In Their Own Words….

(If you wondered:  an injury has kept me off the keyboard, so this post is a week late, and abbreviated.)

I’m listing some quotes here from Black people.  You may have “heard” these before.  I invite you to read them as if for the first time.  Allow the words to penetrate.  I’ll begin with some that go back a few decades:


“One of the first epithets that many European immigrants learned when they got off the boat was the term ‘nigger’.  It made them feel instantly American.”  Ralph Ellison


“If you want to understand any problem in America, you need to focus on who profits from that problem, not who suffers from the problem.”  Dr. Amos Wilson


“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


“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


“People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction and anyone who insists on remaining in a state of innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster.”  James Baldwin


“If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”  Malcolm X


“Whites, it must frankly be said, are not putting in a similar mass effort to reeducate themselves out of their racial ignorance.  It is an aspect of their sense of superiority that the white people of America believe they have so little to learn.”  Martin Luther King Jr.


“Many white Americans of good will have never connected bigotry with economic exploitation.  They have deplored prejudice but tolerated or ignored economic injustice.”  MLK Jr.


“I’m not interested in anybody’s guilt.  Guilt is a luxury we can no longer afford.  I know you didn’t do it, and I didn’t do it either, but I am responsible for it because I am a man and a citizen of this country, and you are responsible for it, for the very same reason.”  James Baldwin


“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 Klan-er, 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 paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; …. who constantly admonishes the Negro to wait until a ‘more convenient season.’”  MLK Jr.


“A riot is the language of the unheard.”  MLK Jr.


Which quote particularly struck you?  What will you do in response?  Please “Leave a Reply” below.

The next post will cite quotes from current Black commentators.

6 thoughts on “In Their Own Words….”

  1. I liked all of the quotes, Frank. They convey a sense of accountability, that “awareness” is not enough, and action is needed to achieve justice. Thanks for your blog.


  2. Thanks, Frank, for these words of wisdom, and for asking us to say what we’ll do about the one we choose — much harder than just “liking” it. I will take Cornel West’s quote to the social action committee and religious school at my synagogue and challenge them and myself to take other action steps.


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