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30 Powerful Quotes That Speak Volumes in the Fight Against Racism

These quotes ring true in the fight against racism now more than ever before.

Powerful quotes

Sometimes all you need is that little extra push to really make a difference, and who better to give you that extra inspiration than some of the greatest activists of our time? From Martin Luther King Jr. to Rosa Parks and Maya Angelou, these trailblazers have paved the way in our fight against racism, but we still have a long way to go. Civil unrest in our country is escalating and it’s more important now than ever to stop racism to improve life for generations to come. Below are 30 well-known anti-racism quotes that ring true in the fight against racism now more than ever before.

“History has shown us that courage can be contagious, and hope can take on a life of its own." –Michelle Obamard.com

Courage is contagious

“History has shown us that courage can be contagious, and hope can take on a life of its own.” —Michelle Obama, former first lady of the United States. Learn how to respond to a racist comment when you’re figuring out how to speak up.

“Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.” —Langston Hughesrd.com

Hold on to dreams

“Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.” —Langston Hughes, American poet. After reading these anti-racism quotes, be aware of these everyday examples of white privilege you may not have noticed.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” –Martin Luther King, Jr.rd.com

Light and dark, love and hate

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” —Martin Luther King, Jr., American minister and activist. 

“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 Obamard.com

Change

“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, the 44th president of the United States from 2009 to 2017. When having these important conversations, make sure you avoid these phrases when talking about race.

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

Peace and freedom

“You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.” —Malcolm X, American minister. 

“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.rd.com

Living together

“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., American minister and activist. Learn which Black-owned businesses you can support all year round.

“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 Mandelard.com

Freedom of others

“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, former President of South Africa, political leader, philanthropist.

"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 Andersonrd.com

A nation’s strength

“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, singer. If these anti-racist quotes are inspiring you, you’ll love these amazing Black poets.

“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.rd.com

Challenge and controversy

“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., American minister and activist. 

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

Be human together

“My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.” —Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize award-winner, South African Anglican cleric. Keep reading after these racism quotes and pick up one of the best books by Black authors.

“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 Parksrd.com

Diminishing fear

“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, activist.

“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 Rooseveltrd.com

Work at peace

“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, former first lady of the United States. Learn how you can be an ally to the Asian-American community.

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

Committed citizens

“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, American cultural anthropologist. 

“Freedom is never given; it is won.” –A. Philip Randolphrd.com

Freedom is won

“Freedom is never given; it is won.” —A. Philip Randolph, civil rights leader.

“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 Watsonrd.com

Walk together

“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, activist, academic, and visual artist. See which popular songs you didn’t realize are racist.

“A loving person lives in a loving world. A hostile person lives in a hostile world. Everyone you meet is your mirror.” –Ken Keyes, Jr.rd.com

A loving person

“A loving person lives in a loving world. A hostile person lives in a hostile world. Everyone you meet is your mirror.” —Ken Keyes, Jr., author. 

“One day our descendants will think it incredible that we paid so much attention to things like the amount of melanin in our skin or the shape of our eyes or our gender instead of the unique identities of each of us as complex human beings.” –Franklin Thomasrd.com

Complex human beings

“One day our descendants will think it incredible that we paid so much attention to things like the amount of melanin in our skin or the shape of our eyes or our gender instead of the unique identities of each of us as complex human beings.” —Franklin Thomas, philanthropist and civil rights activist.

“The time is always right to do what is right.” –Martin Luther King, Jr.rd.com

The right time

“The time is always right to do what is right.” —Martin Luther King, Jr., American minister and activist. Check out these examples of cultural appropriation you may have never thought about.

“If we accept and acquiesce in the face of discrimination, we accept the responsibility ourselves and allow those responsible to salve their conscience by believing that they have our acceptance and concurrence. We should, therefore, protest openly everything… that smacks of discrimination or slander.” —Mary McLeod Bethunerd.com

Protest openly everything

“If we accept and acquiesce in the face of discrimination, we accept the responsibility ourselves and allow those responsible to salve their conscience by believing that they have our acceptance and concurrence. We should, therefore, protest openly everything… that smacks of discrimination or slander.” —Mary McLeod Bethune, political activist, organizer, and educator. 

“Peace is not the absence of conflict but the presence of creative alternatives for responding to conflict—alternatives to passive or aggressive responses, alternatives to violence.” —Dorothy Thompsonrd.com

Creative alternatives

“Peace is not the absence of conflict but the presence of creative alternatives for responding to conflict—alternatives to passive or aggressive responses, alternatives to violence.” —Dorothy Thompson, journalist.

“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” —Muhammad Alird.com

Take risks

“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” —Muhammad Ali, a professional boxer. Learn which brands support racial justice so you can support them too.

"The need for change bulldozed a road down the center of my mind." -Maya Angelourd.com

The need for change

“The need for change bulldozed a road down the center of my mind.” —Maya Angelou, poet, civil rights activist. 

“You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist.” —Indira Gandhird.com

Shake hands

“You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist.” —Indira Gandhi, former prime minister of India.

“Ideologies separate us. Dreams and anguish bring us together.” –Eugene Ionescord.com

Dreams

“Ideologies separate us. Dreams and anguish bring us together.” —Eugene Ionesco, Romanian-French playwright. Before you start singing to your little one, learn which children’s nursery rhymes are actually racist.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Martin Luther King, Jr.rd.com

Justice

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” —Martin Luther King, Jr., American minister and activist.

Prejudice Is A Burden That Confuses The Past, Threatens The Future, And Renders The Present Inaccessible - Maya Angelourd.com

Prejudice

“Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future, and renders the present inaccessible.” —Maya Angelou, poet, civil rights activist. Make sure you know how to correctly use the terms Latino, Hispanic, and Latinx and what they mean.

Activism Is My Rent For Living On The Planet - Alice Walkerrd.com

Be an activist

“Activism is my rent for living on the planet.” —Alice Walker, novelist, poet, social activist.

A Man Who Stands For Nothing Will Fall For Anything - Malcom Xrd.com

Stand up

“A man who stands for nothing will fall for anything.” —Malcom X, American minister. 

It Is Not Our Differences That Divide Us It Is Our Inability To Recognize Accept And Celebrate Those Differences - Audre Lorderd.com

Celebrate differences

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

Our Ability To Reach Unity In Diversity Will Be The Beauty And The Test Of Our Civilization - Mahatma Gandhird.com

Unity

“Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilization.” —Mahatma Gandhi, lawyer, politician, social activist, writer. 

Now that you’re refreshed on these anti-racism quotes, check out our guide to the Fight Against Racism.

Madeline Wahl
Madeline Wahl is a Digital Associate Editor/Writer at RD.com. Previously, she worked for HuffPost and Golf Channel. Her writing has appeared on HuffPost, Red Magazine, McSweeney's, Pink Pangea, The Mighty, and Yahoo Lifestyle, among others. More of her work can be found on her website: www.madelinehwahl.com