It is not easy to write a column for weekly newspapers three or four days before a presidential election, especially a presidential election as historically significant as the one in 2008. I finally decided that the most meaningful way to deal with the situation is to bring to the attention of readers quotes from public figures, past and present that may be useful at this moment. Thus the following:
Journalist/Historian Lerone Bennett, Jr. once said, "Given the way we were forced to live in this society, the miracle is not that so many families are broken, but that so many are still together. That so many Black fathers are still at home. That so many Black mothers are sill raising good children. It is the incredible toughness and resilience in (Black) people that gives me hope. That toughness and resilience should give all of us hope and provide a foundation upon which to build strong, productive harmonious Black communities."
Civil Rights Leader Martin Luther King, Jr. "....Black Power, in the broad and positive meaning is a call to Black people to amass the political and economic strength to achieve their legitimate goals. No one can deny that the Negro is in dire need of this kind of legitimate power. Indeed, one of the great problems that the Negro confronts is his lack of power… Power, properly understood, is the ability to achieve purpose. It is the strength required to bring about social, political or economic changes.
In this sense, power is not only desirable but necessary in order to implement the demands of love and justice. One of the greatest problems of history is that the concepts of love and power are usually contrasted a polar opposite.…What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive and that love without power is sentimental and anemic."
Educator Benjamin E. Mays said, "....Tom Watson of Georgia, who first advocated the Populist movement in the interest of the common man – Negro and White alike – finally shifted his position and preached Aryan superiority. So bitterly intense was the feeling, I am convinced that by the close of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth, if Negroes had insisted upon their right to vote in my native South Carolina and other Southern states, genocide would have been the ultimate outcome. Negroes would have been shot down and killed like rabbits. What happened to the Indians in this country would have happened to Negroes, with Whites having no more sense of guilt and no deeper pangs of conscience, except that Negroes would have been liquidated in a much shorter time that it took to suppress the Indians."
Educator Carter G. Woodson "....In like manner, the teaching of history in the Negro area has had its political significance. Starting out after the Civil War, the opponents of freedom and social justice decided to work out a program which would enslave the Negroes' mind inasmuch as the freedom of body had to be conceded.
If you can control a man's thinking you do not have to worry about his action. When you determine what a man shall think you do not have to concern yourself about what he will do. If you make a man feel like he is inferior, you do not have to compel him to accept an inferior status, for he will seek it himself."
Human Rights Leader Malcolm X "U.S. politics is ruled by special-interest blocs and lobbies. What group has a more urgent special interest, what group needs a bloc, a lobby, more than the Black man? Labor owns one of Washington's largest non-government buildings – situated where they can literally watch the White House – and no political move is made that doesn't involve how Labor feels about it. A lobby got Big Oil its depletion allowance. The farmer, though his lobby, is the most government-subsidized special-interest group in America today, because a million farmers vote, not as Democrats or Republicans, liberals, conservatives, but as farmers.…Why, 22 million Black people should tomorrow give a dollar apiece to a skyscraper lobby building in Washington, D.C. Every morning, every legislator should receive a communication about what the Black man in America expects and wants and needs. The demanding voice of the Black lobby should be in the ears of every legislator who votes on any issue."
A. Peter Bailey can be reached at [email protected]