When I think back to those days, I feel such admiration and respect for the spirit of struggle and sacrifice that my people exhibited. They went up against white mobs, water hoses, vicious dogs, the Ku Klux Klan, trigger-happy nightstick-wielding police, armed only with their belief in justice and their desire for freedom.
I remember how i felt in those days. I wanted to be an amerikan just like any other amerikan. I wanted a piece of amerika’s apple pie. I believed we could get our freedom just by appealing to the consciences of white people. I believed that the North was really interested in integration and civil rights and equal rights. I used to go around saying “our country,” “our president,” “our government.” When the national anthem was played or the pledge of allegiance spoken, i stood at attention and felt proud. I don’t know what in the hell i was feeling proud about, but i felt the juice of patriotism running through my blood. I believed that if the South could only be like the North, then everything would be all right.
I believed that we Black people were really making progress and that the government, the president, the supreme kourt, and the congress were behind us, so we couldn’t go wrong. I believed that integration was really the solution to our problems. I believed that if white people could go to school with us, live next to us, work next to us, they would see that we were really good people and would stop being prejudiced against us. I believed that amerika was really a good country, like my teachers said in school, “the greatest country on the face of the earth.” I grew up believing that stuff. Really believing it. And, now, twenty-odd years later, it seems like a bad joke.
Once you study and really get a good understanding of the way the system in the United States works, then you see, without a doubt, that the civil rights movement never had a chance of succeeding. White people, whether they are from the North or from the South, whether it was in 1960 or 1980, benefit from the oppression of Black people.
The almighty dollar is king; those who have the most money control the country and, through campaign contributions, buy and sell presidents, congressmen, and judges, the ones who pass the laws and enforce the laws that benefit their benefactors.
To hate someone, to discriminate against them, and to attack them because of their racial characteristics is one of the most primitive, reactionary, ignorant ways of thinking that exists.
A war between the races would help nobody and free nobody and should be avoided at all costs. But a one-sided race war with Black people as the targets and white people shooting the guns is worse. We will be criminally negligent, however, if we do not deal with racism and racist violence, and if we do not prepare to defend ourselves against it.
Everything you love
is from a different world. Hungry,
you turn your nose up at my peas and rice.
This is an extract from Assata: An Autobiography
The photograph used in this post is of Neo Nazis, Alt-Right, and White Supremacists taking part in a march the night before the ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville, VA, white supremacists march with tiki torches through the University of Virginia campus.
Photo by Zach D Roberts/NurPhoto via Getty Images
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