"We Ain't Going"
Tougaloo, Mississippi, April 11, 1967
I'm trying to figure out which one belongs to the CIA.
SNCCit was once one of the only places we could run to for
safety when we started to work in Mississippi in 1961 and '62;
so that it's sort of like coming home when we come back to Tougaloo.
Now I want you to, before I begin, to take a look at all the press men before you. You will notice that not one of them are black. And they are going to have the nerve, tomorrow, to call me a racist. Do you hear me? But we understand how the honkies are-they don't recognize their own racism.
I understand that I'm following the "Great White Father," Bobby Kennedy. I understand last night he told you a couple of things. Now I want to put some of them in perspective for you. When he said the world belongs to you, that comes from a great black man by the name of Frederick Douglas. He said the world belongs to you! Secondly, I understand that Bobby urged us to stand up and speak out against injustice. Well we could tell him that we don't need anybody to tell us to stand up any more. Not only are we going to stand up, we are going to right the wrongs of our people in this generation.
Our generation has the memories of the unpunished murders of Schwainey, Goodley and of Medgar Evers. There are going to be no more unpunished murders! No more.
They've been telling you that the kids in Nashville started a riot. Number one, you ought to recognize it is not a riot, it is a rebellion. A rebellion. And number two, you ought to be proud of your black brothers and sisters at Fisk, because a honkey cop touched one of them and they told him, "You've got to touch all of us!" All of us!"
We just have to recognize as we move in this year, that we have to let them know that the days of a honkey cop running in our neighborhood, beating us up and running out are overoverover.
Now we want to talk about several things tonight. We want to theoretically speak about the theories and the basic assumptions from which the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee proceeds. Which will be theories about self-condemnation, denial of one's freedom, the importance of definitions in the world today, and violence. And then we want to move in and speak about those pragmatically in terms of shame that black people feel for themselves, the education system that is completely racist in this society and that is geared against us. We want to talk about developing a concept of "peoplehood" for black people in this country and around the world which is desperately needed. We want to develop that and instill in our people the right to fight back against anybody who messes with us.
Now then we want to talk about the theories of self-condemnation. The existentialist philosophers, Camus and Sartre, notably raise the question about self-condemnation. They want to know whether or not it is possible for a man to condemn himself. They never answer the question. The revolutionary philosopher, Franz Fanon, answers the question. He said it's impossible. You ought to know Fanon, he's a beautiful black brother. Now let us giveIwe don't think self-condemnation is possible in SNCC-we just don't think it is possible and there are several examples for us, in our generation.
For example, the Nazis after World War II when they had the
Nuremberg trials; the Nazis they arrested-if they condemned themselves,
they had to inflict punishment upon themselves. An example is
that any of the Nazis whom they arrested who livedwho allowed
themselves to livesaid that they killed Jews who were inferior;
they weren't human beings. So they didn't kill human beings, or
they said that they didn't know what was happening in Germany
at the time the Jews were being killed, or, more sophisticatedly
and as more people in America today say, they were just following
law and order.
Now the Nazis who admitted that they killed human beings have to commit suicide. They had to commit suicide. The only ones that were able to live were the ones who rationalized away their own guilt. Now that's very important. An immediate example for those of us here in Mississippi would be Mashoba County, Philadelphia, Mississippi where a honkey by the name of Raney and eight other honkies decided to killthe honkies decided that they had the right to kill three human beings.
Now the entire county of Mashoba is incapable of indicting Raney and his honkies for what they did because they elected Raney to do precisely what he did-to kill anybody who tried to change the status quo. So that it is crystal clear that self-condemnation is, in fact, impossible.
White America cannot do it. If she did she would have to commit suicide. That may not be such a bad idea. So since she cannot condemn herself, it is for us, Black people upon whom she has perpetrated those crimes, to condemn her and to go on for ourselves. We must stop seeking to imitate white society. We must create for ourselves to save our very humanity. Alright?
Now the second very important point-we want to make a differentiation between giving one one's freedom and denying one one's freedom. In this country you would think that white people are gods-that they had the right to give us our freedom. And so what we had to do was to beg them or to act the way they want us to act before they gave us our freedom. You ought to make it crystal clear in your mind that all men are born free but that they are enslaved by other people. That is to say that white America is denying us our freedom. So she can't give it to us. Her job is to stop denying us of our freedom. In other words she ought to become more civilized. You ought to understand that.
They have defined us as Negroes. No where else in the world is there such a word. When we went to Puerto Rico we delivered our speech in Spanish and we tried to find a word that equals Negro in Spanish. There is no such word. The nearest word is "Negro" which means "black." There is no such word in German. There is no such word in Swahili. There is no such word in France. The only word is "Negro" and they have named us "Negro" and put with it the adjectives that they have: lazy, stupid, apathetic, loves watermelon, has good rhythm. And when we say that we are black the honkies got a nerve to tell us, "You're not black."
But now there is something, there's something much more insidious about definitions and that is what white America has been able to do is to try to make us react to their definitions of our very terms. Let me give another example. We remember in 1954 when Dr. King and the other great black leaders would say, "We want to integrate." In the minds of black people across this country we meant good housing, good schools, good jobs, better neighborhoods and a good way of life. That was crystal clear in our minds. But as soon as they were on TV or in public area, when they said the word, "integration," some dumb honkey was going to jump up and say, "You want to marry my daughter don't you?
Now, insteadinstead of our black leadersinstead of our black leaders having the strength to tell the honkey later, they begin to react to his definition. They would say, "Oh, oh, no, no we don't want to marry your daughter. We don't want to be your brother-in-law, we just want to be your brother. Uh, we don't want to sleep in your bedroom, we just want to make (unintelligible)." So that what white America was able to do was to have us react to her definition of our term and we never got anywhere because we were playing her game.
Now in SNCC when they ask us that question about whether or
not we want to marry their daughters we tell them, "Your
daughter, your sister, your mama."
The white woman is not the queen of the world. She's not the Virgin May. She's not. We tell them so they won't forget, "She's not the Virgin May. She can be made like any other woman. Let's move on. Let's move on."
We have got to see ourselves as a group. We must see ourselves as a community wherever we are and we must let them know that infringement on one is infringement on allall. Because if we let the honkies know that every time they touch one of us they got to face all of us, they won't touch any of us.
But in order to develop a concept of neighborhood you must know who you are and where you came from, yeah. Do you know that when we asked college students on black college campuses, "Where you from?" "Jackson." "Where [sic] your mother from?" "Jackson." "Where your [sic] grandmother from?" "Jackson." "Where your [sic] great grandmother from?" "Nuh, uh." She is from Africa! Did you hear what I said? She is from Africa and if you don't know how she got here I will tell you. White folks stole her and brought her herefrom Africa. But you are ashamed of Africa because you don't know anything but what the honkies tell you about Africa. Yeah.
They start off their civilization with Greece. Yeah. Did they ever tell you that the first university in the world was the University of Timbuktu in Africa? Africa.
Now then finally we want to talk about this thing called "violence"
that everybody is so afraid about. Here you are talking about
how you afraid of violence and the honkey is drafting you out
of school to go fight in Vietnamto go fight in Vietnam. There
you going to set in front of your television set and listen to
LBJ tell you that, "Violence never accomplishes anything
my fellow Americans." And you're going to set there agreeing
with him that violence never accomplishes anything while he's
bombing the hell out of North Vietnam.
Don't you see the real problem with violence is that we have never been violent. We have been too nonviolenttoo nonviolenttoo nonviolent, yeah. The problem isn't that we are violent. The problem is that every time they come into our neighborhood, beat our ass and go back out, we set there and talk about it in a whisper. And today we're telling them hard in their mind, if you touch us with your hand we're going to break your armbreak your armbreak your arm.
So when they come to teach you about nonviolence, tell them you don't need it. Tell them we have been nonviolent. We don't bomb churches. We don't shoot people. We don't lynch people. We don't beat them and throw them in jail. Tell the honkies who are violent to be nonviolent.
We are distressed when they yell, "Burn, baby, burn," because they taught us how to burn. They burned all our churches down to the ground. And nobody in this society ever sought to stop them when they burned our church down but when we retaliate everybody is upset.
Don't you worry about it because we're not going to take it any more. In Lawrence County, Alabama last month, they burned two churches to the ground-they were black churches. A week later a white church was burned to the groundthe ground. Either we will all worship inside or we will all worship outside.
Now let us forget about the issue of violence. This is the most violent society there is. You can't turn on your television set without five minutes getting entertainment of shoot 'em up, killing up and jujitsu chop 'em up.
Now then we want to talk pragmatically about black people and particularly about you black students here at Tougaloo. Now what this country has done she's-white America-is that she's told a number of lies about us which she believes. Now that's bad. But what is pathetic is that a number of us believe those lies ourselvesourselves. And now what we have to dowhat we have to do today is to begin to "un-brainwash" ourselves about those lies about ourselves. Let us give some examples.
White Western society told us that she was civilized and she was coming to civilize us. So she came to Africa and our first act of contact with civilization: the honkies made us slaves. And now there we were believing that that was civilization. There we were just running around, swinging on the vine beating our (unintelligible) drum not messing with anybodynot messing with anybody. And here comes this honkey who's going to civilize us and makes us slaves. Obviously they don't know now and then never did know what civilization is all aboutis all about.
But be that as it may, White America has always said in her history that she came to do so many good things-to help everybody else. They're getting ready to help Latin America right now in parts of . (Aside) I'm going to do it.
They came to Africa to make us civilized. They came to Africa
to tell us about Jesus Christ. We were in Africa; they were in
Europe. They had the Bible; we had the land. They came to be missionaries.
When they left, they had the land; we still had the Bible. Jesus
Christ says it is more honorable to suffer than to inflict suffering.
When you are called to serve, you have a choice. Either you say no and face the possibility of going to jail or you become a hired killer. You inflict suffering on somebody. It is more honorable to suffer. You should join "The Greatest," Mohammed Ali and tell them, "Hell no, I ain't going."
But now for the black youth it is a particular reason why we shouldn't go to the war in Vietnam. Our problem has been as black people we have always been concerned about White America; never about us. And what we've always thought is that White America equal the same interest as us. That is not true. We must now be concerned with us. Let me give you some examples.
We always want to prove what good Americans we are. The very
first man to die for the War of Independence in this country was
a black man named Crispus AttucksCrispus Attucks. Because here
he was dying for white folk freedom and million [sic] of his brothers
were enslaved in the very country. Ah, but we wanted to prove
what great Americans we were. We begged the white folk to let
us fight for the War of Independence. But they said no. So we
organized ourselves into bands of armies, training ourselves with
our barefoot, to prove to the white folk what great Americans
we were. "Please let us fight, white folk." And finally
they came and inspected our troops and said, "Good, nigger,
you can fight." And they had us fighting the Indians-like
fools. We should have teamed up with the Indians and attack the
But we went out there and we shed our bloodour bloodfor the freedom of this country. And when it was over they gave us some medals, a piece of paper and tapped us on the head and told us, "Good niggers." But we weren't satisfied. We were going to prove to this country what great Americans we were.
You will noticeyou will notice that your teachers don't know anything about you. How can they teach you? How can they teach you? How can they teach you? Because the move in this country today is to destroy the black colleges and the black ideology. Tougaloo College used to have a black ideology and then you became a brown baby. Yes, yes, and you've got all these young nice white liberal people who never heard of Frederick Douglas teaching youteaching you. You ought to go to Brown and teach them who never heard of Abraham Lincoln.
Did you readdid you read? You see if you were reading Malcolm X speech and the Autobiography of Malcolm X, when you hear his name you would jump to your feet. But you don't read it. You don't read it. What you read is what white folk tell you about Malcolm X. He hated people and you don't want to read him and you live in a world filled with white people who hate you. And you read aboutyou read about people who are filled with hate telling you that a black man hated white folk and you don't want to read him and you read a white man full of hate against you. You ought to read the primary source for yourself that's what you're in school for.
You have got to know the truth about yourself. The world is moving around us. Every student group around the world is moving for their liberation except us. We're sitting like bumps on a log waiting for white people to come and help us, help us.
You ought to recognize what's going on in that Vietnamese War. Here they taking you, training you to be a soldier, making you shine your shoes until three o'clock in the morning, going 8,000 miles to shoot a man and he ain't never called you a nigger. Yeah.
Now we are not only opposed the war in Vietnam, we're opposed to compulsory conscription. We are against the draft. Now we're against the draft for anybody-black or white.
Now we recognize that when we say, "Hell no," they will say that we should go to jail. Don't be afraid. It is much better to be confined in jail knowing that you have not killed anybody than to be walking outside a murderera murderera murderer. We must save our humanity-we must. If this country wants to bomb the rest of the world, let them. We will tell them the war in Vietnam is for the birds-Lynda Bird, Lady Bird, Lucy
Bird-the birds, the birds, the birds.
(Crowd begins chant, "Hell no, we ain't going" and Carmichael joins in on the, "We ain't going." Chant lasts ten minutes.)
We will tell them. We will tell them that this generation is out of breath. We will face them wherever they come; any time they come. Black power!