Langston Hughes, “Militant”

Let all who will
Eat quietly the bread of shame.
I cannot,
Without complaining loud and long.
Tasting its bitterness in my throat,
And feeling to my very soul
It’s wrong.
For honest work
You proffer me poor pay,
for honest dreams
Your spit is in my face,
And so my fist is clenched
To strike your face.

– Langston Hughes, “Militant”

Individual racism vs. systemic racism (Stokely Carmichael)

“Racism is both overt and covert. It takes two, closely related forms: individual whites acting against individual blacks, and acts by the total white community against the black community. We call these individual racism and institutional racism. The first consists of overt acts by individuals, which cause death, injury or the violent destruction of property. This type can be recorded by television cameras; it can frequently be observed in the process of commission. The second type is less overt, far more subtle, less identifiable in terms of specific individuals committing the acts. But it is no less destructive of human life. The second type originates in the operation of established and respected forces in the society, and thus receives far less public condemnation than the first type. When white terrorists bomb a black church and kill five black children, that is an act of individual racism, widely deplored by most segments of the society. But when in that same city – Birmingham, Alabama – five hundred black babies die each year because of the lack of proper food, shelter and medical facilities, and thousands more are destroyed and maimed physically, emotionally and intellectually because of conditions of poverty and discrimination in the black community, that is a function of institutional racism. When a black family moves into a home in a white neighborhood and is stoned, burned or routed out, they are victims of an overt act of individual racism which many people will condemn – at least in words. But it is institutional racism that keeps black people locked in dilapidated slum tenements, subject to the daily prey of exploitative slumlords, merchants, loan sharks and discriminatory real estate agents. The society either pretends it does not know of this latter situation, or is in fact incapable of doing anything meaningful about it.”

― Stokely Carmichael, Black Power: The Politics of Liberation

Inmates at the state prison in San Quentin, California, in June 2012

Don’t be deceived when they tell you things are better now …

Don’t be deceived
When they tell you
Things are better now
Even if there’s no poverty to be seen
Because the poverty’s been hidden
Even if you never had better wages
And you could afford to buy
More of these new and useless goods
Which these new industries foist on you
And even if it seems to you
That you never had so much
That is only the slogan of those
Who still have much more than you.
Don’t be taken in
When they pat you paternally on the shoulder
And say
There’s no inequality worth speaking of
And no more reason
For fighting.
Because if you believe them
They will be completely in charge
In their marble homes and granite banks
From which they rob the people of the world
Under the pretense of bringing them culture.
Watch out
For as soon as it pleases them
They’ll send you out
To protect their gold
In wars
Whose weapons rapidly developed
By servile scientists
Will become more and more deadly
Until they can with a flick of the finger
Tear a million of you to pieces.

— Jean Paul Marat, in Marat/Sade by Peter Weiss