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Racism Quotes: 74 Best Quotes about Racism

74 handpicked quotes on Racism

Racism Quotes that you need to hear. The challenges and issues around Racism and systemic racism have around for a long time. In our last article, we shared with you a selection of the best diversity quotes that we have identified. Racialized people have faced major disadvantages culturallysociallyeconomically and even politically because of discrimination.  This history of racial discrimination and disadvantage continues to affect racialized people today. And in this article, we will share with you a list of 74 handpicked quotes on Racism.

Let’s start. Quotes are not in any particular order.

Courage is contagious

“History has shown us that courage can be contagious, and hope can take on a life of its own.”

Michelle Obama

“Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.”

Langston Hughes

Love and hate

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Changes

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” —Barack Obama

Personal freedom

“You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.” —Malcolm X

Freedom for all

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” —Nelson Mandela

Be human together

“My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.” —Desmond Tutu

Diminishing fear

“I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.” —Rosa ParksFreedom is won
“Freedom is never given; it is won.” —A. Philip Randolph, civil rights leader


In times of challenge

“The ultimate measure of a person is not where one stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where one stands in times of challenge and controversy.” —Martin Luther King, Jr.

The need for change


“The need for change bulldozed a road down the centre of my mind.” —Maya Angelou, poet and civil rights activist

Taking action


“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” —Martin Luther King, Jr.

Future generations

“We must open the doors and we must see to it they remain open, so that others can pass through.” —Rosemary Brown, Canadian politician and the first Black woman to run for the leadership of a Canadian federal party 

Black history

“Black History month isn’t just in February. To me, it’s every month. It’s year-round.” —Willie O’Ree, Canadian athlete and the first Black player in the NHL

Taking risks

“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” —Muhammad Ali

Walking together


“If you have come to help me you are wasting your time. But if you recognize that your liberation and mine are bound up together, we can walk together.” —Lilla Watson, activist and visual artist

Complex human beings


“One day our descendants will think it incredible that we paid so much attention to things like the amount of melanin in our skin or the shape of our eyes or our gender instead of the unique identities of each of us as complex human beings.” —Franklin Thomas, businessman and philanthropist


Protest openly


“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, political activist and educator

Full measures


“In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist. We must be anti-racist.” —Angela Davis, academic and political activist

A nation’s strength


“No matter how big a nation is, it is no stronger than its weakest people, and as long as you keep a person down, some part of you has to be down there to hold him down, so it means you cannot soar as you might otherwise.” —Marian Anderson, singer

Unfair treatment


“In this country, American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate.” —Toni Morrison, novelist and academic

Work at peace


“For it isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.” —Eleanor Roosevelt, former First Lady of the United States

Taking a stand


“Activism is my rent for living on the planet.” —Alice Walker, novelist and social activist

The most ferocious enemy


“Ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.” —James Baldwin, novelist and activist

A positive difference


“None of us alone can save the nation or the world. But each of us can make a positive difference if we commit ourselves to do so.” —Cornel West, political activist and public intellectual

Maya Angelou
Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future, and renders the present inaccessible.

Rosa Parks
To bring about change, you must not be afraid to take the first step. We will fail when we fail to try.

Toni Morrison
There is no such thing as race. None. There is just a human race — scientifically, anthropologically.

James Baldwin
Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.

Oprah Winfrey
Excellence is the best deterrent to racism or sexism.

Oprah Winfrey
It doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from. The ability to triumph begins with you — always.

Malcolm X
A man who stands for nothing will fall for anything.

Barack Obama
I see what’s possible when we recognize that we are one American family, all deserving of equal treatment.

Audre Lorde
It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.

Toni Morrison
The very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being.

Martin Luther King Jr.
I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.

Malcolm X
You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.

Cornel West
None of us alone can save the nation or the world. But each of us can make a positive difference if we commit ourselves to do so.

Elie Wiesel
Action is the only remedy to indifference: the most insidious danger of all.

Mahatma Gandhi
Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilization.


Robert F. Kennedy
Every time we turn our heads the other way when we see the law flouted, when we tolerate what we know to be wrong, when we close our eye and ears to the corrupt because we are too busy or too frightened, when we fail to speak up and speak out, we strike a blow against freedom and decency and justice.

Barack Obama
…’Black Lives Matter’ simply refers to the notion that there’s a specific vulnerability for African Americans that needs to be addressed. It’s not meant to suggest that other lives don’t matter. It’s to suggest that other folks aren’t experiencing this particular vulnerability.

Malcolm Gladwell
If you are a white person who would like to treat black people as equals in every way — who would like to have a set of association with blacks that are as positive as those that you have with whites — it requires more than a simple commitment to equality. It requires that you change your life…

Marian Anderson
None of us is responsible for the complexion of his skin. This fact of nature offers no clue to the character or quality of the person underneath.

Kofi Annan
Tolerance, inter-cultural dialogue and respect for diversity are more essential than ever in a world where peoples are becoming more and more closely interconnected.

Michelle Obama
Race and racism is a reality that so many of us grow up learning to just deal with. But if we ever hope to move past it, it can’t just be on people of color to deal with it. It’s up to all of us — Black, white, everyone — no matter how well-meaning we think we might be, to do the honest, uncomfortable work of rooting it out.

Ijeoma Oluo
The beauty of anti-racism is that you don’t have to pretend to be free of racism to be an anti-racist. Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself. And it’s the only way forward.

Bill Clinton
For too long politicians told most of us that what’s wrong with America is the rest of us. Them. Them the minorities. Them the liberals. Them, them, them. But there is no them; there’s only us. One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty, and justice, for all.

Quotes About Black Lives Matter That Are Powerful, Informative, and Necessary

Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America
“Time and again, racist ideas have not been cooked up from the boiling pot of ignorance and hate. Time and again, powerful and brilliant men and women have produced racist ideas in order to justify the racist policies of their era, in order to redirect the blame for their era’s racial disparities away from those policies and onto Black people.”



Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
“I believe that white progressives cause the most daily damage to people of color. I define a white progressive as any white person who thinks he or she is not racist, or is less racist, or in the ‘choir, or already ‘gets it.’ White progressives can be the most difficult for people of color because, to the degree that we think we have arrived, we will put our energy into making sure that others see us as having arrived. None of our energy will go into what we need to be doing for the rest of our lives: Engaging in ongoing self-awareness, continuing education, relationship building, and actual anti-racist practice. White progressives do indeed uphold and perpetrate racism, but our defensiveness and certitude make it virtually impossible to explain to us how we do so.”


Michelle Obama, Obama Foundation Summit
“I can’t make people not afraid of black people. I don’t know what’s going on. I can’t explain what’s happening in your head. But maybe if I show up every day as a human, a good human, doing wonderful things, loving my family, loving your kids, taking care of things that I care about—maybe, just maybe that work will pick away at the scabs of your discrimination. Maybe that slowly will unravel it. That’s all we have, because we can’t do it for them, because they’re broken. Their brokenness in how they see us is a reflection of this brokenness. And you can’t fix that. All you can do is the work.”


Robert Stephens, 26, Kansas City, MO
“It was the last day of school, and I was walking with my dad, preparing to leave. Suddenly, he paused, looked at me intently and said, “Son, you’re a black male, and that’s two strikes against you.” To the general public, anything that I did would be perceived as malicious and deserving of severe punishment and I had to govern myself accordingly. I was seven years old.”.


Marian Anderson
“No matter how big a nation is, it is no stronger than its weakest people, and as long as you keep a person down, some part of you has to be down there to hold him down, so it means you cannot soar as you might otherwise.”


Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me
“But all our phrasing—race relations, racial chasm, racial justice, racial profiling, white privilege, even white supremacy—serves to obscure that racism is a visceral experience, that it dislodges brains, blocks airways, rips muscle, extracts organs, cracks bones, breaks teeth. You must never look away from this. You must always remember that the sociology, the history, the economics, the graphs, the charts, the regressions all land, with great violence, upon the body.”


Roxane Gay, “Surviving Django”
“There is no collective slavery revenge fantasy among black people, but I am certain, if there were one, it would not be about white people, not at all. My slavery revenge fantasy would probably involve being able to read and write without fear of punishment or persecution coupled with a long vacation in Paris. It would involve the reclamation of dignity on my own terms and not with the ‘generous’ assistance of benevolent white people who were equally complicit in the ills of slavery.”


Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
“The Black female is assaulted in her tender years by all those common forces of nature at the same time that she is caught in the tripartite crossfire of masculine prejudice, white illogical hate and Black lack of power. The fact that the adult American Negro female emerges a formidable character is often met with amazement, distaste and even belligerence. It is seldom accepted as an inevitable outcome of the struggle won by survivors and deserves respect if not enthusiastic acceptance.”

Chris Rock, Vulture
“We treat racism in this country like it’s a style that America went through. Like flared legs and lava lamps. Oh, that crazy thing we did. We were hanging black people. We treat it like a fad instead of a disease that eradicates millions of people. You’ve got to get it at a lab, and study it, and see its origins, and see what it’s immune to and what breaks it down.”


James Baldwin, Another Country
“People don’t have any mercy. They tear you limb from limb, in the name of love. Then, when you’re dead, when they’ve killed you by what they made you go through, they say you didn’t have any character. They weep big, bitter tears—not for you. For themselves, because they’ve lost their toy.”


President Barack Obama, on Trayvon Martin’s death
“There are very few African American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me. There are very few African American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me—at least before I was a senator.”

Lizzo, Instagram
“Protest is not the end of progress, it is the beginning. I wonder what would happen if all the big companies and celebrities who have showed support on social media came out and used their platform to let activists and protesters speak and be seen? I wonder what would happen if we allowed the outrage to have positive influence in our local government? What would happen if those in power defunded the police & dismantled their racist culture and corrupt power structures? Cities are burning, are you watching? I stand with Minneapolis. I believe in us. Change is gonna come.”

Andrena Sawyer, quoted in Wake Up, White America
“I can’t bring myself to watch yet another video, not because I don’t care, but because we’re all just a few videos away from becoming completely desensitized. The public execution of Black folks will never be normal.”


Toni Morrison, “A Humanist View”
“The very serious function of racism…is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language and so you spend 20 years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says that you have no art so you dredge that up. Somebody says that you have no kingdoms and so you dredge that up. None of that is necessary.”
‘Racism in America is like dust in the air. It seems invisible – until you let the sun in. Then you see it’s everywhere. As long as we keep shining that light, we have a chance of cleaning it’ – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, American basketball player

‘Racism in America is like dust in the air. It seems invisible – until you let the sun in. Then you see it’s everywhere. As long as we keep shining that light, we have a chance of cleaning it’ – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, American basketball player


‘Race and racism is a reality that so many of us grow up learning to just deal with. But if we ever hope to move past it, it can’t just be on people of colour to deal with it’ – Michelle Obama, former First Lady of The United States of America

 ‘No more seeing people of colour as less than human. We can no longer look away’ – Beyoncé, singer

‘No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love’ – Nelson Mandela, Former President of South Africa

‘I was raised to believe that excellence is the best deterrent to racism or sexism. And that’s how I operate my life’  – Oprah Winfrey, Talk Show Host

‘Treat racism like Covid-19 – assume you have it. You may be asymptomatic. Racism is the disease. You may be the carrier but the aim is not to destroy the host but eradicate the kill the disease’ – Vanessa Kingori, British Vogue Publishing Director


‘If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality’ – Desmond Tutu, Human Rights Activist

“I look at an ant and I see myself: a native South African, endowed by nature with a strength much greater than my size so I might cope with the weight of a racism that crushes my spirit.” Miriam Makeba

“For those who have seen the Earth from space, and for the hundreds and perhaps thousands more who will, the experience most certainly changes your perspective. The things that we share in our world are far more valuable than those which divide us.”Donald Williams.

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality…. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Ideologies separate us. Dreams and anguish bring us together.”
– Eugene Ionesco

“History has shown us that courage can be contagious, and hope can take on a life of its own.” Michelle Obama

‘Race and racism is a reality that so many of us grow up learning to just deal with. But if we ever hope to move past it, it can’t just be on people of colour to deal with it. ‘It’s up to all of us – Black, white, everyone – no matter how well-meaning we think we might be, to do the honest, uncomfortable work of rooting it out. It starts with self-examination and listening to those whose lives are different from our own. It ends with justice, compassion, and empathy that manifests in our lives and on our streets.’
– Michelle Obama

‘In a racist society it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.’
– Angela Davis

‘If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.’
– Desmond Tutu

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About the author

Jess Man

Jessica is the Editor-in-Chief and Senior Diversity Advisor at Diversity Social. Jessica has over 10 years of working with and advising employers to be more diverse and create an inclusive working environment.
Jessica's experience spans private and non-profit sectors in multiple industries.
Jessica's expertise experience is beyond Diversity & Inclusion, she is also a certified professional IT recruiter in Data & Analytics, Database administration, Artificial Intelligence area.