The following quotations are taken from:
Stokely Carmichael, “The Dialectics of Liberation,” from Stokely Speaks. Chicago Review Press, 2007.
“Now since I’ve been at the Congress I’ve been very confused, because I’m not a psychologist or a psychiatrist, I’m a political activist. I don’t deal with the individual, I think it’s a cop-out when people talk about the individual. What we’re talking about around the United States today, and I believe around the Third World, is the system of international white supremacy coupled with international capitalism. We’re out to smash that system. People who see themselves as part of that system are going to be smashed with it—or we’re going to be smashed.
So I’m not going to talk about the individual. For one thing it will be seen that the black man’s alienation is not an individual question, it is a question of socio-diagnostics. The Negro problem of individual Negroes living among white men, but rather of Negroes as a class that is exploited, enslaved, and despised by the colonialist, capitalist society, which is only accidentally white. But since it is accidentally white, that’s what we talk about—white Western society.
The other reason why I won’t talk about the individual is that whenever you raise questions about racial problems to white Western society, each white man says: ‘Well, don’t blame me, I’m only one person and I really don’t feel that way. Actually I have nothing against you, I see you as an equal. You’re just as good as I am –almost.’ I want to clear that up—to point out the difference between individual racism and institutionalized racism.
The first type, individual racism, consists of overt acts by individuals, and usually the immediate result is the death of the victim, or the traumatic and violent destruction of property. This type can be recorded on T.V. cameras and can frequently be observed in the process.
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. It’s part of the overall operation of established and respected forces in the society, so it doesn’t receive the condemnation that the first type does.
Let me give you an example of the first type. When un-identified 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 world. But when in that same city, Birmingham, Alabama, not five but five hundred black babies die each year because of 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 institutionalized racism. When a black family moves into a home in a white neighborhood, and it is stoned, burned or routed out, the latter is an overt act of individual racism, and many people condemn that, at least in words. But it is institutionalized racism that keeps the black people locked in dilapidated slums, tenements, where thy must live out their daily lives subject to the prey of exploitative slum landlords, merchants, loan sharks and the restrictive practices of real-estate agents. We’re talking now about the U.S., but I think you can apply a little of it to London. But the society either pretends it does not know institutionalized racism, or is incapable of doing anything meaningful about the conditions of institutionalized racism. And the resistance to doing anything meaningful about institutionalized racism stems from the fact that Western society enjoys its luxury from institutionalized racism, and therefore, were it to end institutionalized racism, it would in fact destroy itself.” 77-79
“White Western society has been able to define, and that’s why she has been the master. The white youth of my generation in the West today starts off with subconscious racism because he accepts the writings of the West, which have either destroyed, distorted, lied about history. He starts off with a basic assumption of superiority that he doesn’t even recognize.
The people of the Third World are going to have to stop accepting the definitions imposed upon them by the West. Frederick Douglass, the great black leader of the 1800s, said that the slave seeks his liberation when, and only when, he stops obeying a master. Camus said the same thing on e hundred years later on the first page of The Rebel: when a slave stops accepting definitions imposed upon him by his master, then, and only then, he begins to move and create a life.
History books tell you that nothing happens until a white man comes along: ‘Who discovered America?’ ‘Christopher Columbus.’ ‘Who discovered China?’ ‘Marco Polo.’ I used to be told in the West Indies that I was not discovered until Sir Walter Raleigh needed supplies for his ship, and then he came along and found me and said ‘Whup! I have discovered you!’ and my history began.
But let us examine the racism in that statement—let us examine it very closely Columbus did not discover America. Columbus may be the first recorded white man to set foot on America—that is all. There were people there before Columbus. But white Western society never recognizes the existence of non-white people, either consciously or subconsciously, so that all around the world, the peoples of the Third World never did anything until some white man came along. And that’s why China’s nonexistent, because Mao won’t let no white folk in there. Yeah. And pretty soon Hong Kong is going to be nonexistent, because they’re going to kick them out.
All through history classes we were studying ‘Western civilization,’ and that meant that all else was uncivilized. One of the biggest lies that Western society could have done was to name itself Western civilization. White kids who read that today never recognize that they’re being told that they are superior to everybody else because they have produced civilization. At best, it’s a misnomer; at worst, and more correctly, it’s a damn lie. Western ‘civilization’ has been, as a matter of fact, most barbaric. We are told that Western civilization begins with the Greeks, and the epitome of that civilization is Alexander the Great. The only thing I remember about Alexander the Great was that at twenty-six he wept because there were no more people to murder and rob. That is the epitome of Western civilization. And if you’re not satisfied with that, you could always take the Roman Empire: their favorite pastimes were watching men kill each other or lions eating up men—they were a civilized people. The fact is that their civilization, as they called it, stemmed from their oppression of other peoples, which allowed them a certain luxury, at the expense of those other people. That exploitation for luxury has been interpreted as ‘civilization’ for the West, and that exploitation for luxury is precisely what it has done. The only difference is that after the Roman Empire, when the British Empire—on which the sun never used to set, but today it sets, sometimes it don’t even rise—began to exploit other peoples, what they did was they let color be the sole criterion in choosing which peoples they would exploit.
You’ve been able to lie about terms, so you’ve been able to call people like Cecil Rhodes a philanthropist when in fact he was a murderer, a rapist, a plunderer, and a thief. But you all Cecil Rhodes a philanthropist because, after he stole our diamonds and our gold, then he gave us some crumbs so we can go to school and become just like you. And that was called philanthropy. But we are renaming it: the place is not called Rhodesia any more, it is called Zimbabwe—that’s its proper name. And Cecil Rhodes is not called a philanthropist any more, he’s known to be a thief. You can keep your Rhodes Scholars, we don’t want the money that came from the sweat of our people.
I’m always appalled when some white person tells me that ‘progress is being made.’ I always ask him, ‘Progress for whom and from whom?’ Progress for white people might be made, because I would say that since World War II they have learned a little how to get around, to get along with people of color. But I don’t think there’s been progress for the black people, there’s not been progress for the black people, there’s not been progress for the people of color around the Third World. And progress will not be measured for us by white people. We will have to tell you when progress is being made. You cannot tell us when progress is being made, because progress for us getting you off our backs, and that’s the only progress that we can see.” 80-82
“The West said, ‘Our culture is better, we are civilized.’ And because of whites’ power, the non-white countries began to try to imitate Europe and to imitate its ways, and then some began to believe the whites, because nobody wanted to be uncivilized. Our ancestors knew what civilization was, long before Europeans even got out of their caves, and if they had stuck to their way of life, perhaps we wouldn’t be in the shape we are in today.
Thus all other people have been stripped of their culture. They have been forced to accept a culture that does not belong to them. The minds of people of color around the world are so messed up that in certain sections of Vietnam today, and in Japan certainly, women who have slanted eyes are cutting their skin so they can have round eyes and look like Westerners. There’s no need to say what black people have been doing to their hair, especially females: they have been putting hot combs in their hair, straightening it, attempting to look like white people, because the West has defined beauty as that which was theirs.” 84
“I’m amazed when I pick up the paper and read that ‘England today decided to give independence to the West Indies.’ The whole West feels it has the right to give everybody their independence. That’s totally absurd. You can never give anyone his independence. All men are born free, they are enslaved by other men; so the only act that the men who enslaved them can do is, not give them their independence, but stop oppressing them. There’s a very important difference, and I don’t think people make that all the time. Who the hell is England to give me my independence? All they can do is stop oppressing me, get off my back. But when they say ‘We’re giving you your independence: You’re ready for it now,’ it sounds so much nicer than for them to admit to themselves, ‘We’re going to stop oppressing you because you’re making it uncomfortable for us and we can no longer afford to oppress you at the price that you’re asking us to pay. That would be correct. But you wouldn’t expect self-condemnation.
You cannot grant anybody independence, they just take it’ and that is what white America is going to learn. No white liberal can give me anything. The only thing a white liberal can do for me is to help civilize other whites, because they need to be civilized.
Now in the United States—and England isn’t far behind—it is estimated that in another five to ten years, two-thirds of the Twenty million black people who inhabit the United States will be living in the ghettos in the heart of the cities. Joining us are going to be hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans, Mexican-Americans, and American Indians. The American city, in essence, is going to be populated by the peoples of the Third World, while the white middle classes will flee to the suburbs. Now the black people do not control, nor do we own, the resources—we do not control the land, the houses or the stores. These are all owned by whites who live outside the community. These are very real colonies, in the sense that they are capital and cheap labor exploited by those who live outside the cities. It is white power that makes the laws, and enforces those laws with guns and nightsticks in the hands of white racist policemen and their black mercenaries. It does not seem that the men who control the power and resources of the United States ever sat down and designed those black enclaves, and formally articulated the terms of their colonial and dependent status, as was done, for example, by the apartheid government of South Africa, which Britain, the United States, and France back. Yet one cannot distinguish between one ghetto and another as one moves around the United States; every ghetto seems to be the same. Note that the United States has, on its continental borders, forty-eight states, and each of these states has a ghetto in each of its major cities. As one moves from city to city, it is as though some malignant, racist planning unit had designed each ghetto from one master blueprint. Indeed, fi the ghettos had been formally and deliberately planned instead of growing spontaneously and inevitably from the racist functionings of the various institutions that combine to make the society, it would be somehow less frightening—one could understand their similarity as being artificially and consciously imposed, rather than the result of identical patterns of white racism which repeat themselves in cities as far apart as Boston is from Watts—that is, 3,000 miles.
A capitalist system automatically includes racism, whether by design or not. Capitalism and racism go hand in hand. The struggle for Black Power in the United States, and certainly around the world, is the struggle to free these colonies from external domination, but we do not seek merely to create communities where black rulers replace white rulers, controlling the lives of black masses, and where black money goes into a few black pockets We want to see it go into the communal pocket—the society we seek to build among black people is not an oppressive capitalist society. Capitalism, by its very nature, cannot create structures free from exploitation.
The struggle to free these internal colonies relates to the struggles of imperialism around the world. We realistically survey our numbers, and know that it is not possible for black people to take over the whole of the United States militarily, and hold large areas of land; in a highly industrialized nation, the struggle is different. The heart of production, and the heart of commercial trade, is in the cities. We are in the cities. We can become, and are becoming, a disruptive force in the flow of services, goods, and capital. While we disrupt internally and aim for the eye of the octopus, we are hoping that our brothers are disrupting externally to sever the tentacles of the United States. Newark, New Jersey, is where Engelhart has his capital—and for the last five days he couldn’t do any work. You know Engelhart controls most of South Africa, along with Rockefeller, the liberal.” 85-87
“Another mystification white society uses is the word ‘riot’—when rebellions break out in the large cities of America, the first thing people say is that they’re riots. And white Western society is very good, the next thing they say is: “We must have law and order.” Hitler had the most efficient system of law and order we’ve ever seen. He happened to have been a fascist. He did not have justice coupled with law and order. The United States knows about law and order, it doesn’t know about justice. It is for white Western society to talk about law and order. It is for the Third World to talk about justice.
For God’s sake, I don’t understand how the white West can ever talk about violence—they are the most violent people on the face of the earth. They have used violence to get very thing they have. And yet, they’re the first to talk about violence. The armed rebellions and the guerrilla warfare going on in the United States today are not the most violent things going on in the world—Vietnam, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Hong Kong, Aden, Somaliland, that’s where your violence really is. Violence can take the form of physical warfare, or it can take the form of a slow death. The Jews in the Warsaw ghettos were suffering from violence. It didn’t take an actual physical form until they were put in the gas chambers, but they were suffering from mental violence. Wherever you go in Africa today, the Africans are suffering from violence inflicted on them by the white West, be it that they are stripped of their culture, of their human dignity, or of the resources of their very land.
And it is crystal clear to the peoples of the Third world today that it’s time out for talk. There can be no talk about how to stop violence, that’s clear. Even Camus talks about that, though he cops out. Camus talks about executioner/victim. He says, Well, there are executioner/victim relationships in society, and the executioner uses force to keep his victim down. But the victim gets tired of that, and what happens is that when the victim moves either to a position of equality or to try to conquer the executioner, he uses the force and the means and the methods that his oppressor used to keep him down. That happens to be violence. I never get caught up with violence. As a matter of fact, one of my favorite quotes that stops all the talk about it is from Sartre:
What did you expect when you unbound the gag that had muted those black mouths? That they would chant your praises? Did you think that when those heads that our fathers had forcefully bowed down to the ground were raised again, you should find adoration in their eyes?
That’s Jean-Paul Sartre, not me.
We are working to increase the revolutionary consciousness of black people in America to join with the Third World. Whether or not violence is used is not decided by us, but by the white West. We are fighting a political warfare. Politics is war without violence. War is politics with violence. The white West will make the decision on how they want the political war to be fought. We are not any longer going to bow our heads to any white man. If he touches one black man in the United States, he is going to go to war with every black man in the United States.
We are going to extend our fight internationally and we are going to hook up with the Third World. It is the only salvation—we are fighting to save our humanity. We are indeed fighting to save the humanity of the world, which the West has failed miserably to preserve. And the fight must be waged from the Third World.” 92-93
“Since there’s been a lot of talk about psychology at this meeting, I’ve thought up a psychological problem. White liberals are always saying, ‘What can we do?’ I mean, they’re always coming to help black people. I thought of an analogy. If you were walking down the street and a man had a gun on another man—let’s say both of them were white—and you had to help somebody, whom would you help? It’s obvious to me that if I were walking down the street, and a man had a gun on another man, and I was going to help, I’d help the man who didn’t have the gun, if the man who had the gun was just pulling the gun going to rob him or shoot him because he didn’t like him. The only way I could help is either to get a gun and shoot the man with the gun, go take the gun away from him—join the fellow who doesn’t have a gun and both of us gang up on the man with the gun. But white liberals never do that. When the man has the gun, they walk around him and they come to the victim, and they say ‘Let me help you,’ and what they mean is ‘help you adjust to the situation with the man who has the gun on you.’
If indeed white liberals are going to help, their only job is to get the gun from the man and talk to him, because he is a sick man. The black man is not the sick man, it is the white man who is sick, he’s the one who picked up the gun first.” 99