"I Can No Longer Keep Quiet" 1
Sayings of an Angry Black Man
As told to Cliff Williams
Every time people dig a bit deeper into African American history, they find lies. That has happened in so many areas, such as when they burned down Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1921. It was said that a Black guy assaulted a White woman. But that didn’t happen. The White people burned the whole town and killed hundreds of Black people because of the lie.*
When we Black people step out and do things for ourselves, White people don’t have any control over us. So they do something to get that control back. That’s why they burned down Black Wall Street. White people killed us so they could be in control.
Malcolm X said, “I want to know how evil you are.” I don’t think White folks in this country could handle the fact that there were places that had predominantly Black People who were doing well, with middle class and poor, such as Greenwood, the neighborhood in Tulsa that was burned, and other places.** We came from graves and then rose up and started thriving. I don’t think White people could handle that. So they found any kind of way to burn those places down. That’s evil. You can’t call it anything else but evil.
These things have made me see how resilient Black people are. We just keep coming back and keep fighting. And keep coming back and fighting. But we shouldn’t have to fight at all. We shouldn’t have to fight like this.
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.
Being black is a systematic thing where White folks don’t want us to succeed.
God doesn’t see black and other colors. He doesn’t see them because he made all of us the way he is. And so he doesn’t see color. He just sees what he made. People are the ones who see color.
People whitewash things because they don’t want to be known as evil.
I don’t know where I’m headed, but I know where I’ve been. And it wasn’t a good place. I know how to treat it. I’m going to keep fighting, because it is in me to fight. It is in me to be resilient. It is in me to push and keep going. That’s what I’m doing—just keeping on pushing. The strength to do that is all because of God. It’s not because of people. People can’t give this kind of strength. So I just keep on going and keep on praying.
I don’t want people to think, “He doesn’t like White people.” No. I have a lot of White friends. But they are able to accept my history. Not just the good stuff but the bad stuff.
*See “What the Tulsa Massacre Destroyed,” The New York Times (May 24, 2021) https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/05/24/us/tulsa-race-massacre.html and “The Tulsa Race Massacre,” Wikipedia (April 2022) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tulsa_race_massacre. The following quote is from “Black Wall Street was shattered 100 years ago. How the Tulsa race massacre was covered up and unearthed,” by Yun Li, CNBC: Equity and Opportunity (June 1, 2021), https://www.cnbc.com/2021/05/31/black-wall-street-was-shattered-100-years-ago-how-tulsa-race-massacre-was-covered-up.html: “On May 31, 1921, Dick Rowland, a 19-year old Black shoeshiner, tripped and fell in an elevator and his hand accidentally caught the shoulder of Sarah Page, a white 17-year-old operator. Page screamed and Rowland was seen running away.”
**See “We Remember: Chronicling 10 Race Massacres in America,” Cherranda Smith, Black Information Network (May 27, 2021) https://www.binnews.com/content/2021-05-27-we-remember-chronicling-10-race-massacres-in-america/.
© 2023 by AJ
Edited by Cliff Williams from a recorded and transcribed conversation with AJ on October 28, 2022. AJ is an African American man who lives in Chicago. He was in his mid-fifties when we talked.
For a list of other sayings in this series, with links, go to "I Can No Longer Keep Quiet."