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And the others, who have avoided all of these deaths, get up in the morning and go downtown to meet "the man." They work in the white man's world all day and come home in the evening to this fetid block.
This means, of course, that they must struggle, stolidly, incessantly, to keep this sense alive in themselves, in spite of the insults, the indifference, and the cruelty they are certain to encounter in their working day.
They patiently browbeat the landlord into fixing the heat, the plaster, the plumbing; this demands prodigious patience; nor is patience usually enough.
But when I turn east on 131st Street and Lenox Avenue, there is first a soda-pop joint, then a shoeshine "parlor," then a grocery store, then a dry cleaners', then the houses.
All along the street there are people who watched me grow up, people who grew up with me, people I watched grow up along with my brothers and sisters; and, sometimes in my arms, sometimes underfoot, sometimes at my shoulder -- or on it -- their children, a riot, a forest of children, who include my nieces and nephews.
The last time I passed by, the Jewish proprietor was still standing among his shelves, looking sadder and heavier but scarcely any older.
Further down the block stands the shoe-repair store in which our shoes were repaired until reparation became impossible and in which, then, we bought all our "new" ones.These gaps are not created merely by those who have moved away, inevitably into some other ghetto; or by those who have risen, almost always into a greater capacity for self-loathing and self-delusion; or yet by those who, by whatever means -- War II, the Korean War, a policeman's gun or billy, a gang war, a brawl, madness, an overdose of heroin, or, simply, unnatural exhaustion -- are dead.I am talking about those who are left, and I am talking principally about the young. Well, some, a minority, are fanatical churchgoers, members of the more extreme of the Holy Roller sects.There are further retreats, of course, than the TV screen or the bar.There are those who are simply sitting on their stoops, "stoned," animated for a moment only, and hideously, by the approach of someone who may lend them the money for a "fix." Or by the approach of someone from whom they can purchase it, one of the shrewd ones, on the way to prison or just coming out.Many, many more are "moslems," by affiliation or sympathy, that is to say that they are united by nothing more -- and nothing less -- than a hatred of the white world and all its works.They are present, for example, at every Buy Black street-corner meeting -- meetings in which the speaker urges his hearers to cease trading with white men and establish a separate economy.Neither the speaker nor his hearers can possibly do this, of course, since Negroes do not own General Motors or RCA or the A&P, nor, indeed, do they own more than a wholly insufficient fraction of anything else in Harlem (those who do own anything are more interested in their profits than in their fellows).But these meetings nevertheless keep alive in the participators a certain pride of bitterness without which, however futile this bitterness may be, they could scarcely remain alive at all. They stay home and watch the TV screen, living on the earnings of their parents, cousins, brothers, or uncles, and only leave the house to go to the movies or to the nearest bar. " one may ask, running into them along the block, or in the bar.In trying to make their hovels habitable, they are perpetually throwing good money after bad.Such frustration, so long endured, is driving many strong, admirable men and women whose only crime is color to the very gates of paranoia.