If a white man falls off a chair drunk, it’s just a drunk. If a Negro does, it’s the whole damn Negro race.
A minority group has “arrived” only when it has the right to produce some fools and scoundrels without the entire group paying for it.
I learned to slip back and forth between my black and white worlds. One of those tricks I had learned: People were satisfied so long as you were courteous and smiled and made no sudden moves. They were more than satisfied; they were relieved — such a pleasant surprise to find a well-mannered young black man who didn’t seem angry all the time.
There’s a stereotype that black people are lazy. I don’t know if that’s true, but I know white people went all the way to Africa to get out of doing work.
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.
Contrary to today’s stereotypes, racists do not always chew tobacco and drive pickup trucks with gun racks. They wear silk shirts, treat women as possessions, and talk about human rights at cocktail parties far from communities of people of color. The men in pickup trucks are just as likely to be warm and caring as the high-minded liberals are to be racists.
I learned to believe in freedom, to glow when the word democracy was used, and to practice slavery from morning to night. I learned it the way all of my Southern people learn it: by closing door after door until one’s mind and heart and conscience are blocked off from each other and from reality.
In this country “American” means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate.
I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets that I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was meant to remain oblivious. White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, code books, visas, clothes, tools, and blank checks.
There is inherited wealth in this country and also inherited poverty.
We all grow up with the weight of history on us. Our ancestors dwell in the attics of our brains as they do in the spiraling chains of knowledge hidden in every cell of our bodies.
Jon Stewart: Your mother is from Kansas. She’s a white woman. Your father, African. Are you concerned that you may go into the voting booth and . . . your white half will all of a sudden decide, “I can’t do this”?
Barack Obama: Yeah. It’s a problem.
I still say black. I say it because . . . African American . . . doesn’t make your life any easier. You don’t see black people . . . saying, “Oh yeah, African American. Man, I’ll tell ya, this beats the hell outta being black.” . . . “You don’t see any of us going into Bank of America [saying], “Excuse me, I’m here to pick up my loan.” . . . “You were rejected for that loan last week.” . . . “I was black then. See, I’m African American now. I’ll just go in the vault and take what I need.”
I think it’s helpful to remind white ethnics that they, too, came here in boats; that they, too, lived in slums; that they, too, had yellow fever; that they, too, were stigmatized as incorrigible; that they, too, had the highest homicide rates and the highest incarceration rates and the highest rates of mental illness; and that everything that was said about them in those days is now being said about Salvadorans, Dominicans, African Americans, Mexicans, Vietnamese, and Cambodians in our inner cities.
I am quite sure . . . I have no race prejudices, and I think I have no color prejudices, nor caste prejudices, nor creed prejudices. Indeed, I know it. I can stand any society. All I care to know is that a man is a human being — that is enough for me; he can’t be any worse.
Sometimes I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company?