Quotations on racism and racists: notable people weigh in on the reality of racism. Race is a biological myth. Ethnic heritage and genetic connections between people who lived in a place together for thousands of years are real, but no biological races exist. Racism acts as though race exists and that races have different characteristics, roles, and capacities. Racist ideas and policies define who is “better” and who gets more of the social, economic, political and cultural goods in society. Here are some historical and current quotations on the topic of racism.

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Raghead (The Sonnet)
Some call me raghead,
Some call me desert dweller.
Some call me curry-breath,
Some call me f-ing nigger.
This is not just my story,
But of every person of color.
In a world stolen by whites,
Anything non-white is inferior.
Upon receiving so much hate,
I admit, sometimes I do feel gloomy.
I know how it is to be cussed everyday,
So I choose love no matter the agony.
The tradition of hate has gone on long enough.
I choose to be the break in habit on the world’s behalf.

— Abhijit Naskar, Handcrafted Humanity: 100 Sonnets For A Blunderful World

In a world stolen by whites, anything non-white is inferior.

— Abhijit Naskar, Raghead (The Sonnet) from Handcrafted Humanity: 100 Sonnets For A Blunderful World

My religion is the best — my nation is the best — my language is the best — my skin color is the best — and so on. One may feel proud saying all these things, but that very pride ends up becoming the cause of all interhuman conflicts in the human society.

— Abhijit Naskar, Build Bridges not Walls

Racism is man’s gravest threat to man — the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason.

— Abraham Heschel

But even race-neutral policies and recruitment efforts designed to achieve greater diversity are, in the end, not race neutral.

— Adam Schiff

We cannot reform institutional racism or systemic policies if we are not actively engaged. It’s not enough to simply complain about injustice; the only way to prevent future injustice is to create the society we would like to see, one where we are all equal under the law.

— Al Sharpton

We never got the 40 acres. We went all the way to Herbert Hoover, and we never got the 40 acres. We didn’t get the mule. So we decided we’d ride this donkey as far as it would take us.

— Al Sharpton

Racism is taught in our society, it is not automatic. It is learned behavior toward persons with dissimilar physical characteristics.

— Alex Haley

[T]o speak out provoked violence; to remain silent encouraged death. It was a dilemma not at all new to people of color, or women.

— Alice Walker

Black Lives Matter was created as a response to state violence and anti-black racism and a call to action for those who want to fight it and build a world where black lives do, in fact, matter.

— Alicia Garza

I think race and racism is probably the most studied social, economic, and political phenomenon in this country, but it’s also the least understood.

— Alicia Garza

I learned that racism, like most systems of oppression, isn’t about bad people doing terrible things to people who are different from them but instead is a way of maintaining power for certain groups at the expense of others.

— Alicia Garza, The Purpose of Power

The reality is that race in the United States operates on a spectrum from black to white. Doesn’t mean that people who are in between don’t experience racism, but it means that the closer you are to white on that spectrum, the better off you are. And the closer to black that you are on that spectrum, the worse off your are.

— Alicia Garza

Black Lives Matter.

— Alicia Garza

Both Alton Sterling and Philando Castile had guns on them, which is part of their Second Amendment right. It is a part of a culture that is largely protected by special-interest groups like the N.R.A., but the right to bear arms, it seems, only exists for white people.

— Alicia Garza

Racism springs from the lie that certain human beings are less than fully human. It’s a self-centered falsehood that corrupts our minds into believing we are right to treat others as we would not want to be treated.

— Alveda King

Racism is a way to gain economic advantage at the expense of others. Slavery and plantations may be gone, but racism still allows us to regard those who may keep us from financial gain as less than equals.

— Alveda King

Racism oppresses its victims, but also binds the oppressors, who sear their consciences with more and more lies until they become prisoners of those lies. They cannot face the truth of human equality because it reveals the horror of the injustices they commit.

— Alveda King

Racism tears down your insides so that no matter what you achieve, you’re not quite up to snuff.

— Alvin Ailey

When I was saying, ‘White people go to hell,’ I never had trouble finding a publisher. But when I say, ‘Black and white unite and fight, destroy capitalism,’ then you suddenly become unreasonable.

— Amiri Baraka

Racism is a much more clandestine, much more hidden kind of phenomenon, but at the same time it’s perhaps far more terrible than it’s ever been.

— Angela Davis

In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist. We must be anti-racist.

— Angela Davis

Racism is a weapon used by the wealthy to increase the profits they bring in by paying Black workers less for their work.

— Angela Davis

Imagining themselves to be looking objectively at human variation, in fact scientists were often looking for answers in our bodies to questions that existed far outside them. Race science had always sat at the intersection of science and politics, of science and economics. Race wasn’t just a tool for classifying physical difference but was also a way of measuring human progress, of placing judgement on the capacities and rights of others.

— Angela Saini

[Prison] relieves us of the responsibility of seriously engaging with the problems of our society, especially those produced by racism and, increasingly, global capitalism.

— Angela Y. Davis, Are Prisons Obsolete?

… those who can serve best, those who help most, those who sacrifice most, those are the people who will be loved in life and honoured in death, when all questions of colour are swept away and when in a free country free citizens shall meet on equal grounds.

— Annie Besant

The negroid variety is the lowest, and stands at the foot of the ladder. . . . His intellect will always move within a very narrow circle. . . . The yellow man has little physical energy, and is inclined to apathy. . . . He tends to mediocrity in everything. . . . We come now to the white peoples. These are gifted with reflective energy, or rather with an energetic intelligence. They have a feeling for utility, but in a sense far wider and higher, more courageous and ideal, than the yellow races. . . . If the three great types had remained strictly separate, the supremacy would no doubt have always been in the hands of the finest of the white races, and the yellow and black varieties would have crawled forever at the feet of the lowest of the whites.

— Arthur de Gobineau, An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races, 1853

We ought not to speak only about the economics of globalization, but about the psychology of globalization. It’s like the psychology of a battered woman being faced with her husband again and being asked to trust him again. That’s what is happening. We are being asked by the countries that invented nuclear weapons and chemical weapons and apartheid and modern slavery and racism – countries that have perfected the gentle art of genocide, that colonized other people for centuries – to trust them when they say that they believe in a level playing field and the equitable distribution of resources and in a better world. It seems comical that we should even consider that they really mean what they say.

— Arundhati Roy, The Checkbook and the Cruise Missile

Certainly there are very real differences between us of race, age, and sex. But it is not those differences between us that are separating us. It is rather our refusal to recognize those differences, and to examine the distortions that result from our misnaming them and their effects upon human behavior and expectation.

Racism, the belief in the inherent superiority of one race over all others and thereby the right to dominance. Sexism, the belief in the inherent superiority of one sex over the other and thereby the right to dominance. Ageism. Heterosexism. Elitism. Classism.

It is a lifetime pursuit for each one of us to extract these distortions from our living at the same time as we recognize, reclaim, and define those differences upon which they are imposed. For we have all been raised in a society where those distortions were endemic within our living. Too often, we pour the energy needed for recognizing and exploring difference into pretending those differences are insurmountable barriers, or that they do not exist at all. This results in a voluntary isolation, or false and treacherous connections. Either way, we do not develop tools for using human difference as a springboard for creative change within our lives. We speak not of human difference, but of human deviance.

— Audre Lorde

It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.

— Audre Lorde

But, on the other hand, I get bored with racism too and recognize that there are still many things to be said about a Black person and a White person loving each other in a racist society.

— Audre Lorde

Black writers, of whatever quality, who step outside the pale of what black writers are supposed to write about, or who black writers are supposed to be, are condemned to silences in black literary circles that are as total and as destructive as any imposed by racism.

— Audre Lorde

We must acknowledge that issues like systemic racism, economic inequality, and the achievement gap are the result of manmade policies.

— Ayanna Pressley

Defeating racism, tribalism, intolerance and all forms of discrimination will liberate us all, victim and perpetrator alike.

— Ban Ki-moon

I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story, that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me, and that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.

— Barack Obama

I am an opponent of war and of war preparations and an opponent of universal military training and conscription; but entirely apart from that issue, I hold that segregation in any part of the body politic is an act of slavery and an act of war.

— Bayard Rustin

Since the notion that we should all forsake attachment to race and/or cultural identity and be “just humans” within the framework of white supremacy has usually meant that subordinate groups must surrender their identities, beliefs, values, and assimilate by adopting the values and beliefs of privileged-class whites, rather than promoting racial harmony this thinking has created a fierce cultural protectionism.

— bell hooks, Killing Rage: Ending Racism

All our silences in the face of racist assault are acts of complicity.

— bell hooks

Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd.

— Bertrand Russell

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.

— Billie Holiday, Lady Sings the Blues

There are two ways of exerting one’s strength: one is pushing down, the other is pulling up.

— Booker T. Washington

Every Black person you meet is a miracle… We are valuable because of our humanity and declared valuable because our ancestors declared our worth when they fought for us to live.

— Brittany Packnett

Racism began with white people using it to justify enslaving African peoples, and it was white Christians who argued for slavery on biblical grounds. White people as a group continue to benefit unfairly from a racist system. This is why white people need to take responsibility to do our own work, to learn about the struggle against racism, and to teach one another.

— Carolyn B. Helsel

Not talking about race and racism has been a strategy our society has used in the past, but it has not worked. People continue to have biases that they act on, with the biggest impact falling upon communities of color.

— Carolyn B. Helsel

In a society in which equality is a fact, not merely a word, words of racial or sexual assault and humiliation will be nonsense syllables.

— Catharine MacKinnon

Understanding history is one of many ways to break the cycle. Lift up/amplify Black voices. Support Black owned businesses. Reach back. Mentor.

— Chadwick Boseman

When we lose the right to be different, we lose the privilege to be free.

— Charles Evan Hughes

Ageism is as odious as racism and sexism.

— Claude Pepper

I’ve had times where one of my roommates was moving out of the house in college, and because we were the only black people in that neighborhood, the cops got called, and we had guns drawn on us. Came in the house, without knocking, guns drawn on my teammates and roommates. So I have experienced this.

— Colin Kaepernick

I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color.

— Colin Kaepernick
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