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We finally learn the mysterious past of Mrs. James. Her birth is a result of a rich white man raping her mother, Elliott and Billie’s grandmother. We learn this is one of the many reasons William James Sr. hates white men. He feels threatened by his own two sons who are both fair skinned; a trait they garnered from their mother. William James Sr. is trapped in his own dark skin.
“...the dilemma and the rage and the anguish of a Negro man, who, in the first place, is forced to accept all kinds of humiliation in his working day, whose power in the world is so slight he can not really protect his home, his wife, his children, you know. And then finds himself out of work. And then watches his children growing up, menaced in exactly the same way he has been menaced. When a child is fourteen, when a Negro child is fourteen, he knows the score already. There is nothing you can do. And all you can do about it is try...is pray really that this will not destroy him. But the tension this creates within the best of the man, is absolutely unimaginable, and something this country refuses to imagine, and very, very dangerous. And again complicates the sexuality of the country, and of the Negro in a hideous way, exactly because all Negros are raised in a kind of matriarchy, since after all, the wife can go out and wash the white ladies’ clothes and steal things from the kitchen. And this is the way we have all grown up.”
Listen: “My Yiddishe Mama” - Billy Holiday
Read: “Go Tell It on the Mountain” - James Baldwin