Last week Black America suffered yet another massacre, this time in a place of worship. Dylann Roof’s vicious slaying of nine people as they peacefully gathered wasn’t unthinkable. There have been over a dozen attacks on black churches in the last 25 years alone. Just as commonplace are the reactions to these assaults by black Christians, who immediately extend forgiveness and prayer to their assailants.
In a nod to history, we offer Kwame Ture’s explanations for why forgiveness and its many iterations, although cathartic, will not save Black America.
According to Ture, once chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and remembered as both an activist and pan-Africanist philosopher, blacks must first distinguish between individual and systemic acts of racism and their disparate consequences. Then we must be methodical in separating what tactics work versus those that do not. Here are 3 quotes from Ture that are just as applicable today as they were when he made the remarks:
1. “Racism is both overt and covert. It takes two, closely related forms: individual whites acting against individual blacks, and acts by the total white community against the black community. We call these individual racism and institutional racism. The first consists of overt acts by individuals, which cause death, injury or the violent destruction of property. This type can be recorded by television cameras; it can frequently be observed in the process of commission. 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. The second type originates in the operation of established and respected forces in the society, and thus receives far less public condemnation than the first type. When 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 society. But when in that same city – Birmingham, Alabama – five hundred black babies die each year because of the 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 institutional racism. When a black family moves into a home in a white neighborhood and is stoned, burned or routed out, they are victims of an overt act of individual racism which many people will condemn – at least in words. But it is institutional racism that keeps black people locked in dilapidated slum tenements, subject to the daily prey of exploitative slumlords, merchants, loan sharks and discriminatory real estate agents. The society either pretends it does not know of this latter situation, or is in fact incapable of doing anything meaningful about it.”
? Stokely Carmichael, Black Power: The Politics of Liberation
2. Ture said of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “he only made one fallacious assumption: In order for nonviolence to work, your has to have a conscience. The United States has no conscience.”
3.“This country has been feeding us a thalidomide drug of integration; and [-] some Negroes have been walking down a dream street talking about sitting next to white people. And [that] does not begin to solve the problem. That when we went to Mississippi, we did not go to sit next to Ross Barnett. We did not go to sit next to Jim Clark. We went to get them out of our way. And [-] people ought’a understand that. That we were never fighting for the right to integrate; we were fighting against white supremacy.” ~ Kwame Ture, 1966