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80 Insightful Racism Quotes

Racism is the belief that certain people are superior to others based on their race. Throughout history, white supremacy has continued to be the dominant form of racism and those considered ‘superior’ are granted more opportunities, privileges, and freedom than others. But racism exists in many iterations and among different groups. For example, this article covers the issue of black-on-black racism. If you’re interested in investigating your own biases (we all tend to have them!), you can take an IAT test. They can sometimes give you an interesting indication of your perspectives. 

In this article, we’ve put together a list of 80 insightful racism quotes by some of the greatest activists of our time.  

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

Maya Angelou

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” 

James Baldwin

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

Michelle Obama

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

Mahatma Ghandi

“As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash.”  

Harper Lee

“Race is about the American story, and about each of our own stories. Overcoming racism is more than an issue or a cause it is also a story, which can be part of each of our stories, too. The story about race that was embedded into America at the founding of our nation was a lie; it is time to change the story and discover a new one. Understanding our own stories about race, and talking about them to one another, is absolutely essential if we are to become part of the larger pilgrimage to defeat racism in America.”  

Jim Wallis

“O, ye nominal Christians! Is it not enough that we are torn from our country and friends, to toil for your luxury and lust of gain? Why are parents to lose their children, brothers their sisters, or husbands their wives? Surely this is a new refinement in cruelty and adds fresh horrors even to the wretchedness of slavery.”  

Olaudah Equiano

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

Rosa Parks

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

Audre Lorde

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

Martin Luther King, Jr

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”

Harriet Tubman 

“What’s the point of having a voice if you’re going to be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?”  

Angie Thomas

“Our Christian faith stands fundamentally opposed to racism in all its forms, which contradict the good news of the gospel. The ultimate answer to the question of race is our identity as children of God, which we so easily forget applies to us all. It’s time for white Christians to be more Christian than white which is necessary to make racial reconciliation and healing possible.”  

Jim Wallis

“I had reasoned this out in my mind; there was one of two things I had a right to: liberty, or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other; for no man should take me alive.”  

Harriet Tubman

“Activism is my rent for living on the planet.”  

Alice Walker

“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.”  

Toni Morrison

“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

“It is never too late to give up your prejudices.”  

Henry David Thoreau

“I have a dream that one day little black boys and girls will be holding hands with little white boys and girls.”

Martin Luther King Jr. 

“We are not now, nor will we ever be a ‘post racial’ society. We are instead a society on a journey toward embracing our ever-greater and richer diversity, which is the American story. The path forward is the constant renewal of our nation’s ideal of the equality of all citizens under the law which makes the American promise so compelling, even though it is still so far from being fulfilled.”  

Jim Wallis

“My race needs no special defense, for the past history of them in this country proves them to be equal of any people anywhere. All they need is an equal chance in the battle of life.”  

Robert Smalls

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

Toni Morrison

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”  

Desmond Tutu

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

Malcolm X

“To know what is right and not to do it is the worst cowardice.”  

Kung Fu-tzu Confucius

“In this country American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate.”  

Toni Morrison

“We are currently in an era of mass incarceration and excessive punishment in which the politics of fear and anger reinforce the narrative of racial different. We imprison people of color at record levels by making up new crimes, which are disproportionally enforced against those who are black or brown. We are the nation with the highest rate of incarceration in the world, a phenomenon that is inexorably linked to our history of racial inequality.”

Bryan Stevenson 

“I am for the “immediate, unconditional, and universal” enfranchisement of the black man, in every State in the Union. Without this, his liberty is a mockery; without this, you might as well almost retain the old name of slavery for his condition.”  

Frederick Douglass

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”  

James Baldwin

“As long as there is racial privilege, racism will never end.”  

Wayne Gerard Trotman

“We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers. Our abundance has brought us neither peace of mind nor serenity of spirit.”  

Martin Luther King, Jr.

“We all should rise, above the clouds of ignorance, narrowness, and selfishness.”

Booker T. Washington 

“What is it you most dislike? Stupidity, especially in its nastiest forms of racism and superstition.”  

Christopher Hitchens

“The heart of racism was and is economic, though its roots are also deeply cultural, psychological, sexual, religious, and of course, political. Due to 246 years of brutal slavery and an additional 100 years of legal segregation and discrimination, no area of relationship between black people and white people in the United States is free from the legacy of racism.”  

Jim Wallis

“The struggle continues. After the 15th Amendment recognized the African American right to vote in 1870, some states responded by using violent intimidation, poll taxes and literacy tests as barriers to voting. Today those laws have mutated into voter suppression efforts that target low income and minority communities with disheartening effectiveness. I fight for the real enfranchisement of black people.” 

Eric Holder Jr.

“An eye for an eye makes the world blind.”

Mahatma Gandhi 

“Defeating racism, tribalism, intolerance and all forms of discrimination will liberate us all, victim and perpetrator alike.”  

Ban Ki-moon

“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

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”  

Frederick Douglass

“Men build too many walls and not enough bridges.”

Joseph Fort Newton

“I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly, is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with the pain.”

James Baldwin 

“The chasm between the principles upon which this Government was founded and those which are daily practiced under the protection of the flag, yawns so wide and deep.” 

Mary Church Terrell 

“Excellence is the best deterrent to racism or sexism.”  

Oprah Winfrey

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

Ijoema Oluo

“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

“Prejudice is an opinion without judgment.”


“Hating people because of their color is wrong. And it doesn’t matter which color does the hating. It’s just plain wrong.”

Muhammad Ali 

“Since the end of slavery, there has always been a black underclass. What is significant now is the size of it, the social gravity of it, and the frightening and terrifying responses to it.”

Cornel West 

“We younger Negro artists who create now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame. If white people are pleased, we are glad. If they are not, it doesn’t matter. We know we are beautiful.”  

Langston Hughes

“In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist. We must be anti-racist.”  

Angela Davis

“Ours is not the struggle of one day, one week, or one year. Ours is not the struggle of one judicial appointment or presidential term. Ours is the struggle of a lifetime, or maybe even many lifetimes, and each one of us in every generation must do our part.”  

John Lewis

“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. 

“We look forward to the time when the power to love will replace the love of power. Then will our world know the blessings of peace.”

William Ellery Channing 

“Our true nationality is mankind.”

H.G. Wells 

“Those who have not learned to do for themselves and have to depend solely on others never obtain any more rights or privileges in the end than they had in the beginning.” 

Carter G. Woodson

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

Oprah Winfrey

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

Desmond Tutu

“A lie doesn’t become truth, wrong doesn’t become right, and evil doesn’t become good, just because it’s accepted by a majority.”  

Booker T. Washington

“You are growing into consciousness, and my wish for you is that you feel no need to constrict yourself to make other people comfortable.”  

Ta-Nehisi Coates

“We black folk, our history and our present being, are a mirror of all the manifold experiences of America. What we want, what we represent, what we endure is what America is. If we black folk perish, America will perish.”  

Richard Wright

“Justice is what love looks like in public.”  

Cornel West

“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 Parks

“Great men cultivate love and only little men cherish a spirit of hatred; assistance given to the weak makes the one who gives it strong; oppression of the unfortunate makes one weak.”  

Booker T. Washington

“Ignorance and prejudice are the handmaidens of propaganda. Our mission, therefore, is to confront ignorance with knowledge, bigotry with tolerance, and isolation with the outstretched hand of generosity. Racism can, will, and must be defeated.”  

Kofi Annan

“I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me. All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.”  

Jackie Robinson

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

Barack Obama 

“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

“I prefer peace. But if trouble must come, let it come in my time, so that my children can live in peace.” 

Thomas Paine

“No human race is superior; no religious faith is inferior. All collective judgments are wrong. Only racists make them”  

Elie Wiesel

“We will kneel in, we will sit in until we can eat in any corner in the United States. We will walk until we can take our children to any school in the United States. And we will lie in until every Negro in America can vote.” 

Daisy Bates

“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.”

Toni Morrison

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world: Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Margaret Mead 

“The piano keys are black and white 
but they sound like a million colors in your mind”  

 Maria Cristina Mena

“Say it loud. I’m black and I’m proud!”  

James Brown

“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

“Freedom is never given; it is won.”  

A. Philip Randolph

“Race doesn’t really exist for you because it has never been a barrier. Black folks don’t have that choice.”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“Racism is not merely a simplistic hatred. It is, more often, broad sympathy toward some and broader skepticism toward others. Black America ever lives under that skeptical eye.”  

Ta-Nehisi Coates

“Action is the only remedy to indifference: the most insidious danger of all.”  

Elie Wiesel

“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.”  

Lila Watson

Wrapping Up  

We hope these quotes gave you a little extra inspiration to get through your day and helped you to reflect on how to make the world a better place for future generations.  

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Dani Rhys
Dani Rhys

Dani Rhys has worked as a writer and editor for over 15 years. She holds a Masters degree in Linguistics and Education, and has also studied Political Science, Ancient History and Literature. She has a wide range of interests ranging from ancient cultures and mythology to Harry Potter and gardening. She works as the chief editor of Symbol Sage but also takes the time to write on topics that interest her.