Wisdom from Those Who Know

I’ve read volumes of wisdom from Black authors, viewed countless videos rich with insight and challenge for white people who would be allies. At times, I’ve thought, “Why am I fussing about writing when there’s so much already written by those wiser than I?” I’m sure some of my readers have wondered the same!

This time I want to present some of that wisdom from Black authors around a particular theme:

Messages of URGENCY for well-intentioned white people.

I believe many of this blog’s subscribers (and its author) fit that description.

Here goes:

“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;’ who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a ‘more convenient season.’”

Dr. M.L. King Jr.
“I sometimes visualize the ongoing cycle of racism as a moving walkway at the airport. Active racist behavior is equivalent to walking fast on the conveyor belt. Passive racist behaviour is equivalent to standing still on the walk way. No overt effort is being made, but the conveyor belt moves the bystanders along to the same destination as those who are actively walking….
Unless they (bystanders) are walking actively in the opposite direction at a speed faster than the conveyor belt – unless they are actively antiracist – they will find themselves carried along with the others…..
If you’ve ever wondered what you would have done during slavery or the Holocaust or the Civil Rights Movement, you’re doing it now.”

Beverly Daniel Tatum
“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 may very well be never – the Negro problem will no longer exist, for it will no longer be needed.”

James Baldwin
“I’ve often said that it’s not enough to acknowledge your privilege. And, in fact, that acknowledging it is often little more than a chance to pat yourself on the back for being so ‘aware.’ What I find is that most of the time when people acknowledge their privilege, they feel really special about it, really important, really glad that something so significant just happened, and then they just go ahead and do whatever they wanted to do anyway, privilege firmly in place. The truth is that acknowledging your privilege means a whole lot of nothing much if you don’t do anything to actively push back against it.”

Mia McKenzie (Blackgirldangerous on FB)
“White people need to understand how their privilege operates, how they perpetuate racism, and how they can become allies to people of color….. Diversity training can ask white people to change their consciousness while leaving their dominance intact:  a racial justice approach requires an organizational transformation of power relations. … Diversity training often leads to tokenization e.g., people of color are like the raisins in my oatmeal:  it just takes a few to make the dish richer.”

Myra Brown – Dismantling Racism Project
“Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make the philanthropy necessary…..Many white Americans of good will have never connected bigotry with economic exploitation. They have deplored prejudice but tolerated or ignored economic injustice.”

Dr. M.L. King Jr.
“This is not the time for hundreds more years of benign gradualism…. In the process of chronic excuse-making and sophisticated rationalizations — the lengths to which many will go to explain away the lack of urgency is plain mind-boggling. Even those with the best of good intentions are sometimes complicit.”

Howard Eagle
“White supremacy is America’s original sin and liberation is the Bible’s central message. Any theology in America that fails to engage white supremacy and God’s liberation of black people from that evil is not Christian theology, but a theology of Antichrist.”

James Cone
“Empathy is not simply a matter of trying to imagine what others are going through, but having the will to muster enough courage to do something about it.”

Cornel West
“Racism should never have happened in the first place, so you don’t get a cookie for reducing it.”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie



Some Black authors who have taught me:

“The Fire Next Time” James Baldwin classic
“Between the World and Me” Ta-Nehisi Coates
“Americanah” Novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
“Letter from the Birmingham Jail” Dr. M.L. King Jr.
“The Cross and the Lynching Tree” James Cone
“The Souls of Black Folk” W.E.B. DuBois
“Soul on Ice” Eldridge Cleaver
“The Autobiography of Frederick Douglass” Frederick Douglass

6th Annual MLK Worship Celebration, sponsored by United Christian Leadership Ministry. Sun. Jan. 20, 4:00 pm. Speaker: Former Mayor William A. Johnson, Jr.

“Intro to Implicit and Unconscious Bias in Professional Settings” 540WMain. Mon. Jan. 21, 4:30 – 6:30.

“Justice Post Douglass: A Community Meeting” 540WMain. Mon. Jan. 21, 7:00.

“History of Rochester Gentrification” 540WMain. Thurs. Jan. 24, 6:30 – 8:00. This one has particular meaning for me. I plan to attend.

“Expressions of King’s Legacy” at RIT, with featured speaker Tara Setmayer, CNN political commentator and former GOP communications director on Capital Hill. Thurs. Jan. 31, 12:00 – 2:00 pm.

United Christian Leadership Ministry. Membership meeting. Sat. Jan. 12, 10:30 – 12:00, Downtown Untied Presbyterian Church. Call me if interested in attending, or to learn more about this organization: 585-734-2960.

Combined meeting of Take-It-Down Planning Committee, Faith Community Alliance and Movement for Anti-racist Ministry and Action Coalition. First Saturday each month. Central Church of Christ (101 S. Plymouth Ave.). Call me if interested in attending, or to learn more about these organizations: 585-734-2960.

Meeting of the Rochester City School District Racial Equity Advocacy Leadership (REAL) Team.  Tues. Jan. 22, District Offices, 130 W. Broad St.  6:00 – 8:00 pm.

13 thoughts on “Wisdom from Those Who Know”

  1. Reading about racism and American culture has been important. Being with people who have suffered racial oppression has been more important. Being on the front line to confront racial oppression is a very important step.


  2. I completely agree that the issue of racism and its effects is URGENT. The question I ask is: “What is truly the fastest way to make progress?”

    People who advocate working passionately for change while also steadfastly treating adversaries with kindness and respect are often derided as “gradualists”. People often mistakenly assume that the way to get things done “urgently” is by treating adversaries with hate, anger, contempt, and force.

    Our enculturation by U.S. society attempts to embed in us this false dichotomy over and over again. We must understand this enculturation and not be duped. This pervasive belief that fierce, firm, and effective advocacy is incompatible with kindness and respect is a very dangerous one. The sad fact is that hate, anger, contempt, and force simply don’t work as social change tactics. Sometimes they achieve short-term results, but that is tragically deceptive – they lead to more and usually bigger problems down the road.

    I think that history – and in fact, some of the eminent people you have quoted above – make this very clear.

    Here is one of the quotes I like from Dr. King: ““One of the greatest problems of history is that the concepts of love and power are usually contrasted as polar opposites. Love is identified with a resignation of power and power with a denial of love. What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive and that love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice. Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.


      1. Mia McKenzie’s comments on recognizing white privilege are very important. I can feel good about understanding white privilege for a day or two and I can feel bad that my white privilege is a fact of life, but without standing up as a white ally to my black friends in the fight to end racism, I am only indulging myself. I’m working on it.


    1. …”truly the fastest way to make progress” is to establish clear, achievable, measurable GOALS, and then develop and implement ongoing strategies and tactics by which the GOALS can be achieved — period. ALL ELSE IS MERELY SUPER-HYPER, SUPER-LIBERAL RHETORIC AND NOISE — PERIOD.

      IF “People who advocate treating adversaries with kindness” are [NOT] gradualists” — then what in the heck are they???

      Where are these “People [locally who] mistakenly assume that the way to get things done “urgently” is by treating adversaries with hate and force?” I have NOT seen any such people. WHERE ARE THEY???

      Do you actually have the unmitigated gall, raw audacity, and intestinal fortitude to tell oppressed people of color, especially and particularly Black folks in this thoroughly racist, white-supremacist-based nation-state that we should NOT have “anger [and] contempt” towards enemies who have murdered, maimed, raped, exploited and oppressed our people for centuries???

      Whose “enculturation by U.S. society???” You don’t think YOURS is the same (specifically) as OURS — do you??? Which “false dichotomy” (specifically) are you referring to?

      “This pervasive belief that fierce, firm, and effective advocacy is incompatible with kindness and respect is a very dangerous one.” WHAT???…..WHAT??? So, we’re supposed to treat people who clearly HATE us “with kindness and respect???” WHAT???

      IF “hate, anger, contempt, and force simply don’t work as social change tactics” — then how in the hell did this thoroughly racist, white supremacist-based nation-state come into being, and how has it maintained and perpetuated itself for centuries???

      Here is one of the quotes I like from Dr. King:


  3. This post should be forwarded to the new Executive of the D&C. His first editorial mentions rasicm in the end. Certainly had an opportunity to make it a larger theme. “What is in the best interest of children?” – eliminating racism.


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