By Alex Zamalin
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Additional resources for African American Political Thought and American Culture: The Nation’s Struggle for Racial Justice
It entailed critical self-examination of one’s emotional limitations, undemocratic commitments and unseen moral attachments. 70 Virtue also entailed resisting the very things that Booker T. Washington encouraged—striving for selfpreservation, personal gain, superiority and power. ’s idea of universal love of humanity into something that entailed responsiveness toward others and required willfully accepting vulnerability. King thought that agape, the capacious, Christian idea of love of all people, would allow white and black Americans to dampen their feelings of anger and thirst for violence while encouraging trust, solidarity and nonviolence.
Ellison was always a bleeding-heart patriot despised by the American youth, while Baldwin and Morison were ambivalently patriotic like Socrates, who criticized Athenian laws but ultimately accepted his punishment because of his civic love. Yet the grave offence for which Socrates would be tried and punished—corrupting the youth by asking them to personally examine their deepest commitments and values—could be attributed to all three in their critique of Cold War American exceptionalism and demonstration of American liberalism’s exclusionary and paternalistic impulses.
What are my unexamined emotions? Am I or am I not consistent with my commitments? What remains hidden and shrouded in mystery? I. 46 Willpower was not put to the service of buying or passively watching television, driving fancy cars or having a suburban picket fence. 48 Baldwin understood this to be as much a problem for whites as it was for many middle class blacks, whose love of money bound them together and bred apathy toward blacks poorer than themselves. 51 Modern political thinkers would have been confused by Baldwin’s insistence that truth, self-examination and freedom were closely linked.