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Racism

  • ... you have to realize the white-supremacy boys are spoiled children. 'I want my way,' they scream, and like all spoiled children, they advance no justification for it except that it is their way.

  • The only way not to worry about the race problem is to be doing something about it yourself. When you are, natural human vanity makes you feel that now the thing is in good hands.

  • One of the less dismaying aspects of race relations in the United States is that their improvement is not a matter of a few people having a great deal of courage. It is a matter of a great many people having just a little courage.

  • ... in race relations, the single gesture and the single individual are more often than not doomed to failure. Only the group and the long-term, undeviating policy make much headway. ... if you want to make the world a better place, the first thing you must accept is the fact that you cannot transcend your limitations as an individual.

  • You mix the affluence of the white and the poverty of the black and you do not get a civilized society. Integration on an equal level is one thing. Mixing on an unequal level is another.

  • ... apartheid still hangs in the air like a poisonous cloud left over from chemical warfare.

  • In the last few years, race relations in America have entered upon a period of intensified craziness wherein fear of being called a racist has so thoroughly overwhelmed fear of being a racist that we are in danger of losing sight of the distinction.

  • I believe racism has killed more people than speed, heroin, or cancer, and will continue to kill until it is no more.

  • Racism is so universal in this country, so widespread and deep-seated, that it is invisible because it is so normal.

  • Racism keeps people who are being managed from finding out the truth through contact with each other.

  • There is a good deal of evidence that the United States is moving to the right, and that the main force behind the movement is a resurgence, in a new form, of racial prejudice.

  • We first crush people to the earth, and then claim the right of trampling on them for ever, because they are prostrate. Truly, human selfishness never invented a rule, which worked so charmingly both ways!

  • They have stabbed themselves for freedom — jumped into the waves for freedom — starved for freedom — fought like very tigers for freedom! But they have been hung, and burned, and shot — and their tyrants have been their historians!

  • Them white people made hate. They made hate just like they had a formula for it and followed that formula down to the last exact gallon of misery put in. Well ... that's what they made and that's what they got.

  • I received a most amusing postcard the other morning. Unfortunately, it was not signed in a readable manner so I cannot answer it privately. But it comes from Moblie, Ala., and says: 'Dear Mrs. Roosevelt: You have not answered my question, the amount of Negro blood you have in your veins, if any.' I am afraid none of us know how much nor what kind of blood we have in our veins, since chemically it is all the same. And most of us cannot trace our ancestry more than a few generations.

  • Anger is an appropriate reaction to racist attitudes, as is fury when the actions arising from those attitudes do not change.

    • Audre Lorde,
    • "The Uses of Anger," speech (1981), Sister Outsider ()
  • Every day I am deluged with reminders / that this is not / my land / and this is my land. / I do not believe in the war between races / but in this country / there is war.

    • Lorna Dee Cervantes,
    • "Poem for the Young White Man Who Asked Me How I, an Intelligent Well-Read Person Could Believe in the War Between Races," Emplumada ()
  • ... anything being perceived as being superior takes the noun. And everything that isn't, that's judged to be inferior, requires an adjective. So there are black novelists and novelists. There are women physicians and physicians. Male nurses and nurses.

  • The truth is that Mozart, Pascal, Boolean algebra, Shakespeare, parliamentary government, baroque churches, Newton, the emancipation of women, Kant, Marx, Balanchine ballet, et al., don't redeem what this particular civilization has wrought upon the world. The white race is the cancer of human history, it is the white race, and it alone — its ideologies and inventions — which eradicates autonomous civilization wherever it spreads, which has upset the ecological balance of the planet, which now threatens the very existence of life itself.

  • ... no case of libel by a negro against a white would even reach a southern court.

  • ... race prejudice is not only a shadow over the colored — it is a shadow over all of us, and the shadow is darkest over those who feel it least and allow its evil effects to go on.

  • It is not healthy when a nation lives within a nation, as colored Americans are living inside America. A nation cannot live confident of its tomorrow if its refugees are among its own citizens.

  • ... as surely as night follows day our country will fail in its democracy because of race prejudice unless we root it out. We cannot grow in strength and leadership for democracy so long as we carry deep in our being that fatal fault.

  • The main barrier between East and West today is that the white man is not willing to give up his superiority and the colored man is no longer willing to endure his inferiority.

  • It is natural anywhere that people like their own kind, but it is not necessarily natural that their fondness for their own kind should lead them to the subjection of whole groups of other people not like them.

  • White hate crimes, white hate speech. I still try to claim I wasn't brought up to hate. But hate isn't the half of it. I grew up in the vast encircling presumption of whiteness — that primary quality of being which knows itself, its passions, only against an otherness that has to be dehumanized. I grew up in white silence that was utterly obsessional. Race was the theme whatever the topic.

  • Native always means people who belong somewhere else, because they had once belonged somewhere. That shows that the white race does not really think they belong anywhere because they think of everybody else as native.

  • There was not one cause for our internment, but many — a deep-seated racial prejudice working on top of fear, distrust, and greed. So how is one to say exactly where history begins or ends? It is all slow oscillations, curves, and waves which take so long to reveal themselves ... like watching a tree grow.

  • I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets which I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was 'meant' to remain oblivious. White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools, and blank checks.

    • Peggy McIntosh,
    • "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" (1988), in Bart Schneider, ed., Race: An Anthology in the First Person ()
  • As a white person, I realized I had been taught about racism as something which puts others at a disadvantage, but had been taught not to see one of its corollary aspects, white privilege, which puts me at an advantage.

    • Peggy McIntosh,
    • "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" (1988), in Bart Schneider, ed., Race: An Anthology in the First Person ()
  • For me, white privilege has turned out to be an elusive and fugitive subject. The pressure to avoid it is great, for in facing it I must give up the myth of meritocracy. If these things are true, this is not such a free country; one's life is not what one makes it; many doors open for certain people through no virtues of their own.

    • Peggy McIntosh,
    • "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" (1988), in Bart Schneider, ed., Race: An Anthology in the First Person ()
  • Most talk by whites about equal opportunity seems to me now to be about equal opportunity to try to get into a position of dominance while denying that systems of dominance exist.

    • Peggy McIntosh,
    • "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" (1988), in Bart Schneider, ed., Race: An Anthology in the First Person ()
  • ... as my racial group was being made confident, comfortable, and oblivious, other groups were likely being made unconfident, uncomfortable, and aliented. Whiteness protected me from many kinds of hostility, distress, and violence, which I was being subtly trained to visit in turn upon people of color. For this reason, the word 'privilege' now seems to me misleading. We usually think of privilege as being a favored state, whether earned or conferred by birth or luck. Yet some of the conditions I have described here work to systematically overempower certain groups. Such privilege simply confers dominance because of one's race or sex.

    • Peggy McIntosh,
    • "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" (1988), in Bart Schneider, ed., Race: An Anthology in the First Person ()
  • ... one question for me and others like me is whether ... we will get truly distressed, even outraged, about unearned race advantage and conferred dominance and, if so, what we will do to lessen them.

    • Peggy McIntosh,
    • "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" (1988), in Bart Schneider, ed., Race: An Anthology in the First Person ()
  • It seems to me that obliviousness about white advantage, like obliviousness about male advantage, is kept strongly inculturated in the United States so as to maintain the myth of meritocracy, the myth that democratic choice is equally available to all. Keeping most people unaware that freedom of confident action is there for just a small number of people props up those in power and serves to keep power in the hands of the same groups that have most of it already.

    • Peggy McIntosh,
    • "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" (1988), in Bart Schneider, ed., Race: An Anthology in the First Person ()
  • ... racism is used both to create false differences among us and to mask very significant ones ...

    • Mirtha Quintanales,
    • "I Paid Very Hard for My Immigrant Ignorance," in Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa, eds., This Bridge Called My Back ()
  • No other creative field is as closed to those who are not white and male as is the visual arts. After I decided to be an artist, the first thing that I had to believe was that I, a black woman, could penetrate the art scene, and that, further, I could do so without sacrificing one iota of my blackness or my femaleness or my humanity.

  • ... prejudices such as sexism and the deeply related homophobia, racism, and classism are not just personal problems, sets of peculiar and troubling beliefs. Exclusions and devaluations of whole groups of people on the scale and of the range, tenacity, and depth of racism and sexism and classism are systemic and shape the world within which we all struggle to live and find meaning.

  • We were made to believe / our faces betrayed us. / Our bodies were loud / with yellow / screaming flesh / needing to be silenced / behind barbed wire.

  • Some view our sable race with scornful eye — / 'Their color is a diabolic dye.' / Remember, Christians, Negroes black as Cain / May be refined, and join the angelic train.

    • Phillis Wheatley,
    • "On Being Brought From Africa to America" (1773), Memoir and Poems of Phillis Wheatley ()
  • There is no birthright in the white skin that it shall say that wherever it goes, to any nation, amongst any people, there the people of the country shall give way before it, and those to whom the land belongs shall bow down and become its servants.

  • What does the Negro want? His answer is very simple. He wants only what other Americans want. He wants opportunity to make real what the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and the Bill of Rights say, what the Four Freedoms establish. While he knows these ideals are open to no man completely, he wants only his equal chance to obtain them.

  • [To the White House guard who addressed her as 'Auntie':] Which one of my brother's children are you?

  • [To the patronizing train conductor who had twice said, 'Auntie, give me your ticket':] Which of my sister's sons are you?

  • If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat. It is an unncessary insult.

  • Can you imagine if this country were not so afflicted with racism? Can you imagine what it would be like if the vitality, humor, and resilience of the black American were infused throughout this country?

  • The doors of churches, hotels, concert halls and reading rooms are alike closed against the Negro as a man, but every place is open to him as a servant.

    • Ida B. Wells,
    • 1893, in Alfreda M. Duster, ed., Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells ()
  • ... when you get up in the morning, you merely put on your clothes. When a colored man gets up in the morning, he puts on his armor.

  • I marvel at the many ways we, as black people, bend but do not break.

    • Kristin Hunter,
    • in Claudia Tate, ed., Black Women Writers at Work ()
  • Racism is so extreme and so pervasive in our American society that no black individual lives in an atmosphere of freedom.

    • Margaret Walker,
    • in Janet Sternburg, ed., The Writer on Her Work, vol. 1 ()
  • It is not at all about a backwards return, a resurrection of an African past that we have learned to know and respect. On the contrary, it is about the mobilization of every living strength brought together upon this earth where race is the result of the most unremitting intermixing; it is about becoming conscious of the incredible story of varied energies until now locked up within us.

    • Suzanne Césaire,
    • in Daniel Maximin, ed., The Great Camouflage: Writings of Dissent (1941-1945) ()
  • Racism is a virus. And since nobody's really looking too hard for a cure it reproduces itself over and over again.

  • Ironically, white America will catapult books about race to the top of the best-seller list, even as racism remains a national open wound. Obsession ain't solution, however, because reading even at its most intense and verisimilitudinous is vicarious, and once you close the book you're off the hook.

    • Marita Golden,
    • in Marita Golden and Susan Richards Shreve, eds., Skin Deep ()
  • Who's counting? It was, of course, the minority who were counting. It always is. Most of the women I know today would dearly like to use their fingers and toes for some activity more enthralling than counting. They have been counting for so long. But the peculiar problem of the new math is that every time we stop adding, somebody starts subtracting. At the very least (the advanced students will understand this) the rate of increase slows. ... The minority members of any group or profession have two answers: They can keep score or they can lose.

  • At their core, misogyny and racism are very similar modes of thinking. Both diminish and disrespect a class of people based on a trait that is wholly distinct from their ideas, their carriage and their conduct.

  • The colored woman of to-day occupies, one may say, a unique position in this country. In a period of itself transitional and unsettled, her status seems one of the least ascertainable and definitive of all the forces which make for our civilization. She is confronted by both a woman question and a race problem ...

  • The world was one of great contrasts, she thought, and if the richest part of it was to be fenced off so that people like herself could only look at it with no expectation of ever being able to get inside it, then it would be better to have been born blind so you couldn't see it, born deaf so you couldn't hear it, born with no sense of touch so you couldn't feel it. Better still, born with no brain so that you would be completely unaware of anything, so that you would never know there were places that were filled with sunlight and good food and where children were safe.

  • It is important to understand that the system of advantage is perpetuated when we do not acknowledge its existence.

  • Few would suggest that sexual or racial inequality exists because of language use. Nor would many argue that banishing sexist and racist labeling would in itself result in a just society. At the same time, it is clear that language not only reflects social structures but, more important, sometimes serves to perpetuate existing differences in power; thus a serious concern with linguistic usage is fully warranted.

    • Francine Wattman Frank,
    • in Francine Wattman Frank and Paula A. Treichler, Language, Gender, and Professional Writing ()
  • ... give the man of color an equal opportunity with the white, from the cradle to manhood, and from manhood to the grave, and you would discover the dignified statesman, the man of science, and the philosopher.

  • Am I not a woman and a sister?

  • Take us generally as a people, we are neither lazy nor idle; and considering how little we have to excite or stimulate us, I am almost astonished that there are so many industrious and ambitious ones to be found — although I acknowledge, with extreme sorrow, that there are some who never were and never will be serviceable to society. And have you not a similar class among yourselves?

    • Maria W. Stewart,
    • lecture (1832), in Dorothy Porter, ed., Early Negro Writing 1760-1837 ()
  • Many think, because your skins are tinged with a sable hue, that you are an inferior race of beings; but God does not consider you as such. ... he hath made all men free and equal. Then why should one worm say to another, 'Keep you down there, while I sit up yonder; for I am better than thou?'

  • Racism and sexism are not 'problems' or 'topics.' They are ways of defining reality and living our lives that most of us learned along with learning how to tie our shoes and how to drink from a cup.

  • We do not want them to have less. / But it is only natural that we should think we have not enough. / We drive on, we drive on.

  • We real cool. We / Left school. We / Lurk late. We / Strike straight. We / Sing sin. We / Thin gin. We / Jazz June. We / Die soon.

  • It frightens me to realize that, if I had died before the age of fifty, I would have died a 'Negro' fraction ...

    • Gwendolyn Brooks,
    • "Dreams of a Black Christmas," Report From Part One: An Autobiography ()
  • I know that the Black emphasis must be not against white but FOR Black.

    • Gwendolyn Brooks,
    • "Dreams of a Black Christmas," Report From Part One: An Autobiography ()
  • To be black and female, in a society which is both racist and sexist, is to be in a unique position of having nowhere to go but up.

    • Rosemary Brown,
    • in John Robert Colombo, Colombo's Concise Canadian Quotations ()
  • A transplanted Irishman, German, Englishman is an American in one generation. A transplanted African is not one in five!

  • [The prejudice against color and against women] is produced by the same cause, and manifested very much in the same way. The Negro's skin and the woman's sex are both prima facie evidence that they were intended to be in subjection to the white Saxon man.

  • In the common esteem, not only are the only good aboriginals dead ones, but all aboriginals are either sacred or contemptible according to the length of time they have been dead.

  • Why do researchers wonder why many black people have high blood pressure? What part of 'living with racism' escapes them?

  • And one day you find yourself entangled — enmeshed — pinioned in the seaweed of a Black Ghetto. ... Milling around like live fish in a basket. Those at the bottom crushed into a sort of stupid apathy by the weight of those on top. Those on top leaping, leaping; leaping to scale the sides; to get out.

    • Marita Bonner,
    • "On Being Young--A Woman--and Colored" (1925), Frye Street and Environs ()
  • ... if some folks have buried their racial prejudices, the chances are that they've got the graves marked and will have no trouble disinterring their pet hates.

  • Perhaps for the purposes of war racial differences had been buried, but certainly in no deep grave.

  • Southerners are the more lonely and spiritually estranged, I think, because we have lived so long in an artificial social system that we insisted was natural and right and just — when all along we knew it wasn't.

  • Why live in a country where a black kid needs a pep talk to go out into the world every day?

  • Although there has never been any official body of black people in the United States who have gathered as anthropologists and/or ethnographers to study whiteness, black folks have, from slavery on, shared in conversations with one another 'special' knowledge of whiteness gleaned from close scrutiny of white people. Deemed special because it was not a way of knowing that has been recorded fully in written material, its purpose was to help black folks cope and survive in a white supremacist society. For years, black domestic servants, working in white homes, acting as informants, brought knowledge back to segregated communities — details, facts, observations, and psychoanalytic readings of the white Other.

  • Usually, when people talk about the 'strength' of black women they are referring to the way in which they perceive black women coping with oppression. They ignore the reality that to be strong in the face of oppression is not the same as overcoming oppression, that endurance is not to be confused with transformation. ... The tendency to romanticize the black female experience that began in the feminist movement was reflected in the culture as a whole.

  • We may right a wrong, but we cannot restore our victim to his primeval state of happiness. Something is lost that can never be regained.

  • Even today it is erroneously believed that all racial development among colored people has taken place since emancipation. It is impossible of belief for some, that little circles of educated men and women of color have existed since the Revolutionary War.

  • Racism and oppression have traditionally been synonymous with good business practice for America.

  • Race, what is that? Race is a competition, somebody winning and somebody losing. ... Blood doesn't run in races! Come on!

  • We do not ask that any one of our people shall be put into a position because he is a colored person, but we do most emphatically ask that he shall not be kept out of a position because he is a colored person. 'An open field and no favors' is all that is requested.

  • Racism, classism, and sexism will disappear when we accept differences and if we continue to resist loudly and clearly all racist, classist and sexist efforts on the part of other persons to enslave us.

  • Racism is the dogma that one ethnic group is condemned by nature to congenital inferiority and another group is destined to congenital superiority.

  • Racism remains in the eyes of history ... merely another instance of the persecution of minorities for the advantage of those in power.

  • The arrogance of race prejudice is an arrogance which defies what is scientifically known of human races.

    • Ruth Benedict,
    • 1943, in Margaret Mead, An Anthropologist at Work: Writings of Ruth Benedict ()
  • ... when a white man in Africa by accident looks into the eyes of a native and sees the human being (which it is his chief preoccupation to avoid), his sense of guilt, which he denies, fumes up in resentment and he brings down the whip.

  • A white person was by definition somebody. Other people needed, across their hearts, one steel rib.

  • You can be up to your boobies in white satin, with gardenias in your hair and no sugar cane for miles, but you can still be working on a plantation.

  • We are thy sisters. ... / Our skins may differ, but from thee we claim / A sister's privilege and a sister's name.

    • Sarah L. Forten,
    • 1837, in Dorothy Sterling, ed., We Are Your Sisters ()
  • ... hatred of oppression seems to me so blended with hatred of the oppressor that I cannot separate them. I feel that no other injury could be so hard to bear, so very very hard to forgive, as that inflicted by cruel oppression and prejudice.

    • Charlotte Forten,
    • 1854, in Ray Allen Billington, ed., The Journal of Charlotte Forten ()
  • At times I feel it almost impossible not to despond entirely of there ever being a better, brighter day for us. None but those who experience it can know what it is — this constant, galling sense of cruel injustice and wrong. I cannot help feeling it very often, — it intrudes upon my happiest moments, and spreads a dark, deep gloom over everything.

    • Charlotte Forten,
    • 1854, in Ray Allen Billington, ed., The Journal of Charlotte Forten ()
  • God damn to hell a world in which the human mind is at the mercy of those who hate the color of the body that houses it!

  • I like Paris because I find something here, something of integrity, which I seem to have strangely lost in my own country. It is simplest of all to say that I like to live among people and surroundings where I am not always conscious of 'thou shall not.' I am colored and wish to be known as colored, but sometimes I have felt that my growth as a writer has been hampered in my own country. And so — but only temporarily — I have fled from it.

  • ... she belonged to that group of Americans which thinks that God or Nature created only one perfect race — the Caucasians.

  • To be a colored man in America ... and enjoy it, you must be greatly daring, greatly stolid, greatly humorous and greatly sensitive. And at all times a philosopher ...

  • She thought of ... how earnestly and deliberately Americans every summer exposed themselves on shore and water to the burning sun in order to obtain the effect which, when natural, they affected so to despise.

  • ... racism is alive and doing too well in America.

  • 'Crisis' seems to be too mild a word to describe conditions in countless African-American communities. It is beyond crisis when in the richest nation in the world, African Americans in Harlem live shorter lives than the people of Bangladesh, one of the poorest nations of the world.

  • [On accepting roles as a maid:] I can either play a maid for two hundred dollars a day or work as a maid for two dollars!

    • Hattie McDaniel,
    • in Nikki Giovanni, "Even Now, Hooray for the Black Woman," in Daryl Cumber Dance, ed., Honey, Hush! An Anthology of African American Women's Humor ()
  • Why should I complain about making $7,000 a week playing a maid? If I didn't, I'd be making seven dollars a week actually being one!

  • O we are all racist we are all sexist some of us only some of us are the targets of racism of sexism of homophobia of class denigration but we all all breathe in racism with the dust in the streets with the words we read and we struggle those of us who struggle we struggle endlessly endlessly to think and be and act differently from all that.

    • Rosario Morales,
    • "We're All in the Same Boat," in Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa, eds., This Bridge Called My Back ()
  • I would have to say that all white people are naïve about the persistence of the color line. We prefer naïveté — in fact we insist on it. If we as white poeple actually faced the entrenched injustice of our socioeconomic system and our cultural arrogance, we might suffer tears, we might suffer the enormous weight of history, we might face the iceberg of guilt which is the underside of privilege. We might begin to glimpse our losses, our estrangement from others, our intense fear as the result of a social system that places us in the precarious position of the top. We might be moved to call out and protest the cruelty that passes for normal behavior in our daily lives, in our cities, and on our streets.

    • Ann Filemyr,
    • in Marita Golden and Susan Richards Shreve, eds., Skin Deep ()
  • In the American imagination, black women are the poster children for disreputable, irresponsible motherhood and Latina 'illegals' are a close second. From birth to adolescence, every girl of color must navigate a political climate in which Ronald Reagan's racist welfare queen caricature casts long shadows.

  • Sexist language, racist language, theistic language — all are typical of the policing languages of mastery, and cannot, do not, permit new knowledge or encourage the mutual exchange of ideas.

  • In this country American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate.

  • The caste system, in all its various forms, is always based on identifiable physical characteristics — sex, color, age.

    • Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz,
    • "Female Liberation as the Basis for Social Revolution," in Robin Morgan, Sisterhood Is Powerful ()
  • Willow trees are kind, Dear God. They will not bear a body on their limbs.

    • Alice Dunbar-Nelson,
    • "April Is on the Way" (1927), in Gloria T. Hull, ed., The Works of Alice Dunbar-Nelson, vol. 2 ()
  • As a country, we are in a state of denial about issues of race and racism. And too many of our leaders have concluded that the way to remedy racism is to simply stop talking about race.

    • Lani Guinier,
    • in Diane J. Johnson, ed., Proud Sisters ()
  • There are levels of outrage, and there's a point at which you can't be trespassed upon anymore.

  • It is utterly exhausting being Black in America — physically, mentally, and emotionally. While many minority groups and women feel similar stress, there is no respite or escape from your badge of color.

  • I almost shot you back there, you know that? when are / you people gonna learn, huh? you talk too much, that / makes me damn mad when you talk too much. i was ready / to put lead into your brain, you know that? shit makes / me damn mad, rather take you to the morgue.

  • the fault dear fellow blacks / is not in our astrology charts / but in our society / that we are run under.

    • Wanda Coleman,
    • "In Search of the Mythology of Do Wah Wah," Imagoes ()
  • the assistant librarian was an old white woman / with wattles hanging to her brittle neck ... / her gray eyes policed me thru the stacks like dobermans / she watched me come and go, take books and bring books / she monitored the titles and after a while decided / she'd misjudged her little colored girl ...

  • Racial oppression of black people in America has done what neither class oppression or sexual oppression, with all their perniciousness, has ever done: destroyed an entire people and their culture.

  • One ought to be against racism and sexism because they are wrong, not because one is black or one is female.

  • If Americans could understand what a painful, searing experience it is when Negro children first begin to realize that the mere color of their skin is to be the source of a lifelong discrimination, it might do more to end our cruelty toward the Negro than all the preaching on justice and equality.

  • After the Reagan years, there were only three people of color in the Republican Party. Their slogan was 'Republicans — the Other White Meat.' George [H.] Bush tried to dispel the 'whites only' image of his party, often referring to his Mexican-American grandkids as 'the little brown ones over there,' and nominated Clarence Uncle Thomas to the Supreme Court.

  • Sister! your foot's smaller / but it's still on my neck.

  • Racism is humorous now. They make these lousy jokes, and it's a racist joke, and they want you to laugh. They're called watermelon jokes, like to show that they're all for real — it's a real fun time. And it's deadly. The racism will continue.

  • For those of you who are tired of hearing about racism, imagine how much more tired we are of constantly experiencing it, second by literal second, how much more exhausted we are to see it constantly in your eyes.

    • Barbara Smith,
    • in Glora T. Hull, Patricia Bell-Scott, and Barbara Smith, eds., All the Women Are White, All the Black Are Men, But Some of Us Are Brave ()
  • When white and black meet today, sometimes there is a ready understanding that there has been an encounter between two human beings. But often there is only, or chiefly, an awareness that Two Colors are in the room.

    • Gwendolyn Brooks,
    • "Interviews: Summer, 1967," Report From Part One: An Autobiography ()
  • The civil rights situation is like a pregnancy. It will get worse, I believe, before it gets better. What the usual pregnancy comes to is a decent baby. That is what we all hope will be the end product of this stress. It is customary, at the end of a pregnancy, to have for your pains a decent baby.

    • Gwendolyn Brooks,
    • "Interviews: Summer, 1967," Report From Part One: An Autobiography ()
  • Racism should never have happened and so you don't get a cookie for reducing it.

  • ... a white person who claims to have no impediment of vision in this country is not, I think, telling the whole truth. And when it comes to race relations, not telling the whole truth about the fog one inhabits slows down the work of groping forward.

    • Naomi Wolf,
    • in Marita Golden and Susan Richards Shreve, eds., Skin Deep ()
  • ... most of the time when 'universal' is used, it is just a euphemism for 'white': white themes, white significance, white culture.

    • Merle Woo,
    • "Letter to Ma," in Cherríe Moraga and Gloria E. Anzaldúa, eds., This Bridge Called My Back ()
  • Mammy and Jezebel and the welfare queen may be the most prominent roles for black women in American culture, but even these figures, as limited as is their range, inhabit the shadows of American imagination. ... silence and invisibility are the hallmarks of black women in the imagery of American life.

    • Nell Irvin Painter,
    • "Hill, Thomas, and the Use of Racial Stereotype," in Toni Morrison, ed., Race-ing Justice, En-gendering Power ()
  • We live surrounded by white images, and white in this world is synonymous with the good, light, beauty, success, so that, despite ourselves sometimes, we run after that whiteness and deny our darkness, which has been made into the symbol of all that is evil and inferior.

  • When they asked for those to raise their hands who'd go down to the courthouse the next day [to vote], I raised mine. Had it up as high as I could get it. I guess I'd had any sense I'd a-been a little scared, but what was the point of being scared. The only thing they could do to me was kill me and it seemed like they'd been trying to do that a little bit at a time ever since I could remember.

    • Fannie Lou Hamer,
    • To Praise Our Bridges: An Autobiography of Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer
    • ()
  • ... I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired.

    • Fannie Lou Hamer,
    • in Jerry DeMuth, "Tired of Being Sick and Tired," in The Nation ()
  • [On a tour of black-governed African countries:] Being from the South, we never was taught much about our African heritage. The way everybody talked to us, everybody in Africa was savages and real stupid people. But I've seen more savage white folks here in America than I seen in Africa. I saw black men flying the airplanes, driving the buses, sitting behind the big desks in the bank, and just doing everything that I was used to seeing white people do.

  • [On those trying to obstruct her work for civil rights:] There was nothing they could do to me. They couldn't fire me, because I didn't have a job. They couldn't put me out of my house, because I didn't have one. They was nothing they could take from me any longer.

  • [On the special requirements for blacks registering to vote:] That literacy test was rough. The registrar, Mr. Campbell, brought this big black book over there, and pointed out something for me to read. It was the 16th section of the Constitution of Mississippi ... dealing with de facto laws. I know as much about a de facto law as a horse knows about Christmas Day. And he told me to read it and copy. Then after I had copied it, give a reasonable interpretation. So you know about what happened to me. Well, I flunked the test, you know, 'cause I didn't know what in the world was a de facto law. Still don't really know what it is.

  • ... if this is a Great Society, I'd hate to see a bad one.

  • He had the patient, practical, uninterested tone of the white person willing to help a native with money or authority, so long as he is not expected to listen to any human details of the predicament.

  • Black folk, a lot of us lived as victims in a certain part of our history. And we had to really erase that tape. We're not victims. We are citizens.

  • I cannot help wondering sometimes what I might have become and might have done if I had lived in a country which had not circumscribed and handicapped me on account of my race, but had allowed me to reach any height I was able to attain.

  • I don't like that word 'discovery.' ... Sinatra was the first one to call Ray Charles a genius, he spoke of 'the genius of Ray Charles.' And after that everybody called him a genius. They didn't call him a genius before that though. He was a genius but they didn't call him that. ... If a white man hadn't told them, they wouldn't've seen it. ... Like, you know, they say Columbus discovered America, he didn't discover America.

  • We are the wrong people of / the wrong skin in the wrong continent and what / in the hell is everybody being reasonable about ...

  • There is a man who exists as one of the most popular objects of leadership, legislation, and quasi-literature in the history of all men ... This man, that object of attention, attack, and vast activity, cannot make himself be heard, let alone to be understood. He has never been listened to ... That man is Black and alive in white America where the media of communication do not allow the delivery of his own voice, his own desires, his own rage.

  • 'Mos anytime you see whiteman spose to fight each other an' you not white, well you know you got trouble, because they blah-blah loud about Democrat or Republican an' they huffin' an' puff about democracy someplace else but relentless, see, the real deal come down evil on someday don' have no shirt an' tie, somebody don' live in no whiteman house no whiteman country.

  • i cant count the number of times i have viscerally wanted to attack deform n maim the language that I waz taught to hate myself in / the language that perpetuates the notions that cause pain to every black child as he/she learns to speak of the world & the 'self.'

  • The lessons of the past suggest that racism and resentment against people of color will continue to flourish in America as long as the history that is taught transposes the heroes and the villains. That is the unspoken truth at the heart of the nation's racial divide.

  • Blacks are supposed to rejoice whenever our way of life becomes more mainstream. We seldom do. For we see in it a sanctioning that can only be granted by white society. In other words: If you're white, it's all right. If you're black, step back.

  • ... the very notion of blindness about color constitutes an ideological confusion at best, and denial at its very worst.

  • ... the solution to racism lies in our ability to see its ubiquity but not to concede its inevitability. It lies in the collective and institutional power to make change, at least as much as with the individual will to change. It also lies in the absolute moral imperative to break the childish, deadly circularity of centuries of blindness to the shimmering brilliance of our common, ordinary humanity.

  • You have to assess every situation that you're in and you have to decide, is this happening because I'm black? Is this happening because I'm a woman? Or is this happening because this is how it happens?

  • My parents gave us a fantastic sense of security and worth. By the time the bigots got around to telling us we were nobody, we already knew we were somebody.

    • Florynce R. Kennedy,
    • in Gloria Steinem, "The Verbal Karate of Florynce R. Kennedy, Esq.," Ms. ()
  • ... I hate it when, after I let a white person know they've said something racist, I end up having to listen for hours to their life.

  • It always seemed to me that white people were judged as individuals. But if a Negro did something stupid or wrong, it was held against all of us.

    • Bessie Delany,
    • in Sarah and A. Elizabeth Delany with Amy Hill Hearth, Having Our Say ()
  • When Negroes are average, they fail, unless they are very, very lucky. Now, if you're average and white, honey, you can go far. Just look at Dan Quayle. If that boy was colored he'd be washing dishes somewhere.

    • Bessie Delany,
    • in Sarah and A. Elizabeth Delany with Amy Hill Hearth, Having Our Say ()
  • [On being asked what Negroes want now:] My God, what do we want? What does any human being want? Take away an accident of pigmentation, of a thin layer of our outer skin, and there is no difference between me and anyone else. All we want is for that trivial difference to make no difference.

  • Alabama's got me so upset / Tennessee made me lose my rest / And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam.

  • I didn't mind playing a maid the first time, because I thought that was how you got into the business. But after I did the same thing over and over I resented it. I didn't mind being funny but I didn't like being stupid.

  • In a racially divided society, majority rule is not a reliable instrument of democracy.

  • Deep within the word 'American' is its association with race ... American means white, and Africanist people struggle to make the term application to themselves with ethnicity and hyphen after hyphen after hyphen.

  • You white women speak here of rights. I speak of wrongs. I as a colored woman have had in this country an education which has made me feel as if I were in the situation of Ishmael, my hands against every man, and every man's hand against me.

  • At times we feel wounded, hurt, disappointed, disgusted, resentful, sick of it all. At other times we feel skeptical, outraged, robbed, beaten. We chafe, hate, overlook. Then again we feel like ignoring, defying and fighting for every right that belongs to us as human beings.

  • White criminals commit the biggest crimes. A brother might rob a bank. A white man will rob a pension fund. The brother is going to get ten to fifteen years because he had a gun. The white guy will get a congressional hearing because he had a job and a nice suit.

  • White people don't understand us or the strength and diversity of aboriginal people, and they don't even try. That's why there is such racism and misunderstanding. In any kind of reconciliation movement, they expect the Indian people to reconcile with them, and not the other way around.

    • Bea Medicine,
    • in Wilma Mankiller, Every Day Is a Good Day: Reflections by Contemporary Indigenous Women ()
  • Affirmative action, welfare state, and welfare queen have become a mantra, evoked as single (albeit complicated) signs for and of everything wrong with the United States ...

    • Wahneema Lubiano,
    • "Black Ladies, Welfare Queens, and State Minstrels: Ideological War by Narrative Means," in Toni Morrison, ed., Race-ing Justice, En-gendering Power ()
  • The welfare queen represents moral aberration and an economic drain, but the figure's problematic status becomes all the more threatening once responsibility for the destruction of the 'American way of life' is attributed to it.

    • Wahneema Lubiano,
    • "Black Ladies, Welfare Queens, and State Minstrels: Ideological War by Narrative Means," in Toni Morrison, ed., Race-ing Justice, En-gendering Power ()
  • Now that you have touched the women, you have struck a rock, you have dislodged a boulder, and you will be crushed.

    • Anonymous,
    • South African chant used in the campaign against the pass laws (1956), in Angela Davis, Women, Culture & Politics ()
  • Am I not a woman and a sister?

    • Anonymous,
    • logo for "Ladies Department," The Liberator (1831) and motto on anti-slavery coin ()
  • Blacks are the repository for the American fear of crime.

  • ... television's overpowering images of Black deviance — its regularity and frequency — are impossible to ignore. These negative images have been seared into our collective consciousness. It is no surprise that most Americans wrongly believe that Blacks are responsible for the majority of crime.

  • Being an Other, in America, teaches you to imagine what can't imagine you.

  • The media wants to call them riots, but they’re uprisings. Why should black people behave well to get their rights? White people don’t behave and they get all the rights they want.

  • Perhaps this is how racism feels no matter the context — randomly the rules everyone else gets to play by no longer apply to you, and to call this out by calling out 'I swear to God!' is to be called insane, crass, crazy. Bad sportsmanship.

  • The worst injury is feeling you don't belong so much / to you --

  • ... because white men can't / police their imagination / black men are dying.

  • Just as buildings in California have a greater need to be earthquake proofed, places where there is greater racial polarization in voting have a greater need for prophylactic measures to prevent purposeful race discrimination.

    • Ruth Bader Ginsburg,
    • dissent to Supreme Court's 5-4 decision striking down part of 1965 Voting Rights Act, in Mother Jones ()
  • ... racism is the most slovenly of predictive models. It is powered by haphazard data gathering and spurious correlations, reinforced by institutional inequities, and polluted by confirmation bias.

  • In our largely segregated cities, geography is a highly effective proxy for race.