Bayard Rustin Quotes
Total quotes (28)
Total quotes (28)
When we reached Nashville, a number of policemen were lined up on both sides of the hallway down which I had to pass on my way to the captain's office. They tossed me from one to another like a volleyball. By the time I reached the office, the lining of my best coat was torn, and I was considerably rumpled. I straightened myself as best I could and went in.
The most urgently needed national policy is a commitment to full employment. When black unemployment is above 13 percent...we have a major national crisis. When overall unemployment by official statistics remains above seven percent...we have a major national crisis....We need to rededicate ourselves to the original principles of the nation. We must have policies which make it possible for all of our citizens to pursue happiness.
I think the movement contributed to this nation a sense of universal freedom. Precisely because women saw our movement in the sixties, stimulated them to want their rights. The fact that students saw the movement of the sixties created a student movement in this country. The fact that the people were against the war in Vietnam, saw us go into the street and win, made it possible for them to have the courage to go into the street and win, and the lesson that I would like to see from this is, that we must now find a way to deal with the problem of full employment, and as surely as we were able to bring about the Civil Rights Act, the voter rights act—the Voting Rights Act, I mean the education act, and the housing act, so is it possible for all of us now to combine our forces in a coalition, including Catholic, Protestant, Jew and labor and blacks and Puerto Ricans and Mexican-Americans and all other minorities, to bring about the one thing that will bring peace internally to the United States. And that is that any man who wants a job, or any woman who wants a job, shall not be left unemployed.
The question invariably arises as to what, in fact, is the nature of the civil rights movement today? And I am one who claims that it is, at once, a movement for integration into the American society, as it now exists, and simultaneously a revolutionary movement. If one were to ask the average Negro what it is he wants, with the exception of Mr. Baldwin and a few other writers who, very often, are not in very close touch with the Negro community themselves, the Negro will say what any minority says if it uses the word integration.
For example, I have knowingly sat at the table… and in the front of a bus in the South with white people, aware of the fact that when I did so, I was bringing to the surface a fear in them which was in a sense more profound than if I had struck them, and this is in part due to the fact that if I had struck them, they would have been on familiar ground and able to defend themselves and to strike me back. But the fact that I sat there in a way so that they did not see their way clear to strike me made them more fearful than if I had struck them.
The basic issue, however, is not political. It is moral and spiritual. For Christians it has to do with the scriptural teaching that all men, whatever their race or color, are children of one Father, created by him for an eternal destiny, and therefore of infinite worth....It has to do with the commandment that even as God in Christ loved us, so shall we love one another....A segregated church, a church which bars Christians on grounds of race from the very table of our Lord, is in that respect not a church of Christ. In such a crisis as we experience in our land today, it daily crucifies our Lord anew.
Mrs. Greenstone, I am 59 years old. I am black and I have lived with and fought racism my entire life. I have been in prison 23 times—serving 28 months in a federal penitentiary and 30 days on a North Carolina chain gang, among other punishments.
I have seen periods of progress followed by reaction. I have seen the hopes and aspirations of Negroes rise during World War II, only to be smashed during the Eisenhower years. I am seeing the victories of the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations destroyed by Richard Nixon.
I have seen black young people become more and more bitter. I have seen dope addiction rise in the Negro communities across the country.
I have been in a bombed church. My best friends, closest associates, and colleagues-in-arms have been beaten and assassinated. Yet, to remain human and to fulfill my commitment to a just society, I must continue to fight for the liberation of all men. There will be times when each of us will have doubts. But I trust that neither of us will desert our great cause.
That is to say, we want our slice of that cake. We do not want to change it from vanilla to chocolate. We want that cake, and our share of it, and we want it now. That is the conscious objective of the Negro movement. However the Negro thinks of his effort to integrate, the very fact that the American institutions, as they now exist, cannot accept the demands of the Negroes and remain what they are. To that extent the Negro revolt is revolutionary.
From 1955 until 1963, the Negro people's attention was given to those things which most highly revealed the basis of their revolt. And the key word is dignity. The one place where it was clear that one was not being treated with dignity was in public accommodations, because they had to come up against this daily, whether they liked it or not. You had go in order to travel to the back of the bus. If you were in downtown in many, many cities in the South, it was an impossibility even to go to the toilet without walking ten or fifteen blocks. Or if you were hungry and your child needed milk, to have to go 20 blocks in order to get a bottle of milk to feed your child or to get a bottle heated. These were the high indications of the absence of dignity. And, therefore, it was logical that a revolt that was about dignity should be concerned with public accommodations.
For example, when we went into the buses of the South, we knew that there would be some violent reactions brought to the surface. Now when we went into that situation, we also had to accept violence unto ourselves’ but unless we were naive, we also knew that the lynch mob at Chapel Hill, which was frustrated from getting us, might very well wreak its vengeance upon other Negroes in the community, and the fact is that they responded with violence not only to Negro members of the community but to white ones.
Separation, it seems to me, is the chief sin precisely because violence is automatically the result of separation and ostracism between individuals or groups or nations, and my point was that whenever there is such separation and such automatic violence it is naive to believe that you can deal with this violence without challenging people and without bringing that violence to the surface. And when each physical and psychological violence is brought to the surface, the pacifist would be prepared to take it unto himself and to recognize, as Jesus did, that you cannot take a stand for truth and justice without automatically involving other people and causing some suffering for them any more than you or I could be COs where our mother or father was opposed to us without causing for them great travail in their local community. And yet we sometimes fail to reckon with all these factors.
‘I believe that I have a right to sit here,’ I said quietly. ‘If I sit in the back of the bus I am depriving that child—' I pointed to a little white child of five or six—‘of the knowledge that there is injustice here, which I believe it is his right to know. It is my sincere conviction that the power of love in the world is the greatest power existing. If you have a greater power, my friend, you may move me.’
Many Negroes see mass violence coming. Having lived in a society in which church, school, and home problems have been handled in a violent way, the majority at this point are unable to conceive of a solution by reconciliation and nonviolence. I have seen schoolboys in Arkansas laying away rusty guns for the 'time when.' I have heard many young men in the armed forces hope for a machine-gun assignment 'so I can turn it on the white folks.' I have seen a white sailor beaten in Harlem because three Negroes had been 'wantin' to get just one white' before they died. I have heard hundreds of Negroes hope for a Japanese military victory, since 'it don't matter who you're a slave for.'
Now I tried, secondly, to make it clear that in a sense forcing them into that position did not create violence but rather brought already-existing violence to the surface so that they recognized its existence and were able to deal with it. I pointed out that there are many, many times—and this is almost always true in the South or in any other situation where people have been separated for long periods of time and where general brutality is accepted—when basic social change will also involve a vast deal of physical violence, and the pacifist is not a man who is afraid of violence nor in a sense opposed to it because often social change cannot be made except under situations where violence is to a degree inevitable. The pacifist is opposed to using violence, but he must be prepared to accept it as a part of social change, knowing that social change is often impossible without it.