What do you think?
Rate this book
256 pages, Paperback
First published January 1, 1967
This book is about why, where and in what manner black people in America must get themselves together. It is about black people taking care of business -- the business of and for black people. The stakes are really very simple: if we fail to do this, we face continued subjection to a white society that has no intention of giving up willingly or easily its position of priority and authority. If we succeed, we will exercise control over our lives, politically, economically and psychically. We will also contribute to the development of a viable larger society; in terms of ultimate social benefit, there is nothing unilateral about the movement to free black people (11)
Those who profess to favor freedom yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. ... Power concedes nothing without demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blow, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress'
--Frederick Douglass, West India Emancipation Speech, August 1957
The tragedy of race relations in the United States is that there is no American Dilemma. White Americans are not torn and tortured by the conflict between their devotion to the American creed and their actual behavior. They are upset by the current state of race relations, to be sure. But what troubles them is not that justice is being denied but that their peace is being shattered and their business interrupted. (21)
We must face the fact that, in the past, what we have called the movement has not really questioned the middle-class values and institutions in this country. If anything it has accepted those values and institutions without fully realising their racist nature. Reorientation means an emphasis on the dignity of man, not on the sanctity of property. It means the creation of a society where human misery and poverty are repugnant to that society, not an indication of laziness or lack of initiative. The creation of new values means the establishment of a society based, as Killens expresses it in Black Man's Burden on 'free people', not 'free enterprise'.(
The concept of Black Power rests on a fundamental premise: Before a group can enter the open society, it must first close ranks. By this we mean that group solidarity is necessary before a group van operate effectively from a bargaining position of strength in a pluralistic society (58). ... black people must lead and run their own organizations. Only black people can convey the revolutionary idea -- and it is a revolutionary idea -- that black people are able to do things for themselves. Only they can help create in the community an aroused and continuing black consciousness that will provide a basis for political strength. In the past, white allies have often furthered white supremacy without the whites involved realizing it, or even wanting to do so (60).
We had only the old language of love and suffering. And in most places -- that is, from the liberals and middle class -- we got back the old language of patience and progress...For the masses of black people, this language resulted in virtually nothing. in fact, their objective day-to-day condition worsened' (64-65).
'Integration' as a goal today speaks to the problem of blackness not only in an unrealistic way but also in a despicable way. It is based on complete acceptance of the fact that in order to have a decent house or education, black people must move into a white neighborhood or send their children to a white school. This reinforces, among both black and white, the idea that 'white' is automatically superior and 'black' is by definition inferior. For this reason, 'integration' is a subterfuge for the maintenance of white supremacy(68)
The major mistake made by exponents of teh coalition theiry is that they advocate alliances with groups which have never had as their central goal the necessarily total revamping of the society. At bottom those groups accept the American system and want only -- if at all -- to make peripheral, marginal reforms in it. Such reforms are inadequate to rid the society of racism.
Here we come back to an important point made in the first chapter: the overriding sense of superiority that pervades white America (73).
the political and economic institutions of this society must be completely revised if the political and economic status of black people is to be improved. We do not see how those same institutions can be utilized -- through teh mechanism of coalescing with some of them -- to bring about that revision. We do not see how black people can form effective coalitions with groups which are not willing to question and condemn the racist institutions which exploit black people; which do not perceive the need for, and will not work for, basic change. Black people cannot afford to assume that what is good for white American is automatically good for black people (78)
We cannot see, then, how black people, who are massively insecure both politically and economically, can coalesce with those whose position is secure -- particularly when the latter's security is based on the perpetuation of the existing political and economic structure. (87)
'all parties to the coalition must perceive a mutually beneficial goal based on the conception of each party of his own self interest. One party must not blindly assume that what is good for one is automatically good for the other.
there is a clear need for genuine power bases before black people can enter into coalition...Civil rights leaders who ... rely essentially on ;national sentiment'...must appeal to the conscience, the good graces of society; they are, as noted earlier, cast in a beggar's role.
a. the recognition by the parties involved of their respective self-interests
b. the mutual belief that each party stands to benefit in terms of self-interest
c. the acceptance of the fact that each party has its own independant base of power and does not depend for its own ultimate decision-making on a force outside itself
d. the realization that the coalition deals with specific and identifiable -- as opposed to general and vague -- goals. (92)
It is ludicrous for the society to believe that these temporary measures can long contain the tempers of an oppressed people. And when the dynamite goes off, pious pronouncements of patience should not go forth. Blame should not be placed on ‘outside agitators’ or on ‘Communist influence’ or on advocates of Black Power. That dynamite was placed there by white racism and it was ignited by white racist indifference and unwillingness to act justly. (168)