Racism concept. Stop hate and discrimination. Against prejudice and violence. Hand wiping off and erasing the word from blackboard.

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 assumes 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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Race has object permanence. It is still there, no matter how hard we try to look away.

— Farzana Nayani, Raising Multiracial Children: Tools for Nurturing Identity in a Racialized World

Countermovements among racists and sexists and nazifiers are just as relentless as dirt on a coffee table. . . . Every housewife knows that if you don’t sooner or later dust . . . the whole place will be dirty again

— Florynce Kennedy

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 Thomas

We’re going to fight racism not with racism, but we’re going to fight with solidarity. We say we’re not going to fight capitalism with black capitalism, but we’re going to fight it with socialism.

— Fred Hampton

We say we’re not going to fight capitalism with black capitalism, but we’re going to fight it with socialism.

— Fred Hampton

Who would be free themselves must strike the blow. Better even to die free than to live slaves.

— Frederick Douglass

People are asking me about the race problem…. I know of no race problem. The great problem that confronts the American people to-day is a national problem — whether this great nation of ours is great enough to live up to its own convictions, carry out its own declaration of independence, and execute the provisions of its own constitution.

— Frederick Douglass

This is no simple reform. It really is a revolution. Sex and race because they are easy and visible differences have been the primary ways of organizing human beings into superior and inferior groups and into the cheap labour in which this system still depends. We are talking about a society in which there will be no roles other than those chosen or those earned. We are really talking about humanism.

— Gloria Steinem

Telling me that I’m obsessed with talking about racism in America is like telling me I’m obsessed with swimming when I’m drowning.

— Hari Kondabolu

In order to get beyond racism, we must first take account of race. There is no other way. And in order to treat some persons equally, we must treat them differently.

— Harry A. Blackmun

Although slavery may have been abolished, the crippling poison of racism still persists, and the struggle still continues.

— Harry Belafonte

I think that the roots of racism have always been economic, and I think people are desperate and scared. And when you’re desperate and scared you scapegoat people. It exacerbates latent tendencies toward – well, toward racism or homophobia or anti-Semitism.

— Henry Louis Gates

We have two evils to fight, capitalism and racism. We must destroy both racism and capitalism.

— Huey Newton

The walls, the bars, the guns and the guards can never encircle or hold down the idea of the people.

— Huey Newton

Whiteness wants enough blackness to affirm the goodness of whiteness, the progressiveness of whiteness, the open-heartedness of whiteness. Whiteness likes a trickle of blackness, but only that which can be controlled.

— I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness, Austin Channing Brown

The history of racist ideas is the history of powerful policymakers erecting racist policies out of self-interest, then producing racist ideas to defend and rationalize the inequitable effects of their policies, while everyday people consume those racist ideas, which in turn sparks ignorance and hate. Treating ignorance and hate and expecting racism to shrink suddenly seemed like treating a cancer patient’s symptoms and expecting the tumors to shrink. The body politic might feel better momentarily from the treatment — from trying to eradicate hate and ignorance — but as long as the underlying cause remains, the tumors grow, the symptoms return, and inequities spread like cancer cells, threatening the life of the body politic. Educational and moral suasion is not only a failed strategy. It is a suicidal strategy.

— Ibram X. Kendi, How to Be an Antiracist

RACIST: One who is supporting a racist policy through their actions or inaction or expressing a racist idea.
ANTIRACIST: One who is supporting an antiracist policy through their actions or expressing an antiracist idea.

— Ibram X. Kendi, How to Be an Antiracist

Neither failure nor success is written. The story of our generation will be based on what we are willing to do. Are we willing to endure the grueling fight against racist power and policy? Are we willing to transform the antiracist power we gather within us to antiracist power in our society?

— Ibram X. Kendi, How to Be an Antiracist

It is not hard to figure out what Native Americans, enslaved Africans, and indentured White servants meant when they demanded liberty in 1776. But what about Jefferson and other slaveholders like him, whose wealth and power were dependent upon their land and their slaves? Did they desire unbridled freedom to enslave and exploit? Did they perceive any reduction in their power to be a reduction in their freedom? For these rich men, freedom was not the power to make choices; freedom was the power to create choices. England created the choices, the policies American elites had to abide by, just as planters created choices and policies that laborers had to follow. Only power gave Jefferson and other wealthy White colonists freedom from England. For Jefferson, power came before freedom. Indeed, power creates freedom, not the other way around — as the powerless are taught.

— Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America

The beauty of anti-racism is that you don’t have to pretend to be free of racism to be an anti-racist. Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself. And it’s the only way forward.

— Ijeoma Oluo

One thing I’ve learned is that at the core of white privilege is the entitlement to amnesia and ignorance. To forget that America was founded on stolen land, stolen labor, and genocide, and that we live in a society structured by this history, is to embrace an identity rooted in a false innocence and a flight from truth and healing. This is the rot at the root of the nation.

— Jabari S. Jones

When you look at all of America’s institutions, institutional racism and structural racism persist in every institution. If we center racial justice, we can begin to deal with all of the other issues like underfunded schools, segregated neighborhoods, lack of health care (and) environmental injustice.

— Jamaal Bowman

Whoever debases others is debasing himself.

— James Baldwin

There appears to be a vast amount of confusion on this point, but I do not know many Negroes who are eager to be “accepted” by white people, still less to be loved by them; they, the blacks, simply don’t wish to be beaten over the head by the whites every instant of our brief passage on this planet. White people in this country will have quite enough to do in learning how to accept and love themselves and each other, and when they have achieved this — which will not be tomorrow and will not be today and may very well be never — the Negro problem will no longer exist, for it will no longer be needed.

— James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

One consequence of racism and segregation is that many American whites know little or nothing about the daily lives of African Americans. Black America’s least-understood communities are those poor, hyper-segregated places we once called ghettos. These neighborhoods are not far away, but they might as well be on the moon.

— James Forman, Jr.

There is power in naming racism for what it is, in shining a bright light on it, brighter than any torch or flashlight. A thing as simple as naming it allows us to root it out of the darkness and hushed conversation where it likes to breed like roaches. It makes us acknowledge it. Confront it.

— Jesmyn Ward

Reclamation is hard work. Finding the value in your group’s characteristics means always having to confront the darkness in those characteristics. For example, it is acceptable, and productive, to think of America as a great nation. It has many great characteristics, from the freedom it grants its citizens to the cultural contributions it has fostered and rewarded. But by unearthing America’s good qualities, you will also find its destructive qualities. The way it has interfered internationally and created death and misery for countless citizens of other nations, its history of genocide and slavery, and so on. It is possible to know America’s destructive power and still think it is a great nation. But some prefer not to look at all, so as to avoid the cognitive dissonance.

— Jessa Crispin

Feminism isn’t simply about being a woman in a position of power. It’s battling systemic inequities; it’s a social justice movement that believes sexism, racism and classism exist and interconnect, and that they should be consistently challenged.

— Jessica Valenti

It’s not difficult in South Africa for the ordinary person to see the link between capitalism and racist exploitation, and when one sees the link one immediately thinks in terms of a socialist alternative.

— Joe Slovo

Take a long, hard look down the road you will have to travel once you have made a commitment to work for change. Know that this transformation will not happen right away. Change often takes time. It rarely happens all at once. In the movement, we didn’t know how history would play itself out. When we were getting arrested and waiting in jail or standing in unmovable lines on the courthouse steps, we didn’t know what would happen, but we knew it had to happen.

Use the words of the movement to pace yourself. We used to say that ours is not the struggle of one day, one week, or one year. Ours is not the struggle of one judicial appointment or presidential term. Ours is the struggle of a lifetime, or maybe even many lifetimes, and each one of us in every generation must do our part. And if we believe in the change we seek, then it is easy to commit to doing all we can, because the responsibility is ours alone to build a better society and a more peaceful world.

— John Lewis, (1940-2020)
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