Dear 100 Hour Board,
A friend just re-posted an image attributing the following quote to James Baldwin:
"We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist."
It set my spidey-senses tingling right away, partly because its register seems too 21st-century for Baldwin and partly because I don't think James Baldwin, fine writer that he was, would ever have penned the offense against parallelism that is "in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist." (Grammatically correct, yes, but stylistically disappointing.)
A quick Google search found lots of other people quoting Baldwin, but no original Baldwin source.
So here are my questions:
- Did Baldwin say this? (If he did and you can find me an actual citation, I'll fund your next Board party.)
- If he didn't, should I comment on my friend's post? I agree with the sentiment of the quote, but I'm on a crusade against false and misleading information in all its forms. But also I don't want to be a jerk.
- Care to share any phantom attributions that are particularly irritating to you?
SO MANY people attribute the quote "Well-behaved women rarely make history" to Eleanor Roosevelt, and it drives me crazy. It was actually originally said by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, a brilliant historian (who also happens to be LDS) in a book she wrote about a midwife in colonial Maine. People also have sort of co-opted this quote to mean, "Woooo, be crazy because otherwise you'll never make history!" but actually in Ulrich's original context it just meant, "Hey, we've sort of overlooked people like this midwife because she never did anything crazy, but let's change that and start researching more about everyday people's role in history, too."
One time I saw some mugs on Etsy with this quote on them, attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, and it bothered me so much I sent an email to the seller explaining their mistake. They never responded and never changed any of their merch, but at least I lived up to my Board duty of being an internet busybody.
I think you're right about the quote. When I searched for it, this Berkeley blog post was one of the first things to pop up. The note at the end of the article says "Note: this piece has been updated. The quote at the beginning of this piece, which we originally attributed to James Baldwin, is actually from Robert Jones, Jr, who goes by @SonofBaldwin, and who gave us permission to use his words." It looks like Son of Baldwin originally tweeted it on August 18, 2015. The correction on the Berkeley blog post made me very curious where the misattribution began, but, alas, that was a rabbit hole too deep. Basically I found this 2018 book that attributes the quote to Baldwin, citing the documentary I am Not Your Negro as the source, and I found an article in this college newspaper from February 2017 that attributes it to Baldwin as well. (Interestingly enough, this newspaper has a review of I am Not Your Negro a few pages earlier. Don't ask me what that means; I just thought it was weird.)
Anyway, I too agree with the sentiment of the quote and sympathize with your crusade against false information. At this point, I think it's definitely too late to comment something on your friend's post, but in the future, I think offering a similar correction would really just depend on the situation—how close of a friend, how misleading the mistake, how engaged you typically are on social media, etc.
As far as phantom attributions go, I came across the Church Style Guide this week, and I'm a NERD, so I was reading it, and I thought the most interesting part was the section "Quotations Frequently Misattributed" (pg. 76). I was glad to discover that the quote “No other success can compensate for failure in the home," which is often attributed to President McKay, is actually from J.E. McCulloch. So now that misattribution will probably irritate me.
Idk, man, but did you know that the first person to attribute the quote "Don't believe everything you read on internet" to Abraham Lincoln was actually Martin Luther King Jr?
The more you know
(P.S. I'm pretty sure this my only answer where I've written something so stupid in the name of humor I've managed to annoy myself)