The visit of James Baldwin to a village in Switzerland can be contrasted as a racial difference issue
The visit of James Baldwin to a village in Switzerland can be contrasted as a racial difference issue, in which he employs mixed feelings about the populace, while implementing arguments about the white man’s prejudice towards black individuals and the vast cultural and economic differences between both parties.Baldwin goes to a small village in Switzerland and learns that he is the first black person to ever visit. The village is high in the mountains but not particularly inaccessible. Snow falls heavily, and the village has hot spring water which attracts tourists, most of whom are physically disabled and hope bathing in the water will heal them. Everyone in the village knows Baldwin’s name and knows that he is friends with a local woman and her son in whose chalet he is staying. However, he remains a stranger in the eyes of the village, evidenced by the little children who shout “Neger! Neger!” when he passes. This never fails to shock Baldwin, though he smiles in order to appear friendly and pleasant. The villagers are extremely curious about his physical features, and some touch his hair or rub his skin to see if the color will come off. Baldwin knows the villagers do not mean to insult him, but this does not make him feel much better.The villagers donate money to the church in order to “buy” Africans and convert them to Christianity. During the Lent carnival, two children are ritually painted in blackface and solicit these donations. The wife of a bistro owner happily tells Baldwin that last year the village bought 6-8 Africans. Baldwin thinks about European missionaries who are the first white people to arrive in African villages, but he notes that this is a different phenomenon from what he experiences in the Swiss village. Because of European imperialism, the Swiss villagers “cannot be strangers anywhere in the world,” no matter how unfamiliar the world might be to them. Black people feel an inevitable rage and internal turmoil in this world, while white people hold onto a privileged sense of naïveté about racism and black people’s experiences. White people do not wish to be hated, but neither are they willing to give up their power. They continue to imagine black people as irredeemable “savages,” which affords black people a perverse sense of freedom as well as knowledge of white people that is fundamentally unreciprocated.