"I Can No Longer Keep Quiet"

Sayings of an Angry Black Man


As told to Cliff Williams

AJ is a Black man who lives in Chicago. He is in his mid-fifties.

Over the years, AJ and I, Cliff Williams, have had a number of everyday conversations. Lately, though, he has been telling me things about race. He is no longer able to keep quiet when so much damage has been done over the centuries, he declared to me. On October 28, 2022, I asked whether I could record our video call. He said, “Yes.” The sayings in this series are edited from transcriptions of that and subsequent conversations.

"I Can No Longer Keep Quiet" 1

"The one thing that disturbs me most of all is that during slavery times you had to fight to learn how to read, because it was against the law for a Black person to read. That right there throws me out of the water every time.

If you don’t want us to read, you don’t want us to learn anything. You want us to be underfoot the whole time. And that’s not a good place. No one should want that for another human being."

"Some White folks don’t think of us as human, because we were once slaves. They still don’t think of us as human. So they think we shouldn’t read. We shouldn’t vote. We shouldn’t do a whole lot of things."

"I Can No Longer Keep Quiet" 2

"I’m proud to be an African American male in a culture that is hostile toward me. Very hostile. But I don’t care that you are hostile. I don’t care, because now I am book woke to call you down. I’ve done research that will stop you in your tracks and make you go sit down. History speaks for itself. It’s right there."

"I Can No Longer Keep Quiet" 3

I think it was Oprah who said, “We gotta know where we’ve been before we can move forward.” I believe that. You have to know where you came from to move forward. I have to go back to search my own heritage. I did research on my mom’s side, and it seems like my great-grandmother was enslaved. 

Right now I’m not in a church. Church has not been a good experience for me. So I’m taking some time off. I was at a White church that just didn’t get it. I couldn’t stay. I’m not going to bite my tongue when talking about racism. You can’t talk about racism with some people. People stay where they’re at. You have to challenge ideals, and I wasn’t able to challenge those people, so I decided to leave, because they were so set in their ways. They don’t think that Black people have been through hell. They just don’t get it. I can’t bite my tongue anymore.

"I Can No Longer Keep Quiet" 4

When someone calls Black people lazy, I go to history. We didn’t become thought of as lazy until after we were enslaved. They didn’t call us lazy when we were slaves. Once we stopped being slaves, then we were said to be lazy.

We African American males have it hard because we are seen as a threat and as violent. I don’t understand the threat part because we don’t have anything. We don’t own anything. We barely own our own homes or cars. So how are we such a threat?

The reason they think we are a threat is that if they give us a chance, we’re going to shine.

Let’s switch sides and see if you can survive.

"I Can No Longer Keep Quiet" 5

For the most part, we’re not thought to be worthy of anything, not even of being here. But they brought us here.

I need a break from America. . . .  I think a lot of African Americans need a break, because we’ve been here so long and dealt with so much racism and scrutiny and just plain wrongdoing. Most of us have post-traumatic stress syndrome. We have it because of what we’ve been through. And we just need a break.

White folks have been in control forever. Why can’t you accept us? My question is, “What did the Black community do to you for you to have dealt with us like this? What did we do?” That’s my question. “What did we do for you not to want us to have anything? Not jobs. Not education. What did we do?”

"I Can No Longer Keep Quiet" 6

After George Floyd got killed, I was devastated. I still tear up when I think about it.

I’ve heard White people say, “It’s done. Get over it.” George Floyd’s murder devastated me. I have never seen anything like that in my life, and I pray that I won’t ever see anything like it again. It left me with a bad taste in my mouth for all our law enforcement. A very bad taste.

I was sitting on my front porch, and the police asked me for my ID. They asked, “Does the owner of this house know you’re sitting here?” I said, “Yes, because I am the owner.” They still took my ID and ran it. White police officers.

Another story: I went on a jog, and the police pulled me over and asked me why I was running. I had running tights, a T-shirt, and a Walkman in my ears. And the police still stopped me and asked me why I was out running. A White police officer.

Every time I buy a new car, I get pulled over. Every time. Every time. It has happened to me so many times. They just pull me over and run my license. And they never apologize.

This is why I don’t like the police. Those three incidents.

© 2023 by AJ

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