African American

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An African American, also referred to as Black Americans or Afro-Americans, are an ethnic group of Americans with total or partial ancestry from any of the black racial groups of Africa.

Quotes[edit]

Whereas some doubts have arisen whether children got by any Englishman upon a negro woman shall be slave or free. Be it therefore enacted and declared by this present grand assembly, that all children borne in this country shall be held bond or free only according to the condition of the mother-“Partus Sequitur Ventrem”. And that if any Christian shall commit fornication with a negro man or woman, hee or shee soe offending shall pay double the fines imposed by the former act. ~ Laws of Virginia, 1662 Act XII
It’s odd that considering all the black ink that goes into making the comics section (and color on Sundays) that you rarely see any black faces on that page. Well, maybe it’s not so odd after all, considering the makeup of most newsrooms in our country. It is even more stunning when you consider that in many of our large cities like New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago where the white population is barely a third of the overall citizenry, the comics pages seem to be one of the last vestiges of the belief that white faces are just…well, you know…so much more happy and friendly and funny! ~ Michael Moore
The notion that slavery was beneficial to slaves was notably expressed by Jefferson Davis himself, in the posthumously published memoir he wrote at Beauvoir. Enslaved Africans sent to America were “enlightened by the rays of Christianity,” he wrote, and “increased from a few unprofitable savages to millions of efficient Christian laborers. Their servile instincts rendered them contented with their lot....Never was there a happier dependence of labor and capital upon each other.” ~ Brian Palmer and Seth Freed Wessler
When one thinks of American blackness, there is the unsaid ugly truth that nearly all American blacks who have descended from the historical African diaspora in America have one (or several) rapacious white slave owners in their family tree at some point.
Here, in the early days of the United States, was the invention of racism for economic necessity. From 1619 until 1865, white male Americans chose to breed a black enslaved workforce through the state-sanctioned rape of black women to build the new nation and support their white supremacist class. Race became the single unifying identifier — determining everything about one's life starting with this most basic division: enslaved or free.
The American law was that the "condition of the child followed that of the mother," backed up by the "one drop rule," the legal framework that dictated even one drop of blackness made an individual black, never white. The idea of blackness as a pollutant, a taint that would erode the purity of whiteness, was seized by politicians around the world then — and now.
Because of this legacy of sexual violence and anti-blackness, black and white mixed individuals have long been considered black in America. ~ Hope Wabuke
  • I am Black. I am the part you won't recognize. But get used to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me.
  • Black Americans are residents of a settler colony, not truly citizens of the United States. Despite a constitution laden with European Enlightenment values and a document of independence declaring certain inalienable rights, Black existence was legally that of private property until postbellum emancipation. The Black American condition today is an evolved condition directly connected to this history of slavery, and that will continue to be the case as long as the United States remains as an ongoing settler project. Nothing short of a complete dismantling of the American state as it presently exists can or will disrupt this.
  • If we accept and acquiesce in the face of discrimination, we accept the responsibility ourselves and allow those responsible to salve their conscience by believing that they have our acceptance and concurrence. We should, therefore, protest openly everything... that smacks of discrimination or slander.
    • Mary McLeod Bethune, "Certain Unalienable Rights", What the Negro Wants, edited by Rayford W. Logan.
  • I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro. When I go to Las Vegas, north Las Vegas, and I would see these little government houses, and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids — and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch — they didn't have nothin' to do. They didn't have nothin' for their kids to do. They didn't have nothin' for their young girls to do. And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do? They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I've often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn't get no more freedom. They got less freedom.
  • According to Butler, Black men who face constant police intervention handle it in two different ways. In both instances, he asserts that when they leave their houses, their lives become heightened performances.
    “One reaction — and I think the typical reaction — is what’s called ‘learned helplessness,’ ” says Butler.
    “It makes a lot of Black men in communities where they’re subject to being stopped and frisked reluctant to leave their homes. When they do leave the home, [they] engage in performances to assure the whole world that they’re not thugs. They might wear their high school or college T-shirt. In Chokehold I tell the story about a group of high school football players in Brooklyn who got stopped and frisked when they were walking down the street together after practice. They asked their coach if they could wear their uniforms when they’re in the street, because that way they wouldn’t get stopped. Again, that’s what the impact of being stopped and frisked over and over does to a person, and the police exploit that. Another, [that] I think is healthy, is anger and outrage. And I think that we see that response consistently from 2Pac.”
  • The workings of the human mind are the profoundest mystery of the universe. One moment they make us despair of our kind, and the next we see in them the reflection of the divine image.
  • It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others... One ever feels his twoness,—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warrings ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.
  • Blacks (or Africans in America) are colonized. America is a mother country with an internal colony. For Africans in America, our situation is one of total oppression. No people are truly free until they can determine their own destiny. Ours is a captive, oppressed colonial status that must be overthrown, not just smashing ideological racism or denial of civil rights. In fact, without smashing the internal colony first means the likelihood of a continuance of this oppression in another form. We must destroy the social dynamic of a very real existence of America being made up of an oppressor white nation and an oppressed Black nation, (in fact there are several captive nations).
  • The fact is we are in as bad or even worse a shape, economically and politically, as when the Civil rights movement began in the 1950s. One in every four Black males are in prison, on probation, parole, or under arrest; at least one-third or more of Black family units are now single parent families mired in poverty; unemployment hovers at 18–25 percent for Black communities; the drug economy is the number one employer of Black youth; most substandard housing units are still concentrated in Black neighborhoods; Blacks and other non-whites suffer from the worst health care; and Black communities are still underdeveloped because of racial discrimination by municipal governments, mortgage companies and banks, who "redline" Black neighborhoods from receiving community development, housing and small business loans which keep our communities poor. We also suffer from murderous acts of police brutality by racist cops which has resulted in thousands of deaths and wounding; and internecine gang warfare resulting in numerous youth homicides (and a great deal of grief). But what we suffer from most and what encompasses all of these ills is that fact that we are an oppressed people — in fact a colonized people subject to the rule of an oppressive government. We really have no rights under this system, except that which we have fought for and even that is now in peril. Clearly we need a new mass Black protest movement to challenge the government and corporations, and expropriate the funds needed for our communities to survive.
  • 'We, the people.' It is a very eloquent beginning. But when that document [the Preamble to the US Constitution] was completed on the seventeenth of September in 1787 I was not included in that "We, the people." I felt somehow for many years that George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, just left me out by mistake. But through the process of amendment, interpretation and court decision I have finally been included in 'We, the people.'
    • Barbara Jordan, Statement made on July 25, 1974 before the House Committee on the Judiciary.
  • We have come over a way that with tears has been watered, We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered.
  • If you will protest courageously, and yet with dignity and Christian love, when the history books are written in future generations, the historians will have to pause and say, 'There lived a great people—a black people—who injected new meaning and dignity into the veins of civilization.'
  • Whereas some doubts have arisen whether children got by any Englishman upon a negro woman shall be slave or free. Be it therefore enacted and declared by this present grand assembly, that all children borne in this country shall be held bond or free only according to the condition of the mother-“Partus Sequitur Ventrem”. And that if any Christian shall commit fornication with a negro man or woman, hee or shee soe offending shall pay double the fines imposed by the former act.
    • Laws of Virginia, 1662 Act XII; Latin added by Willian Henig, “The Statutes at Large”, 1819
  • We've known for some time that racism limited blacks' housing options in ways that lowered the value of homes. De jure and de facto segregation — racially restrictive housing covenants that prohibited blacks from buying in certain areas throughout the 20th century — and racially biased redlining from the 1930s beyond the passage of the Fair Housing Act of 1968 — which deemed majority-black neighborhoods too risky for mortgage lenders — isolated blacks in areas that realized lower levels of investment than their white counterparts. Our new data shows that in the average US metropolitan area, homes in neighborhoods where the share of the population is at least 50% black are valued at roughly half the price as homes in neighborhoods with little to no black residents.
    Even for those who acknowledge our racist history, the 50% price difference isn't about racial bias; it's about accepting the effects of the past at face value. It's assumed lower housing quality, underfunded schools and crime — all consequences of racism and poverty — set a deserving price point. Our study tested those assumptions.
    We examined homes of similar quality in congruent neighborhoods — with the exception of the racial demographics — to make an apples-to-apples comparison between places where the share of the black population is 50% or higher and those where there are little to no black residents. What we found astounds. Differences in home and neighborhood quality do not fully explain the price difference. Homes of similar quality in neighborhoods with similar amenities are worth 23% less in majority-black neighborhoods, compared to those with very few or no black residents. After accounting for factors such as housing quality, neighborhood quality, education and crime, owner-occupied homes in black neighborhoods are undervalued by $48,000 per home on average, amounting to a whopping $156 billion that homeowners would have received if their homes were priced at market rates.
  • Beware of Greeks bearing gifts, colored men looking for loans and whites who "understand the Negro".
  • My father was a slave and my people died to build this country, and I'm going to stay right here and have a part of it, just like you. And no fascist-minded people like you will drive me from it. Is that clear?
    • Paul Robeson, testimony on June 12. 1956 before the House Un-American Activities Committee.
  • If there ever was a monolithic ‘black America’—absolutely and uniformly deprived and aggrieved, with invariant values and attitudes—there certainly isn’t one now.
  • Never that! In this white man's world. They can't stop us, we been here all this time, they ain't took us out... They can never take us out! No matter what they say! About us being extinct, about us being.. Endangered species, we ain't neva gonn' leave this! We ain't never gonna walk off this planet.. Unless you choose to! Use your brains! Use your brains! It ain't them thats killing us, it's us that's killing us... It ain't them that's knockin' us off, It's us thats knockin' us off, I'm tellin you, you better watch it or be a victim... Be a victim in this white manz world.
  • Mr. Backlash, Mr. Backlash/Just who do you think I am?/You raise my taxes, freeze my wages/And send my son to Vietnam/You give me second class houses/And second class schools/Do you think that all colored folks/Are just second class fools?
  • Hound dogs on my trail/School children sitting in jail/Black cat cross my path/I think every day's gonna be my last/Don't tell me, I'll tell you/Me and my people just about due/I've been there so I know/They keep on saying "Go slow!"
  • Yet there is a strange paradox in the historian's involvement with both present and past, for his knowledge of the present is clearly a key to his understanding of the past. Today were are learning much from the natural and social sciences about the Negro's potentialities and about the basic irrelevance of race, and we are slowly discovering the roots and meaning of human behavior. All off this is of immense value to the historian when, for instance, he tries to grasp the significance of the Old South's "peculiar institution." I have assumed that the slaves were merely ordinary human beings, that innately Negroes are, after all, only white men with black skins, nothing more, nothing less. I did not, of course, assume that there have been, or are today, no cultural differences between white and black Americans. Nor do I regard it as flattery to call Negroes white men with black skins. It would serve my purpose as well to call Caucasians black men with white skin. I have simply found no convincing evidence that there are significant differences between the innate emotional traits and intellectual capacities of Negroes and whites. This gives quite a new and different meaning to the bondage of black men; it gives their story a relevance to men of all races which it never seemed to have before.
  • The whole question of race is one that America would much rather not face honestly and squarely. To some, it is embarrassing; to others, it is inconvenient; to still others, it is confusing. But for black Americans, to know it and tell it like it is and then to act on that knowledge should be neither embarrassing nor inconvenient nor confusing. Those responses are luxuries for people with time to spare, who feel no particular sense of urgency about the need to solve certain serious social problems. Black people in America have no time to play nice, polite parlor games—especially when the lives of their children are at stake. Some white Americans can afford to speak softly, tread lightly, employ the soft-sell and put-off (or is it put-down?). They own the society. For black people to adopt their methods of relieving our oppression is ludicrous. We blacks must respond in our own way, on our own terms, in a manner which fits our temperaments. The definitions of ourselves, the roles we pursue, the goals we seek are our responsibility. It is crystal clear that the society is capable of and willing to reward those individuals who do not forcefully condemn it—to reward them with prestige, status and material benefits. But these crumbs of co-optation should be rejected. The over-riding, all-important fact is that as a people, we have absolutely nothing to lose by refusing to play such games.
  • Anything less than clarity, honesty and forcefulness perpetuates the centuries of sliding over, dressing up, and soothing down the true feelings, hopes and demands of an oppressed black people. Mild demands and hypocritical smiles mislead white America into thinking that all is fine and peaceful. They mislead white America into thinking that the path and pace chosen to deal with racial problems are acceptable to masses of black Americans. It is far better to speak forcefully and truthfully. Only when one’s true self—white or black—is exposed, can this society proceed to deal with the problems from a position of clarity and not from one of misunderstanding.
  • Black people in this country form a colony, and it is not in the interest of the colonial power to liberate them. Black people are legal citizens of the United States with, for the most part, the same legal rights as other citizens. Yet they stand as colonial subjects in relation to the white society. Thus institutional racism has another name: colonialism. [...] Black people in the United States have a colonial relationship to the larger society, a relationship characterized by institutional racism. That colonial status operates in three areas—political, economic, social.
  • Black people in the United States must raise hard questions, questions which challenge the very nature of the society itself: its long-standing values, beliefs and institutions. To do this, we must first redefine ourselves. Our basic need is to reclaim our history and our identity from what must be called cultural terrorism, from the depredation of self-justifying white guilt. We shall have to struggle for the right to create our own terms through which to define ourselves and our relationship to the society, and to have these terms recognized. This is the first necessity of a free people, and the first right that any oppressor must suspend.
  • Black people must redefine themselves, and only they can do that. Throughout this country, vast segments of the black communities are beginning to recognize the need to assert their own definitions, to reclaim their history, their culture; to create their own sense of community and togetherness. There is a growing resentment of the word “Negro,” for example, because this term is the invention of our oppressor; it is his image of us that he describes. Many blacks are now calling themselves African-Americans, Afro-Americans or black people because that is our image of ourselves. When we begin to define our own image, the stereotypes—that is, lies—that our oppressor has developed will begin in the white community and end there. The black community will have a positive image of itself that it has created. This means we will no longer call ourselves lazy, apathetic, dumb, good-timers, shiftless, etc. Those are words used by white America to define us. If we accept these adjectives, as some of us have in the past, then we see ourselves only in a negative way, precisely the way white America wants us to see ourselves. Our incentive is broken and our will to fight is surrendered. From now on we shall view ourselves as African-Americans and as black people who are in fact energetic, determined, intelligent, beautiful and peace-loving.
  • There is a terminology and ethos peculiar to the black community of which black people are beginning to be no longer ashamed. Black communities are the only large segments of this society where people refer to each other as brother—soul-brother, soul-sister. Some people may look upon this as ersatz, as make-believe, but it is not that. It is real. It is a growing sense of community. It is a growing realization that black Americans have a common bond not only among themselves, but with their African brothers.
  • The point is obvious: black people must lead and run their own organizations. Only black people can convey the revolutionary idea—and it is a revolutionary idea—that black people are able to do things themselves. Only they can help create in the community an aroused and continuing black consciousness that will provide the basis for political strength. In the past, white allies have often furthered white supremacy without the whites involved realizing it, or even wanting to do so. Black people must come together and do things for themselves. They must achieve self-identity and self-determination in order to have their daily needs met.
  • It became crystal clear that in order to combat power, one needed power. Black people would have to organize and obtain their own power base before they could begin to think of coalition with others. It is absolutely imperative that black people strive to form an independent base of political power first. When they can control their own communities—however large or small—then other groups will make overtures to them based on a wise calculation of self-interest. The blacks will have the mobilized ability to grant or withhold from coalition. Black people must set about to build those new forms of politics.
  • This country cannot begin to solve the problems of the ghettos as long as it continues to hang on to outmoded structures and institutions. A political party system that seeks only to “manage conflict” and hope for the best will not be able to serve a growing body of alienated black people. An educational system which, year after year, continues to cripple hundreds of thousands of black children must be replaced by wholly new mechanisms of control and management. We must begin to think and operate in terms of entirely new and substantially different forms of expression. It is crystal clear that the initiative for such changes will have to come from the black community. We cannot expect white America to begin to move forcefully on these problems unless and until black America begins to move. This means that black people must organize themselves without regard for what is traditionally acceptable, precisely because the traditional approaches have failed. It means that black people must make demands without regard to their initial “respectability,” precisely because “respectable” demands have not been sufficient.
  • When one thinks of American blackness, there is the unsaid ugly truth that nearly all American blacks who have descended from the historical African diaspora in America have one (or several) rapacious white slave owners in their family tree at some point.
    Here, in the early days of the United States, was the invention of racism for economic necessity. From 1619 until 1865, white male Americans chose to breed a black enslaved workforce through the state-sanctioned rape of black women to build the new nation and support their white supremacist class. Race became the single unifying identifier — determining everything about one's life starting with this most basic division: enslaved or free.
    The American law was that the "condition of the child followed that of the mother," backed up by the "one drop rule," the legal framework that dictated even one drop of blackness made an individual black, never white. The idea of blackness as a pollutant, a taint that would erode the purity of whiteness, was seized by politicians around the world then — and now.
    Because of this legacy of sexual violence and anti-blackness, black and white mixed individuals have long been considered black in America.
    To a much larger degree than many people would like to admit, race still determines a vast part of one's life — social networks and mobility, birth and other medical care, employment opportunities and so on. Indeed, there is an entire genre of literature and film, popularized in the late 1800s and early 1900s, composed of blacks "passing" for white to avoid this racism. Some of the most famous examples are Nella Larsen's 1929 novel, Passing; James Weldon Johnson's 1912 opus, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man; and the 1959 film The Imitation of Life.
  • A lot of joblessness in the black community doesn't seem to be reachable through fiscal and monetary policies. People have not been drawn into the labor market even during periods of economic recovery. Our study clearly shows that employers would rather not hire a lot of workers from the inner city. They feel people from the inner city are not job-ready, that the kids have been poorly educated, that they can't read, they can't write, they can't speak.
  • We should emphasize not Negro History, but the Negro in history. What we need is not a history of selected races or nations, but the history of the world void of national bias, race hate, and religious prejudice.
    • Carter Woodson, "The Celebration of Negro History Week", Journal of Negro History (April 1927).
  • The common goal of 22 million Afro-Americans is respect as human beings, the God-given right to be a human being. Our common goal is to obtain the human rights that America has been denying us. We can never get civil rights in America until our human rights are first restored. We will never be recognized as citizens there until we are first recognized as humans.
    • Malcolm X, "Racism: the Cancer that is Destroying America", in Egyptian Gazette.

See also[edit]

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