Since the killing of Michael Brown in August of 2014, the United States has been forced to once again take a look at the rampant inequality that still plagues the country. Though the Civil Rights movement is now 50 years past, African Americans continue to experience microaggressions, racial discrimination, and inferior treatment. There is still work to be done, and the protestations of today closely mirror those of the past. These quotes by Civil Rights leaders of the 50s and 60s capture the continued struggle.
“Being a Negro in America means trying to smile when you want to cry. It means trying to hold on to physical life amid psychological death. It means the pain of watching your children grow up with clouds of inferiority in their mental skies. It means having their legs off, and then being condemned for being a cripple.” Where Do We Go From Here 1967. -Martin Luther King Jr.
“Because his task was not finished, I felt that I must re-dedicate myself to the completion of his work.” -Coretta Scott King
“People have got to get together and work together. I’m tired of the kind of oppression that white people have inflicted on us and are still trying to inflict.” -Fannie Lou Hamer
“We declare our right on this earth…to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary.” –Malcolm X
“When an individual is protesting society’s refusal to acknowledge his dignity as a human being, his very act of protest confers dignity on him.” -Bayard Rustin
“Homophobia is like racism and anti-Semitism, and other forms of bigotry in that it seeks to dehumanize a large group of people, to deny their humanity, their dignity and person hood.” -Coretta Scott King
“I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.” -Fannie Lou Hamer
“But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear?…It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.” — “The Other America,” 1968, Martin Luther King Jr.
“I disagree with the court that the history of discrimination is somehow irrelevant today. The record clearly demonstrates numerous attempts to impede voting rights still exist, and it does not matter that those attempts are not as ‘pervasive, widespread or rampant’ as they were in 1965. One instance of discrimination is too much in a democracy.” –John Lewis
“First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, 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 constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.” — Letter From a Birmingham Jail, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr.