I’m in a period of the book publishing process where there’s not much to report. I anticipate getting edits back from the publisher in the next month or two, which I’ll then send back to wait for a second, final copy to proofread and send off to the printers. But I did recently get one thing finalized that I’m happy to share: the title and publication date.
Your Children Are Very Greatly in Danger: School Segregation in Rochester, New York; to be released March 15, 2022.
That title comes from a James Baldwin essay, “Words of a Native Son,” published in Playboy in December 1964 and reprinted in the Library of America edition of Baldwin’s collected essays, which I read during the time I was writing my book. In this essay as in much of his work, Baldwin makes the point that white people suffer from racism and white supremacy in America just as Black people do — perhaps more, in fact.
It is white people, then, that he’s addressing in this paragraph:
“I’m not interested in anybody’s guilt. Guilt is a luxury we can no longer afford. I know you didn’t do it, and I didn’t do it either, but I am responsible for it because I am a man and a citizen of this country and you are responsible for it, too, for the very same reason: as long as my children face the future they face, and come to the ruin that they come to, your children are very greatly in danger, too. They are endangered above all by the moral apathy which pretends it isn’t happening. This does something terrible to us.
Anyone who is trying to be conscious must begin to be conscious of that apathy and must begin to dismiss the vocabulary which we’ve used so long to cover it up, to lie about the way things are. We must make the great effort to realize that there is no such thing as a Negro problem – but simply a menaced boy. If we could do this, we could save this country, we could save the world.”
That phrase jumped out at me immediately when I read it. I like the word “danger,” because it conveys a sense of urgency that is often lacking in discussions of racial segregation. I like the way the adverbial phrase feels slightly jarring because it reinforces that sense of danger and unbalance. I like how it subverts our usual expectation of who the “you” will be when we talk about people being harmed by racism.
I like the publication date, too, even if I wish it were sooner, as it happens to be my birthday.
If I understand correctly, the book has now formally “launched” and will be showing up before long for pre-order from your favorite online booksellers. I’ll share more about that when I know it.