Baldwin's view of Nation of Islam in Down on the Cross Essay

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Superficial Power

The Nation of Islam emerged as a very powerful organization during the 1960s. One of the Nation?s key goals was to create an independent Black America. It further preached about the White man as the devil, thus instilling faith within its followers that White society will be decimated, and Black society will prevail. Through these powerful messages, the Nation of Islam gave African-Americans a claim to divinity and created the notion of Black supremacy. However, in attempting to cement these ideas, the Nation of Islam?s message became extreme to the point of absurdity. While James Baldwin expounds on this irrationality in ?Down at the Cross?, he also understands and agrees with the underlying motivation behind
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Baldwin points out that if African-Americans received their own land, the entire frame of reference for Black society would have to change (Baldwin 332). For one, ?on what will the economy of this separatist nation be based?? (332). Baldwin further points out that a loss of territory by the United States would cause it to be reduced as a world power. It is safe to say that ?the United States would never surrender its territory, on any terms whatever, unless it found it impossible, for whatever reason, to hold it? (329). The Nation of Islam cannot create such a situation, thus making the creation of a separate Black America logistically impractical. The Nation itself understands the inanity of its goal, as admitted by NOI?s current leader, Louis Farrakhan. In a 1995 Newsweek article regarding the Nation?s move towards merging with mainstream society, Farrakhan admits, ?in a private setting, the Elijah Muhammad once conceded that the separatist dream was unrealistic? (Fineman).

Beyond this farfetched notion of a separate nation, one must look at the Nation of Islam?s underlying message. Basically, it portrays African Americans who consort with the ?devil? as giving in to White society, begging to remain as a servant in their culture. A strong counterpoint for this argument is Baldwin himself, who actually goes ?to have a drink with