Race And Racism In America Quotes

Quotes tagged as "race-and-racism-in-america" Showing 1-30 of 196
James Weldon Johnson
“It’s no disgrace to be black, but it’s often very inconvenient.”
James Weldon Johnson, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man

Martin Luther King Jr.
“Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”
Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail

Charles Yu
“Mr. Wu, is it true that you have an internalized sense of inferiority?

That because on the one hand you, for obvious reasons, have not been and can never be fully assimilated into mainstream, i.e., White America—

And on the other hand neither do you feel fully justified in claiming solidarity with other historically and currently oppressed groups. That while your community’s experience in the United States has included racism on the personal and the institutional levels, including but not limited to: immigration quotas, actual federal legislation expressly excluding people who look like you from entering the country. Legislation that was in effect for almost a century. Antimiscegenation laws. Discriminatory housing policies. Alien land laws and restrictive covenants. Violation of civil liberties including internment. That despite all of that, you somehow feel that your oppression, because it does not include the original American sin—of slavery—that it will never add up to something equivalent. That the wrongs committed against your ancestors are incommensurate in magnitude with those committed against Black people in America. And whether or not that quantification, whether accurate or not, because of all of this you feel on some level that you maybe can’t even quite verbalize, out of shame or embarrassment, that the validity and volume of your complaints must be calibrated appropriately, must be in proportion to the aggregate suffering of your people.

Your oppression is second-class.”
Charles Yu, Interior Chinatown

Aimé Césaire
“Beware of crossing your arms in the sterile attitude of the spectator, because life is not a spectacle, because a a sea of sorrows is not a proscenium, because a man who screams is not a dancing bear.”
Aimé Césaire

“We live in a society where race is one of the biggest indicators of your success in life. There are sizable racial divides in wealth, health, life expectancy, infant mortality, incarceration rates, and so much more. We cannot look at a society where racial inequality is so universal and longstanding and say, 'This is all the doing of a few individuals with hate in their hearts.' It just doesn't make sense.”
Ijeoma Oluo, So You Want to Talk About Race

Toni Morrison
“My puzzlement used to be 'why is the Lone Ranger' called 'lone' if he is always with Tonto. Now, I see that given the racial and metaphorical nature of the relationship, he is able to be understood as 'alone' precisely because of Tonto. Without him, he would be, I suppose, simply 'Ranger'.”
Toni Morrison, The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations

“I want In the Wake to declare that we are Black peoples in the wake with no state or nation to protect us, with no citizenship bound to be respected, and to position us in the modalities of Black life lived in, as, under, despite Black death: to think and be and act from there.”
Christina Sharpe, In the Wake: On Blackness and Being

“We like to filter new information through our own experiences to see if it computes. If it matches up with what we have experiences, it's valid. If it doesn't match up, it's not. But race is not a universal experience. If you are white, there is a good chance you may have been poor at some point in your life, you may have been sick, you may have been discriminated against for being fat or being disabled or being short or being conventionally unattractive, you may have been many things—but you have not been a person of color. So, when a person of color comes to you and says "this is different for me because I'm not white," when you run the situation through your own lived experience, it often won't compute. This is usually where the desire to dismiss claims of racial oppression come from—it just doesn't make sense to you so it cannot be right.
But if you are white, and you are feeling this way, I ask you this: is your lived experience real? Are the situations you've lived through real? Are your interpretations of those situations valid?...So if your lived experience and your interpretation of that lived experience are valid, why wouldn't the lived experience of people of color be just as valid? If I don't have the right to deem your life, what you see and hear and feel, a lie, why do you have the right to do that to me? Why do you deserve to be believed and people of color don't?”
Ijeoma Oluo, So You Want to Talk About Race

“...it is always a bit of a gut punch to realize that someone you have been sitting next to for months or even years secretly harbors view that deny your basic humanity as a black woman. No matter how many times it happens, I have yet to get used to it.
...I really really wanted this to be just a matter of misunderstanding. I really wanted this to be a case where he just didn't know how harmful everyday racism is, and once he did, he would change his mind...It seemed far more important to him that the white people who were spreading and upholding racism be spared the effects of being called racist, than sparing his black friend the effects of that racism.
...That was when I learned that this was not a friend I could take to about this really important part of my life. I couldn't be my full self around him, and he would never truly have my back. He was not safe. I wasn't angry, I was heartbroken.”
Ijeoma Oluo, So You Want to Talk About Race

“We see the disparities in jobs and education among race and gender lines. Either you believe these disparities exist because you believe that people of color and women are less intelligent, less hard working, and less talented than white men, or you believe that there are systemic issues keeping women and people of color from being hired into jobs, promoted, paid a fair wage, and accepted into college.”
Ijeoma Oluo, So You Want to Talk About Race

Howard Zinn
“The Reverent Theodore Parker, Unitarian minister in Boston, combined eloquent criticism of the war with contempt for the Mexican people, whom he called 'a wretched people; wretched in their origin, history, and character,' who must eventually give way as the Indians did. Yes, the United States should expand...by 'the steady advance of a superior race, with superior ideas and a better civilization...by being better than Mexico, wiser, humaner, more free and manly'.
...The racism for Parker was widespread. Congressmen Delano of Ohio...opposed the war because he was afraid of Americans mingling with an inferior people who 'embrace all shades of color....a sad compound of Spanish, English, Indian, and negro bloods...and resulting, it is said, in the production of a slothful, ignorant race of beings'.”
Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States

“Plenty of people advocate for sustainability systems like bike infrastructure without considering the racism and wealth inequality embedded in how we plan and use urban space.”
Adonia E. Lugo, Bicycle/Race: Transportation, Culture, & Resistance

“Jim Crow laws and lynchings defined and enforced the racial caste system while letting the white man know that, no matter his class, he stood above black people. The bucket my have had spit in it, but at least it was yours”
Connor Towne O'Neill, Down Along with That Devil's Bones: A Reckoning with Monuments, Memory, and the Legacy of White Supremacy

“America's conception of race has been the kneecapping of people of color in order for white people to feel tall”
Connor Towne O'Neill, Down Along with That Devil's Bones: A Reckoning with Monuments, Memory, and the Legacy of White Supremacy

“I can reject every tenet of the Confederacy and yet the fact remains that, in fighting to maintain white supremacy, Forrest sought to perpetuate a system tilted in my favor. Forrest fought for me. The work was to understand the proximity, not the distance”
Connor Towne O'Neill, Down Along with That Devil's Bones: A Reckoning with Monuments, Memory, and the Legacy of White Supremacy

“If only we would sit at bus stops in the discomforting silence that comes with the knowledge that we are instead antagonists, that we are implicated, if only passively, in a centuries-long campaign of oppression and extraction. A campaign waged in our name and for our pockets. Not the most pleasant way to pass the time, I admit, which is probably why we've developed such extraordinary ways to avoid doing it. But if we are ever to gain a clearer sense of who we've been, and thus who we are as white Americans, we are going to need to revise the story”
Connor Towne O'Neill, Down Along with That Devil's Bones: A Reckoning with Monuments, Memory, and the Legacy of White Supremacy

“I do think that there is a need for folks who are not of African descent but who have in any way, shape, or form benefited not only from slavery but from systemic racism that has survived beyond slavery, to be able to acknowledge that," she explained. But not by taking blame for the actions of an ancestor; it's not about blame-placing it or taking it. Instead, Wells said, the idea is to see past an individual's feelings or actions to the systems built to protect the privilege and fortune amassed by some through the deprivation of others. We have to recognize the injury and care about those who have been harmed, she said, then we have to see the systems that produce and perpetuate those injuries. And to do that, we need to use our sense of the past to hone our awareness of the present”
Connor Towne O'Neill, Down Along with That Devil's Bones: A Reckoning with Monuments, Memory, and the Legacy of White Supremacy

“What had happened to him and the others who faced a judged and said: "You can't make me go in the army because I'm not American, or you wouldn't have plucked me and mine from a life that was good and real and meaningful and fenced me in the desert like they do the Jews in Germany and it is a puzzle why you haven't started to liquidate us though you might as well since everything else has been destroyed."
And some said: "You, Mr. Judge, who supposedly represent justice, was it just a thing to ruin a hundred thousand lives and homes and farms and businesses and dreams and hopes because the hundred thousand were a hundred thousand Japanese when Japan is the country you're fighting and, if so, how about the Germans and Italians that must be just as questionable as the Japanese or we wouldn't be fighting Germany and Italy? Round them up. Take away their homes and cars and beer and spaguetti and throw them in a camp, and what do you think they'll say when you try to draft them into your army of the country that is for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?”
John Okada, No-No Boy

Jacqueline Woodson
“And give no damns that the white kids be looking at us like we don't belong at that school, in their lunchroom, sticking tongs into their salad bars. Fuck no. Don't even know they're in the presence of royalty when they ask, How come you all sit together? without checking their own all-white tables.”
Jacqueline Woodson, Red at the Bone

Guy P. Harrison
“We are not a collection of subspecies separated by biological canyons. Neither nature nor supernatural design imposed the different and often contradictory racial classification systems used around the world."

--"Race and Science", SKEPTIC MAGAZINE volume 25 number 3 2020”
Guy P. Harrison

D.B. Mays
“I aim to convey, through lines and verse, the Black experience as it is today so that the generations who come after us have a lyrical but accurate account of how we contended with racial and social injustice and violence during our lifetime. In essence, I write to promote the reverence we deserve for our resilience, beauty, and humanity.”
D.B. Mays

D.B. Mays
“Sometimes you have to tell the whole damn truth no matter how ugly and painful it may be. America needs to smell and sit in her own feces for a while and walk around and let the world see her stained rear end and cover its nose at the stench of her democracy.”
D.B. Mays, Black Lives, Lines, and Lyrics

Tony Horwitz
“Was there such a thing as politically correct remembrance of the Confederacy? Or was any attempt to honor the Cause inevitably tainted by what Southernerners once delicately referred to as their 'peculiar institution?”
Tony Horwitz, Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War

Tony Horwitz
“I later read a survey about Southerners' knowledge of the War; only half of those aged eighteen to twenty-four could name a single battle, and only one in eight knew if they had a Confederate ancestor.
This was a long way from the experience of earlier generations, smothered from birth in the thick gravy of Confederate culture and schooled on textbooks that were little more than Old South propaganda. In this sense, ignorance might prove a blessing. Knowing less about the past, kids seemed less attached to it. Maybe the South would finally exorcise its demons by simply forgetting the history that created them.
But Alabaman's seemed to have also let go of the more recent and hopeful history embodied in Martin Luther King's famous speech. "I have a dream," he said, of an Alabama where "black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”
Tony Horwitz, Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War

Rudy Francisco
“I was 18 wen I started driving
I was 18 the first time I was pulled over.

It was 2 AM on a Saturday
The officer spilled his lights all over my rearview mirror,
he splashed out of the car with his hand already on his weapon,
and looked at me the way a tsunami looks at a beach house.
Immediately, I could tell he was the kind of man
who brings a gun to a food fight.

He called me son
and I thought to myself,
that's an interesting way of pronouncing "boy,"
He asks for my license and registration,
wants to know what I'm doing in this nieghborhood,
if the car is stolen,
if I have any drugs
and most days, I know how to grab my voice
by the handle and swing it like a hammer.
But instead,
I picked it up like a shard of glass.
Scared of what might happen if I didn't hold it carefully
because I know that this much melanin
and that uniform is a plotline to a film that
can easily end with a chalk outline baptism,
me trying to make a body bag look stylish for the camera
and becoming the newest coat in a closet full of RIP hashtags.

Once, a friend of a friend asked me
why there aren't more black people in the X Games
and I said, "You don't get it."

Being black is one of the most extreme sports in America.
We don't need to invent new ways of risking our lives
because the old ones have been working for decades.

Jim Crow may have left the nest,
but our streets are still covered with its feathers.
Being black in America is knowing there's a thin line
between a traffic stop and the cemetery,

it's the way my body tenses up
when I hear a police siren in a song,
it's the quiver in my stomach when a cop car is behind me,
it's the sigh of relief when I turn right and he doesn't.
I don't need to go volcano surfing.
Hell, I have an adrenaline rush every time an officer
drives right past without pulling me over

and I realize
I'm going to make it home safe.

This time.”
Rudy Francisco, Helium

Jay Coles
“All I am left thinking is: What lesson did I have to be taught? Not to be a concerned individual? Not to care about someone else's innocent life, the boy lying unconscious across from me? Not to care about my own life? Not to be a member of my own race?”
Jay Coles, Tyler Johnson Was Here

Richard Wright
“It was from Granny's conversations, year after year, that the meager details of Grandpa's life came to me. When the Civil War broke out, he ran off from his master and groped his way through the Confederate lines to the North. He darkly boasted of having killed "mo'n mah fair share of those damn rebels" while en route to enlist in the Union Army. Militantly resentful of slavery, he joined the Union Army... Mustered out, he returned to the South and, during elections, guarded ballot boxes with his army rifle so that Negroes could vote. But when the Negro had been driven from political power, his spirit had been crushed. He was convinced that the war had not really ended, that it would start again.”
Richard Wright, Black Boy

Jay Coles
“I'm seeing so many All Lives Matter bullshit posts that have my entire body shaking. People don't fucking know that black folks were never included in the all. All-American means white. All-inclusive means white. All lives means white lives. It's bullshit. White folks always make it about them, and I'm pissed off that they're trying to mask their hatred with these tags.”
Jay Coles, Tyler Johnson Was Here

Jay Coles
“I strongly believe that it's up to everyone, regardless of race, to heal that divide and come together to fight police brutality.”
Jay Coles, Tyler Johnson Was Here

Richard Wright
“And, slowly, it was upon exactly that nothingness that my mind began to dwell, that constant sense of wanting without having, of being hated without reason. A dim notion of what life meant to a Negro in America was coming to consciousness in me, not in terms of external events, lynchings, Jim Crowism, and the endless brutalities, but in terms of crossed-up feeling, of psyche pain. I sensed that Negro life was a sprawling land of unconscious suffering, and there were but few Negroes who knew the meaning of their lives, who could tell their story.”
Richard Wright, Black Boy

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