In The Fire Next Time, Baldwin writes that African Americans have generally been bewildered that white Americans think of themselves as they do, as obviously good, and good at heart, despite the evidence of their institutions and history. He writes:
The American Negro has the great advantage of having never believed the collection of myths to which white Americans cling: that their ancestors were all freedom-loving heroes, that they were born in the greatest country the world has ever seen, or that Americans are invincible in battle and wise in peace, that Americans have always dealt honorably with Mexicans and Indians and all other neighbors or inferiors, that American men are the world's most direct and virile, that American women are pure. Negros know far more about white Americans than that; it can almost be said, in fact, that they know about white Americans what parents -- or, anyway, mothers -- know about their children, and that they often regard white Americans that way. And perhaps this attitude, held in spite of what they know and thwat they have endured, helps to explain why Negroes, on the whole, and until lately, have allowed themselves to feel so little hatred. The tendency really has been, insofar as this was possible, to dismiss white people as the slightly mad victims of their own brainwashing.