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Quotations about Racism


Related Quotes      Black History    MLK Day    Prejudice      Hatred      Brotherhood


White men, whether they are the majority or the minority, must find a way to purge themselves completely of racism, or face an ultimate fateful confrontation which will shake the very foundation of civilization. ~Ralph J. Bunche, 1971


[R]ace 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. ~Pearl S. Buck, What America Means To Me, 1943


Racism isn't born, folks, it's taught. I have a two-year-old son. You know what he hates? Naps! End of list. ~Denis Leary, 1992


When it is not on the side of civil rights, then the law is not right, it is white. ~Langston Hughes (1902–1967)


One day our descendants will think it incredible that we paid so much attention to things like the amount of melanin in our skin or the shape of our eyes or our gender instead of the unique identities of each of us as complex human beings. ~Franklin A. Thomas, 1982


I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in mankind. I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsam and jetsam in the river of life which surrounds him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daylight of peace can never become a reality. ~Martin Luther King, Jr., Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, 1964


The older you grow the more of it you'll see. The one place where a man ought to get a square deal is in a courtroom, be he any color of the rainbow, but people have a way of carrying their resentments right into a jury box. As you grow older, you'll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don't you forget it — whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash. ~Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird, 1960


The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much. ~Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness, 1899


We first crush people to the earth, and then claim the right of trampling on them for ever, because they are prostrate. ~Lydia Maria Child, An Appeal in Favor of That Class of Americans Called Africans, 1833


      It is the misfortune of men of African descent to be heavily shadowed by a cloud, and they must wait to have it dispelled before they can be properly seen, either by themselves or by others. Suspicion of the presence of a drop of African blood in the veins of a man, however able and distinguished, is a blight and mildew upon his life for American society.... His race is hated and his color is crime. The verdict of both court and country is against him in advance of evidence or argument...
      There are few things in the world more blinding than race prejudice, and there are but few things more inflexible and persistent. Against the claims of truth and justice, to say nothing of brotherly kindness, it stands like a wall of brass. Reason and common sense dash themselves against it in vain. Individual men have risen and are rising above it, but the masses are ever under its sway and direction.... neither Irishman, Jew, nor Chinaman is fully included in the high human circle; but the fiercest wrath of this race prejudice is reserved for men and women of African blood. ~Frederick Douglass, "Toussaint L'Ouverture," c. 1890


I swear to the Lord
I still can't see
Why Democracy means
Everybody but me...
~Langston Hughes, "The Black Man Speaks," Jim Crow's Last Stand, 1943


After the racist statutes are all struck down, after legal equality has been achieved in the schools and in the courts, there remains the profound institutionalized and abiding wrong that white America has worked on the Negro for so long. ~Michael Harrington, The Other America: Poverty in the United States, 1962


Through avalanches of prejudices; industrial barriers; professional intrigues; legal technicalities; diplomatic effronteries, and political buffetings, the American Negro has, at last arrived before the public eye, as a factor not easily to be evaded. ~Mitchell Davis, One Hundred Choice Quotations by Prominent Men and Women of the Negro Race, 1917


To live anywhere in the world of A.D. 1955 and be against equality because of race or color is like living in Alaska and being against snow. ~William Faulkner, 1955


The African race is a rubber ball. The harder you dash it to the ground, the higher it will rise. ~African proverb


All the negro asks is that the door which rewards industry, thrift, intelligence and character be left as wide open for him as for the foreigner who constantly comes to our country. More than this he has no right to request. Less than this a republic has no right to withhold. ~Booker T. Washington, 1904


Bigotry:  A vice confined to the weakest minds. ~Anonymous, Aphorisms; or, A Glance at Human Nature, in Original Maxims, 1820


When we're unemployed, we're called lazy; when the whites are unemployed it's called a depression. ~Jesse Jackson, 1970


Laundry is the only thing that should be separated by color. ~Author unknown


Why reasonable people go stark raving mad when anything involving a Negro comes up, is something I don't pretend to understand. ~Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird, 1960


Racial superiority is a mere pigment of the imagination. ~Author unknown


I am working for the time when unqualified blacks, browns, and women join the unqualified men in running our government. ~Cissy Farenthold, 1974


Be nice to whites, they need you to rediscover their humanity. ~Desmond Tutu, 1984


If it is dark, all men are black. ~Ghanaian proverb


Few of us seem to realize how insidious, how radical, how universal an evil racism is. Few of us realize that racism is man's gravest threat to man, the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason, the maximum of cruelty for a minimum of thinking... This is not a white man's world. This is not a colored man's world. It is God's world. No man has a place in this world who tries to keep another man in his place. It is time for the white man to repent. ~Abraham J. Heschel, "Religion and Race," 1963


[A]lmost everyone agrees on the principles that should govern our conduct. At least almost all say and probably think that they agree. It is the application that is different. Southerners who deny Negroes a fair trial purport to be enthusiastic for the Bill of Rights but do not apply it in the same way to whites and Negroes. ~Henry Steele Commager, "Free Enterprise in Ideas," Freedom, Loyalty, Dissent, 1954  [This essay was originally published in The Saturday Review, but I'm not sure if it was 1947 or 1952. —tg]


Our flag is red, white, and blue, but our nation is a rainbow — red, yellow, brown, black, and white — we are all precious in God's sight! ~Jesse Jackson, 1984


...you can listen to hurt:
listen to a black friend tell how his white landlady squeezed an envelope
under his door to collect the rent money because she was
afraid to come too close to him.
listen when he tells of his white girlfriend who was threatened with a beating
if she continued to see him; and how his black friends
threatened him with the same. listen to the embittered man
with clenched fists, white knuckles, and gritted teeth.
i don't know if you can get used to that...
~Ken Sekaquaptewa and Candy St. Jacques, Sahuaro, 1970, yearbook of the Associated Students of Arizona State University


      His name was Clifton and he was young and they shot him and he bled and he died. Aren't you tired of such stories? Aren't you sick of the blood? The story's too short and too simple. His name was Clifton, Tod Clifton, he was unarmed and his death was as senseless as his life was futile. He had struggled for Brotherhood on a hundred street corners and he thought it would make him more human, but he died like any dog in a road. And I was there to see him fall.
      He was shot for a simple mistake of judgment and he bled and his blood dried and shortly the crowd trampled out the stains. It was a normal mistake of which many are guilty: He thought he was a man and that men were not to be pushed around. The cop had an itching finger and an eager ear for a word that rhymed with 'trigger,' and when Clifton fell he had found it. The Police Special spoke its lines and the rhyme was completed.
      Now Brother Clifton's part of history, and he has received his true freedom. Cause of death: resisting reality in the form of a .38 caliber revolver in the hands of the arresting officer. Clifton's in this box with the bolts tightened down, and we're in there with him. So there you have it. His name was Tod Clifton, he believed in Brotherhood, he aroused our hopes and he died.
      In a few hours he will be cold bones in the ground. And don't be fooled, for these bones shall not rise again. You and I will still be in the box. I don't know if Tod Clifton had a soul. I only know the ache that I feel in my heart, my sense of loss. I don't know if you have a soul. I only know that you are men of flesh and blood; and that blood will spill and flesh grow cold. I do not know if all cops are poets, but I know that all cops carry guns with triggers. And I know too how we are labeled. ~Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man, 1952  [I've abridged this from four pages of the book. —tg]


The Frenchman, I believe, is the worst of chauvinists, but once he admits a foreigner to his country he at least treats that foreigner fairly, and does not try to penalise him absurdly for his mere foreignness. The Anglo-Saxon American is always trying to do it; his history is a history of recurrent outbreaks of blind rage against peoples who have begun to worst him; hence Know Nothingism, Ku Kluxery, American Legionism, and all the rest of it. Such movements would be inconceivable in an efficient and genuinely self-confident people... and they would be equally inconceivable in a truly gallant and courageous people... Such devices, of course, never have the countenance of the Anglo-Saxon minority that is... self-confident and tolerant... The normal American of the "pure-blooded" majority goes to rest every night with an uneasy feeling that there is a burglar under the bed, and he gets up every morning with a sickening fear that his underwear has been stolen. ~H. L. Mencken, "The American Tradition," Prejudices, Fourth Series, 1924


One hundred years of delay have passed since President Lincoln freed the slaves, yet their heirs, their grandsons, are not fully free. They are not yet freed from the bonds of injustice. They are not yet freed from social and economic oppression. And this nation, for all its hopes and all its boasts, will not be fully free until all its citizens are free. ~John F. Kennedy, 1963



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