James Baldwin. Mr. William Buckley has the reputation of possibly being the most articulate conservative in the United States of America. He was a graduate of
Yale, and he first gained a reputation for himself by publishing a book entitled "God and Man and Yale." [LAUGHTER] [LAUGHTER] Since then, he has devoted himself to the secular, and this has included Norman Mailer, Kenneth Tynan, Mary McCarthy, and Fidel Castro, none of whom have come out of their confrontations unscathed. At present, his principle occupation is editing a right wing newspaper in the United States entitled The National Review. Mr. James Baldwin is hardly in need of introduction. His reputation both as a novelist and as an advocate of civil rights is international. His third novel Another Country has been published as a paperback in England today. Mr. Baldwin and Mr. Buckley are both very welcome to the house this evening. [applause] [applause] Imagine, Mr. President, a society which above all values freedom and equality. A society in which artificial barriers to fulfillment and
achievement are unheard of. A society in which a man may begin his life as a railsplitter and end it as president. A society in which all men are free in every sense of the word. Free to live where they choose, free to work where they choose, equal in the eyes of the law and every public authority and equal in the eyes of their fellows, a society in fact in which intolerance and prejudice are meaningless terms. Imagine however, Mr. President, that a condition of this utopia has been a persistent and quite deliberate exploitation of one ninth of its inhabitants. That one man in line has been denied those rights which the rest of that society takes for granted. One man in nine does not have the chance for fulfillment or realization of his innate potentialities. That one man in nine cannot promise his children a secure future and unlimited opportunities. Imagine this, Mr. President, and you have what is in my opinion the bitter reality of the American dream. A few weeks ago, Martin Luther King had to hold a nonviolent demonstration in Selma, Alabama, in his drive to register Negro
voters. By the end of the week in these demonstrations, he was able to write quite accurately in a national fundraising letter from Selma Alabama Jail, "There are more Negroes in prison with me than there are on the voting rolls." When King wrote that letter, 335 out of 32,700 Negroes in Dallas had the vote -- one percent of the Dallas population. After a mass march to the courthouse, 237 Negroes, King among them, were arrested. The following day, 470 children who had deserted their classrooms to protest against King's arrest were charged with juvenile delinquency. [crowd laughter] Thirty-six adults on the same day were charged with contempt of court for picketing the courthouse while state circuit court was in session. On the following day, 111 people were arrested on the same charge despite their claim that they merely wanted to see the voting registrar. Four hundred students were arrested and taken to the armory where many of them spent the night on a cold cement floor. The following day, the demonstration spread to Marion, Alabama.
In Marion, Negroes outnumber whites by eleven and a half thousand to six thousand people and yet, only 300 are registered to vote. Negroes in Marion were anxious to test the public accommodations section of the civil rights law. They entered a drugstore and there they were served with Coca Cola laced with salt. and were told that hamburgers had risen to five dollars each. After the arrest of 15 Negroes for protesting against this treatment, 700 Negroes boycotted their classes next day and marched in orderly fashion to the jail. There they sang civil rights songs until they were warned by a, a state trooper that they would be arrested if they sung one more song. Of course they sang another song, and of course all 700 were arrested. American society has felt fit to use Negro labor. It has felt fit to to use the blood of the Negro in two world wars. It has felt fit to listen to his music. It has felt fit to laugh at his jokes. And yet as far as I'm concerned, it has never felt fit to give the American Negro a fair deal. And for this reason, Mr. President, I would beg leave to propose the motion
that the American Dream is at the expense of the American Negro. [applause] [applause continues] [dinging noise] [president] I now call Mr. Jeremy Burford of Emmanuel College to oppose the motion. [applause] [host] Now I have Mr. Jeremy Burford of Emmanuel College who is the first undergraduate opposing the motion. [Burford] James Baldwin is well-known as one of the most vivid and articulate writers about the Negro problem in America. Mr. Baldwin had a difficult childhood and he has personally he himself suffered discrimination and ill treatment in the South of America. And I would like to say at this oppor- at this time, that it is not the purpose of this side of the house to condone that [noise in background] in any way at all. It is not our purpose to oppose civil rights.
It is our purpose to oppose this motion and [crowd noise] [crowd noise] Thank you sir, come and collect your fee afterwards. [clap or gavel] [clapping] This side of the house denies that the American Dream has in any way been helped by this undoubted inequality and suffering of the Negro. We maintain that in fact this- it has has hindered the American Dream and if, and if there had been equality, if there had been true freedom of opportunity the American dream would be very much more advanced than it is now. If the American dream has made any progress, and I think it has, it has been made in spite of the suffering and inequality of the American Negro and not because of it. Now it is also implied from this motion that American dream is encouraging and worsening the suffering of the American Negro. This is emphatically not the case. The American dream, the American economic
prosperity and respect for civil liberties has been the main factor in bringing about the undoubted improvement in race relations in America in the last twenty years. And professor Arnold Rose who is the author of the Negro in America which perhaps is the definitive work on the subject who is also a contributor to what was called a Freedom Pamphlet so I imagine that if he has any bias at all, he is in favor of the Negro. He said that this improvement in race relations will be seen in years to come as remarkably quick and he has put it down to three main causes: increased industrialization, technical advance, the increased social mobility of the American people, and the economic prosperity. And I would put it to this house that that industrialization and economic prosperity are two of the main ingredients of the American dream. And at the same time again I do not want to say that the America- the Negro
in America is treated fairly, but at the same time the average per capita income of Negroes in America is exactly the same as the average per capita income of people in Great Britain. Now I found that abso- [crowd noise] I found that absolutely amazing and I, I understand [crowd noise] I understand that some of you do as well. So I have got the reference here from the United States News and World Report of July the twenty-second nineteen sixty-three in which it points out this will have to be the last interruption I take as time is running [background voice: "Mr. President on a point of"] on a point of information is this being a [unsure] of real income or money income? [Burford] I'm talking of money. [applause] I am talking of money. money income. I would not wish to disguise that. I would also say that in terms of this, there are only five countries in the world where the income is higher than that of the American Negro, and they do not include countries like West Germany and France and Japan. Now there in America thirty-five Negro
millionaires, there are Negro six thousand doctors [unclear]. Now I do not by saying this wish to emphasize that the Negro's fairly treated. I merely wish to try and convey a more realistic and objective account of the situation of the Negro. I, I agree that there are Negroes who are very poor indeed [crown laughter] such as the- such as the old gentleman in the south who uh who was uh talking about some of his wealthier brethren and he was saying yes, some of these rich Negroes they put on airs, they like the bottom figure of a fraction. The bigger they try to be the smaller they really are. [crowd laughter] I would repeat, Mr. President sir, that in the last minute I have, that this debate is not whether civil rights should be extended to American Negroes or not. If it were it would be a very easy motion to argue for and a very easy motion to vote for. The debate tonight concerns whether the American dream is at the expense of the American Negro. That is whether the American Negro has paid for the American dream
with his suffering or whether the American dream has furthered Negro inequality. And I would deny both those two precepts. I would say that Negro inequality has hindered the American dream and I would say that the American dream has been very important indeed in furthering civil rights and in furthering freedom for the American Negro. Mr. President sir, I beg to oppose the motion. [applause] [applause] [ding] [moderator] It is now with very great pleasure and a very great sense of honor that I call Mr. James Baldwin to speak third to this motion. [applause] [applause] [host] Now we have Mr. James Baldwin the star of the evening, who has been sitting, listening attentively, getting a wonderful reception here in the Cambridge Union. Tremendous enthusiasm from all sides of the
house for Mr. Baldwin who has been listening to the arguments. Now we will bring the voice of experience to the debate. [Baldwin] Good evening. I, I find myself not for first time and the position of a kind of Jeremiah. For example, I don't disagree with Mr. Burford that the the inequality suffered by the American Negro population of the United States has hindered the American dream. Indeed it has. I quarrel with some other things he has to say. The other deeper element of a certain awfulness I feel has to do with, it has to do with one's point of view. I had to put it that way, one's uh one's sense one's system of reality. It would seem to me the proposition for the house when I put it that way
is the American dream at the expense of the American Negro or the American dream is at the expense of the American Negro is a question hideously loaded and that one's response to that question, one's reaction to that question has to depend on effect, an effect of where you find yourself in the world. What your sense of reality is, what your system of reality is. That is, it depends on assumptions which we hold so deeply as be scarcely aware of them. A white South African or a Mississippi sharecropper or a Mississippi sheriff or a Frenchman driven out of Algeria all have, at bottom, a system of reality, which compels them to, for example, in the case of the French exile from Algeria, to defend French reasons for having ruled Algeria. The Mississippi or the Alabama sheriff, who really does believe when he's
facing a Negro boy or girl that this woman, this man, this child must be insane to attack the system to which he owes his entire identity. Our calls from such a person, the proposition of which which we're trying to discuss here tonight does not exist. And on the other hand, I have to speak as one of the people who've been most attacked by what we must now here call the Western or the European system of reality, what white people in the world with- there's [unclear] of white supremacy I hate to say it here, comes from Europe. That's how got to America. Beneath then, whatever one's reaction to this proposition is, has to be the question of whether or not civilizations can be considered as such equal, or whether one civilization has the right to overtake, and
subjugate, and in fact to destroy another. Now what happens when that happens, leaving aside all the physical facts which one can quote, leaving aside rape or murder. Leaving aside the bloody catalog of oppression which we are in one way too familiar with already, what this does to the subjugated, the most private, the most serious thing this does to the subjugated is to destroy his sense of reality. It destroys for example his father's authority over him. His father can no longer tell him anything because the past has disappeared. And his father has no power in the world. This means, in the case of an American Negro, born in that glittering republic, and in the moment you are born, since you don't any better, every stick and stone in every face is white and since you've not yet seen a mirror you suppose that you are too. It comes as a great shock
around the age of five or six or seven, to discover that the flag which you pledged allegiance along with everybody else, has not pledged allegiance to you. It comes as a great shock to discover that Gary Cooper killing off the Indians, when you were rooting for Gary Cooper, that the Indians were you. It comes as a great shock to discover the country which is your birthplace and to which you owe your life and your identity has not in its whole system of reality evolved any place for you. The disaffection, the demoralization and the gap between one person and another only on the basis of the color of their skins begins there and accelerates accelerates throughout a whole lifetime. So at present you realize you're thirty and are having a terrible time managing to trust your countrymen. By the time you were thirty
you have been through a certain kind of mill and the most serious effect of the mill you have been through is again, not the catalog of disaster: the policeman, the taxi drivers, the waiters the landlady, the landlord, the banks, the insurance companies, the millions of details twenty-fours hours of every day which spell out to you that you are a worthless human being. It is not that. It's by that time you've begun to see it happening in your daughter or your son or your niece or your nephew. You are thirty by now and nothing you have done has helped you to escape the trap. But what is worse than that is that nothing you have done and as far as you can tell, nothing you can do will save your son or your daughter from meeting the same disaster and not impossibly coming to the same end.
Now, we're speaking about expense. I suppose there's several ways to address oneself to some attempt to define what that word means here. Let me put it this way. That from a very literal point of view, the harbors and the ports and the railroads of the country, the economy, especially, of the southern states, could not conceivably be what it has become if they had not had and do not still have indeed and for so long, so many generations cheap labor. I
am stating very seriously, and this is not an overstatement: I picked the cotton. I carried it to market and I built the railroads under someone else's whip for nothing. For nothing. The southern oligarchy which has until today so much power in Washington and therefore some power in the world was created by my labor and my sweat and the violation of my women and the murder of my children. This in the land of the free and the home of the brave. And no one can challenge that statement. It is a matter of historical record. In another way
this dream, and we'll get to the dream in a moment, is at the expense of the American Negro. You watch this in the Deep South in great relief but not only the Deep South. In the Deep South, you are dealing with a sheriff or a landlord or a landlady or the girl at the Western Union desk. And she doesn't know quite who she's dealing with by which I mean that if you're not a part of the town and if you are a northern nigger, it shows in millions of ways. So she simply knows that it's an unknown quantity and she wants to have nothing to do with it cause she won't talk to you, you have to wait for a while to get your telegram. OK we all know this, we've been through it. And by the time you get to be a man, it's very easy to deal with. But what is happening in the poor woman, the poor man's mind
is this: they have been raised to believe and by now they helplessly believe that no matter how terrible their lives may be, and their lives have been quite terrible, and no matter how far they fall, no matter what disaster overtakes them, they have one enormous knowledge and consolation which is like a heavenly revelation at least they are not Black. Now I suggest that of all the terrible things that can happen to a human being, that is one of the worst. I suggest that what has happened to white southerners is in some ways after all much worse than what has happened to what to to Negroes there. Because Sheriff Clarke in Selma Alabama cannot be considered, you know, no one is- can be dismissed as a total monster. I'm sure he loves his wife, his children. I'm sure that, you know,
he likes to get drunk. You know, he's- after all, one's got to assume, and he is visibly a man like me. But he doesn't know what drives him to use the club, to menace with the gun, and to use a cattle prod. Something awful must have happened to a human being to be able to put a cattle prod against a woman's breasts, for example. What happens to the woman who's gaslit? What happens to the man who does it is in some ways much, much worse. This is being done after all not a hundred years ago but in 1965 in a country which is blessed with what we call prosperity a word we won't examine too closely. With a certain kind of social coherence which called itself a civilized nation and which espouses the notion of the freedom of the world. And it is
perfectly true from the point of view now of simply of an American Negro. Any American Negro watching this, no matter where he is, from the vantage point of Harlem which is another terrible place, has to say to himself in spite of what the government says. The government says we can't do anything about it. But if those are white people being murdered in Mississippi work farms and being carried off to jail, those are white children running up and down the streets, the government would find some way of doing something about it. We have a civil rights bill now. We had an amendment, fif- the fifteenth amendment nearly a hundred years ago. I hate to sound again like an Old Testament prophet, but if the amendment was not honored then, I don't have any reason to believe in the civil rights bill will be honored now. And after all one's been there since before, you know, a lot of other people got there. If one has got to prove one's title to the land isn't 400 hundred years enough? Four hundred years, at least three
wars? The American soil is full of the corpses of my ancestors. Why is my freedom or my citizenship or my right to live there. How is it conceivably a question now? And I suggest further that it the same way, the moral life of Alabama sheriffs and poor Alabama ladies, white ladies, their moral lives have been destroyed by the plague called color. That the American sense of reality has been corrupted by it. At the risk of sounding excessive, what I always felt when I finally left the country I found myself abroad in other places and watched Americans abroad. That these are my countrymen and I do care about them and even if I didn't, there is something between us. We have the same shorthand. I know, if I look at a girl or a boy from Tennessee where they came from in Tennessee and what that means. No Englishman
knows that. No Frenchman. No one in the world knows that except another black man who comes from the same place. One watches these lonely people, denying the only kin they have. We talk about about integration in America as though it were some great, new conundrum. The problem in America is we've been integrated for a very long time. Put me next to any African and you will seen what I mean. That my grandmother was not a rapist. What we are not facing is the results of what we've done. What one begs the American people do for all our sakes is simply to accept our history. I was there not only as a slave but also as a concubine. One knows the power after all which can be used against another person who has absolute power over that person. It seemed to me when I watched Americans in Europe
that what they didn't know about Europeans was what they didn't know about me. They weren't trying, for example, to be nasty to the French girl or rude to the French waiter. They didn't know they hurt their feelings. They they didn't have any sense this particular woman, this particular man, though they spoke another language and had different manners and ways, was a human being. And they walked over them with the same kind of bland ignorance, condescension, charming and cheerful with which they'd always patted me on the head and called me Shine and were upset when I was upset. What is relevant about this, is that whereas forty years ago when I was born, the question of having to deal with what is unspoken by the subjugated what is never said to the master. While having to deal with this
reality was a very remote, very remote possibility. It was in no one's mind. When I was growing up I was taught in American history books that Africa had no history and neither did I. That I was a savage about whom the less said the better. Who had been saved by Europe and brought to America. And of course I believed it. I didn't have much choice. Those were the only books there were. Everyone else seemed to agree if you walk out of Harlem, ride out of Harlem, downtown -- the world agrees what you see is much bigger, cleaner, whiter, richer, safer than where you are. They collect the garbage, people obviously can pay their life insurance, the children look happy, safe. You're not. And you go back home. And it would seem that of course that it's an act of God, that this is true.
That you belong where white people have put you. It is only since the second world war that there's been as a counter image in the world. And that image did not come about through any legislation on the part of any American government, but through the fact that Africa was suddenly on the stage of the world and Africans had to be dealt with in a way they've never been dealt with before. This gave an American Negro for the first time a sense of himself beyond a savage or a clown. It has created, and will create, a great many conundrums. One of the great things that the white world does not know, but I think I do know, is that black people are just like everybody else. One has used the myth of Negro and the myth of color to pretend and to assume that you are dealing
essentially with something exotic, bizarre, and practically, according to human laws, unknown. Alas, it is not true. We are also mercenaries. dictators, murderers, liars. We are human too. What is crucial here is that unless we can manage to es- establish some kind of dialogue between those people whom I pretend have paid for the American dream and those other people who have not achieved it, we will be in terrible trouble. I wanna say at the end, the last, is that that is what concerns me most. We are sitting in this room and we are all, at least we like to think we are, relatively civilized, and we can talk to each other at least on certain levels so that we could walk out of here
assuming that the measure of our enlightenment or at least our politeness has some effect on the world. It may not. I remember for example, when the ex-attorney general, Mr. Robert Kennedy, said that it was conceivable that in forty years in America we might have a Negro president. And that sounded like a very emancipated statement, I suppose, to white people. They were not in Harlem when this statement was first heard and did not hear, and possibly will never hear, the laughter and the bitterness and the scorn with which the statement was greeted. From the point of view of the man in the Harlem barbershop, Bobby Kennedy only got here yesterday. And now he's already on his way to the presidency. We've been here for 400 years and now he tells us that maybe in 40 years if you're good, we may let you become president.
What is dangerous here is a turning away from, a turning away from anything any white American says. The reason for the political hesitation in spite of the Johnson landslide is that what has been betrayed by American politicians for so long. And I am, I am a grown man and perhaps I can be reasoned with. I certainly hope I can be. But I don't know and neither does Martin Luther King. None of us know how to deal with those other people whom the white world has so long ignored who don't believe anything the white world says and don't entirely believe anything I or Martin say. And one can't blame them. You watch what has happened to them in less than 20 years. It seems to me that the city of New York, for example, this is my the last point
is that Negroes are in for a very long time. If the city of New York were able as it has indeed been able in the last fifteen years to reconstruct itself, tear down buildings and raise great new ones, downtown and for money and has done nothing whatever except build housing projects in the ghetto for the Negroes. And of course Negroes hate it. Presently the property does indeed deteriorate because the children cannot bear it. They want to get out of the ghetto. If the American pretensions were based on more solid a more honest assessment of life and of themselves, it would not mean for Negroes when someone says urban renewal that Negroes suddenly are going to be thrown out into the street which is what it does means now. This is not an act of God. We're dealing with a society made and ruled by men.
If the American Negro had not been present in America I'm convinced, that the history of the American labor movement would be much more edifying than it is. It is a terrible thing for an entire people to surrender to the notion that one-ninth of its population is beneath them, and until that moment, until the moment comes when we, the Americans, we the American people, are able to accept the fact that I have to accept for example, that my ancestors are both white and black. That on that continent we are trying to forge a new identity for which we need each other. And that I am not a ward of America. I am not an object of missionary charity. I am one of the people who built the country. Until this moment there is scarcely any hope for the American Dream because the people who are
denied participation in it, by their very presence, will wreck it. And if that happens it's a very grave moment for the West. Thank you. [crowd applause] [applause continues] [applause continues] [host] Tremendously moving moment now, the whole of the union standing and applauding this magnificent speech of James Baldwin. Never seen this happen before in the union in all the years that I have known it. Baldwin is smiling, obviously delighted by his reception, tremendously moved by it. [applause continues]
[applause continues, unclear dialogue in crowd] [crowd settles] [ding] [moderator] I am now very grateful and very pleased to be able to call a Mr. William F. Buckley Jr. to speak fourth to this motion. [applause] [host] Now we have Mr. William Buckley who will need all his skill to establish ascendancy over his audience which has clearly been so deeply [unclear] by the eloquence of [Buckley] Thank you, Mr. President, Mr. Baldwin. [host speaking under Buckley] the personal experience the proceedings have become. [Buckley] Gentlemen, it seems to me that of all the indictments Mr. Baldwin has made of America are here tonight and in his copious literature of protest that the one that is most
striking involves, in effect, that the refusal of the American community are to treat him other than as a Negro. The American community has refused to do this. The American community almost everywhere he goes treats him with the kind of unction, the kind of satisfaction at posturing carefully for his flagellations of our civilization that indeed are quite properly commands the contempt which he so eloquently showers upon us. But it is impossible in my judgment to deal with the indictment of Mr. Baldwin unless one is prepared to deal with him as a white man. Unless one is prepared to say to him the
fact that your skin is black is utterly irrelevant to the arguments that you raise. The fact that you sit here as is your rhetorical device and lay the entire weight of the Negro ordeal on your own shoulders is irrelevant to the argument that we are here to discuss. The gravamen of Mr. Baldwin's charges of- against America are not so much that our civilization has failed him and his people, that our ideals are insufficient, but that we have no ideals. That our ideals rather are some sort of a superficial coating which we come up with at any given moment in order to justify whatever commercial and noxious experiment we are engaged in. Thus, Mr. Baldwin can write his book, The Fire Next Time, in which he threatens
America but he didn't in writing that book speak with the British accent that he used exclusively tonight in which he threatened America with the necessity [crowd noise] for us to jettison [cough and clap in crowd] for us to jettison our entire civilization. The only thing that the white man has that the Negro should want is his power and he is treated from coast to coast [talking in background] in the United States [host speaks background over Buckley: Mr. Buckley, Mr. Buckley doesn't choose to give way to the interrupt {unclear} ] [Buckley] with a kind of [unclear] [Buckley] that goes beyond anything that was ever expected from the most, most servile Negro creature by [unclear]. I propose to pay him the honor this night of saying to him, Mr. Baldwin, I am going to speak to you without any reference whatever to those surrounding protections which you are used to in virtue of the fact that you are a Negro. And here we need to ask the question, what in fact shall we
do about it, Mr. President? What shall we in America try to do, for instance, to eliminate those psychic humiliations which I join Mr. Baldwin in believing are the very worst aspects of this discrimination. You found it uh, a source of considerable mirth to laugh away the statistics of my colleague Mr. Burford. I don't think they are insignificant, but they are certainly not insignificant in a world which attaches a considerable importance to material progress. It- it is in fact the case that seven-tenths, that seven-tenths of the white income of the United States is equal to the income that is made by the, by the average Negro. I don't think this is an irrelevant statistic, ladies and gentlemen. But it takes the capitalization of fifteen, sixteen, seventeen thousand dollars per job in the United States. This is the capitalization that was not created exclusively as a result of Negro travail.
My great grandparents worked too, presumably yours worked also, I don't know of anything that has ever been created without the expense of something. All of you who hope for a diploma here are going to that at the expense of a considerable amount of effort and I would thank you please [laugh from audience] not to belie the fact that a considerable amount of effort went into the production of a system which grants a greater degree of material well being to the American Negro than that that is enjoyed by 95 percent of the other peoples of human race. But even so, to the extent that your withering laughter suggested here that you found this a contemptible observation, I agree. I don't think it matters that there are 35 millionaires among the Negro community they- if there were 35, if they were 20 million millionaires among the Negro community of the United States, I would still agree with you that we have a dastardly situation. But I am asking you not, not to make politics as the crow flies to use the fleeted phrase of Professor [Oakshot?]
but rather to consider what, in fact, is it we Americans ought to do? What are your instructions that I am to take back to United States my friends? [crowd laughter] I want to know what it is that we should do, and especially I want to know whether it is time in fact to abandon the American Dream as it has been defined by Mr. Heycock and Mr. Burford. What in fact is it New York is to do, for instance, to avoid two humiliations mentioned by Mr. Baldwin as ha- as being a part of his own experience during his lifetime. At the age of twelve, you will find on reading his book, he trespassed outside the ghetto of Harlem and was was taken by the scruff of the neck by a policeman on 42nd Street and Madison Avenue, and said "Here, you nigger go back to where you belong." Fifteen, twenty years later he goes in and asks for a Scotch whiskey at the airport at Chicago and is told by the white barman that is obviously underage
and under the circumstances cannot be served. I know. I know from your faces that you share with me the feeling of compassion and the feeling of our outrage that this kind of thing should have happened. What in fact are we going to do this policeman and what in fact are we going to do to this to this barman? How are we going to avoid the kind of humiliations that are perpetually visited on members of a minority race. Obviously the first element is concern. We've got to care that it happens. We have got to do what we can to change the warp and woof of moral- moral thought in society in such fashion as to try to make it happen less and less. Let me urge this point to you which I can do with authority, my friends, the only thing that I can tonight and that is to tell you that in the United States
there is a concern for the Negro problem. Now if you get up to me and say [laughter and applause] If you get up to me and say, well now, is it the kind of concern that we, students of Cambridge would show if the problem were our own, all I can say is I don't know. It may very well be that there has been some sort of a sunburst of moral enlightenment that has hit this community [crowd laughter] so as to make it predictable that if you were the governors of the United States, the situation would change overnight, I would fear to grant this as a form of courtesy, Mr. President [laughter] But meanwhile I am saying to you that the engines of concern in the United States are working. The presence of Mr. Baldwin here tonight is in part a reflection of that concern. [vocal reaction in crowd] You cannot You cannot go to a university in the United States, a university in the United States presumably also governed by the [lord?] spiritual as you are,
in which Mr. Baldwin is not the toast of the town. You cannot go to a university in the United States in which practically all other problems of public policy are preempted by the primary policy of concern for the Negro. I challenge you to name another civilization anytime anywhere in the history of the world in which the problems of the minority which have been showing considerable material or and political advancement is as much a subject of dramatic concern as it is in the United States. Let me, let me just say finally, ladies and gentlemen, this There is no instant cure for the race problem in America and anybody who tells you that there is is a charlatan and ultimately a boring man. A boring, precisely, because he is then speaking in the kind of abstractions that do not relate to the human experience. The trouble in America where the Negro community
is concerned is a very complicated one. I urge those of you who have a, a, who have an actual rather than a purely ideologized interest in the problem to read the book, "Beyond the Melting Pot" by professor Glazer, also co-author of "The Lonely Crowd", a prominent Jewish intellectual, who points to the fact that the situation in America where the Negroes are concerned is extremely complex as a result of an unfortunate conjunction of two factors. One is the dreadful efforts to perpetuate discrimination by many individual American citizens as a result of their lack of that final and ultimate concern which some people are truly trying to agitate the other is as a result of the failure of the Negro community itself to make certain exertions which were made by other minority groups during the American experience. If you can stand a statistic
not of my own making, let me give you one which professor Glazer considers as relevant. He says, for instance, in 1900 there were 3500 Negro doctors in America. In 1960, there were 3900, an increase in 400. Is this because there were no opportunities as has been suggested by Mr. Heycock and also by Mr. Baldwin, implicitly? No, says Professor Glazer. There are a great many medical schools who by no means practice discrimination who are anxious to receive and to train Negro doctors. There are scholarships available to put them through, but in fact that particular energy which he remarks was so noticeable in the Jewish community and to a uncertain and lesser extent in the Italian Irish community, for some reason is not there. We should focus on the necessity to animate this particular energy but he comes to the conclusion which strikes me as plausible that the people who can best do it, who can do it most effectively are Negroes themselves. Let me conclude by reminding you, ladies and gentlemen, that
where the Negro is concerned, the dangers are far as I can see at this moment, is that they will seek to reach out for some sort of radical solutions on the basis of which the true problem is obscured. They have done a great deal to focus on the fact of white discrimination against the Negroes. They have done a great deal to agitate a moral concern, but where in fact do they go now? They seem to be slipping if you will read carefully for instance the words of Mr. Bayard Rustin. Towards some sort of a Procrustean formulation which ends up less urging the advancement of the Negro than the regression of the white people. Fourteen times as many people in New York City born of Negroes are illegitimate as of whites. This is a problem. How should we address it? By seeking out laws that encourage illegitimacy in white people? This unfortunately tends to be the rhetorical momentum that some of the arguments are taking.
[man in audience] One thing you might do, Mr. Buckley, is let them vote in Mississippi. [audience applause] [Buckley] I agree, I agree. [Buckley] I couldn't agree with you more and for [audience noise] [audience laughter] e- except lest I appear too ingratiating which is hardly my objective here tonight. I think actually, I think actually what is wrong in Mississippi, sir, is not that not enough Negroes are voting but that too many white people are are are voting. [audience applause and laughter] Booker, Booker T. Washington said, Booker [audience laughter] T. Washington said the that important thing where Negroes are concerned is is is not that they hold public office but that they be prepared to hold public office. Not that they vote, but that they be prepared to vote. What are we going to do with the Negroes having taught the Negroes in Mississippi to despise Barnett, Ross Barnett [governor of Mississippi], shall we then teach them to emulate their cousins in Harlem and adore Adam
Clayton Powell, Jr.? It is much more complicated, sir, than simply the question of giving the vote. If I were myself a constituent of the community of Mississippi at this moment, what I would do is vote to lift the standards of the vote so as to disqualify 65 percent of the white people who are presently voting. [audience noise] Not not simply, not simply to give [unclear] [applause] I say then that what we need is a considerable amount of frankness that acknowledges that there are two sets of difficulties. The difficulties of the white person who acts as white people and brown people and Black people do all over the world but to protect their own vested interests, who have, as all of the races in the entire world have and suffer from a kind of a racial narcissism which tends always to convert every contingency into such a way as to maximize their own power. That, yes, we must do. But we must also reach through to the Negro people and tell them
that their best chances are in a mobile society and the most mobile society in the world today, my friends, is the United States of America. The most mobile society in the United States-- in the world is the United States of America and it is precisely that mobility which will give opportunities to the Negroes which they must be encouraged to take. But they must not in the course of their ordeal be encouraged to adopt the kind of cynicism, the kind of despair, the kind of iconoclasm that is urged upon them by Mr. Baldwin in his recent works. Because of one thing it can tell you, I believe with absolute authority that where the United States is concerned, if it ever becomes a confrontation between a continuation of our our own sort of idealism, the private stock of which granted like most people in the world we tend to lavish only every now and then on public enterprises
reserving it so often for our own irritations and pleasures. But the fundamental friend of the Negro people in the United States is the good nature and is the generosity and is the good wishes is the decency, the fundamental decency, that do lie at the reserves of the spirit of the American people. These must not be laughed at and under no circumstances must they be laughed at and under, under no circumstances must America be addressed and told that the only alternative to the status quo is to overthrow that civilization which we consider to be the faith of our fathers, the faith indeed of of your fathers. This is what must animate whatever meliorism must come because if it does finally come to a confrontation, a radical confrontation between giving up what we understand to be the best features of the American way of life, which at that level is indistinguishable so far as I can see from the European way of
life, then we will fight the issue and we will fight the issue not only in the Cambridge Union, but we will fight it as you were once recently called to do on beaches and on hills and on montels- mountains and on landing grounds and we will be convinced that just as you won the war against a particular threat into civilization, you were nevertheless waging a war in favor of and for the benefit of Germans, your own enemies, just as we are convinced that if it should ever come to that kind of a confrontation our own determination to win the struggle will be a determination to wage a war not only for whites, but also for Negroes. [shout from audience, applause] [applause] [throat clearing] [applause] [moderator] Will the tellers take their places, please? There[?] voted [?] in favor
of the motion, the motion being that the American Dream is at the expense of the Negro, voted in favor of that motion, 544 persons, and against 164 persons. The motion is therefore carried by 380 votes. I declare the House to stand adjourned. [APPLAUSE] [music outro] [announcer] This is NET, the National Educational Television Network.
Debate: Baldwin vs. Buckley
Producing Organization
British Broadcasting Corporation
Contributing Organization
Film and Media Archive, Washington University in St. Louis (St. Louis, Missouri)
Library of Congress (Washington, District of Columbia)
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Program Description
The one-hour special program features a debate between Negro author James Baldwin and leading American conservative William F. Buckley, Jr., at the Cambridge Union, Cambridge University, England. The two men argue the motion, "The American Dream: Is it at the expense of the American Negro?" Mr. Baldwin takes the affirmative position, while Mr. Buckley opposes the motion. Mr. Baldwin points out in his remarks that over the years the American Negro has been responsible for the cheap labor that has made the American dream possible, that the Negro must overcome the European or Western system of reality regarding race (white supremacy), that the 15th Amendment has been ignored for 100 years leaving no assurance that the civil rights bill will be enforced, that the white people of Mississippi have had their moral lives destroyed by color, and that the people who are now part of the American dream will be the ones who eventually wreck it. The Negro author's comments are received with a standing ovation. In opposing the motion, Mr. Buckley states his concern for the humiliation of the American Negro but he maintains that the stature of Mr. Baldwin as a successful writer is indicative of the Negro's ability to participate in the American dream. In addition, he points out that there is no instant cure for the civil rights problem since the situation remains complicated by the efforts of people to continue discrimination, and the failure of the Negro to make a greater effort on his own behalf. The danger in the whole racial question, the conservative leader says, is seeking a solution that might obscure the problem. The hope, he concludes, lies in a mobile society, not in the despair and cynicism espoused by people like Mr. Baldwin. Norman St. John Stevas, MP is the host for the program. Debate: Baldwin vs. Buckley is a production of the British Broadcasting Corporation. (Description adapted from documents in the NET Microfiche)
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Social Issues
Race and Ethnicity
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Host: Stevas, Norman St. John
Producing Organization: British Broadcasting Corporation
Speaker: Baldwin, James
Speaker: Buckley, William F., Jr.
AAPB Contributor Holdings
Film & Media Archive, Washington University in St. Louis
Identifier: 6661-1-1 (MAVIS Carrier Number)
Film & Media Archive, Washington University in St. Louis
Identifier: 6661-1 (MAVIS Component Number)
Format: VHS
Generation: Copy: Access
Library of Congress
Identifier: 2007960-1 (MAVIS Item ID)
Format: 2 inch videotape: Quad
Generation: Master
Color: B&W
Duration: 0:58:55
Library of Congress
Identifier: 2007960-3 (MAVIS Item ID)
Generation: Copy: Access
Color: Color
Library of Congress
Identifier: 2007960-2 (MAVIS Item ID)
Generation: Master
Color: Color
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Chicago: “Debate: Baldwin vs. Buckley,” 1965-06-14, Film and Media Archive, Washington University in St. Louis, Library of Congress, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 23, 2024,
MLA: “Debate: Baldwin vs. Buckley.” 1965-06-14. Film and Media Archive, Washington University in St. Louis, Library of Congress, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 23, 2024. <>.
APA: Debate: Baldwin vs. Buckley. Boston, MA: Film and Media Archive, Washington University in St. Louis, Library of Congress, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from