Buried by ABC at the time, the segment reveals a unique glimpse into Baldwin’s private life—as well as his resounding criticism about white fragility, as blisteringly relevant today as it was in 1979, writes Adrienne Westenfeld.
“White people go around, it seems to me, with a very carefully suppressed terror of Black people—a tremendous uneasiness,” Baldwin said. “They don’t know what the Black face hides. They’re sure it’s hiding something. What it’s hiding is American history. What it’s hiding is what white people know they have done, and what they like doing. White people know very well one thing; it’s the only thing they have to know. They know this; everything else, they’ll say, is a lie. They know they would not like to be Black here. They know that, and they’re telling me lies. They’re telling me and my children nothing but lies.”