Feb 22

For Black History Month, Some Words about Racism from Shriver and King

by Sargent Shriver Peace Institute | 02/22/2021 4:12PM | Quote of the Week | Racial Justice | Civil Rights


Our Quotes of the Week stand together as a stark reminder: that racism causes us to exploit and harm Black Americans first and foremost, but that ultimately, it damages all of us, and particularly those who are struggling economically.

In honor of Black History Month, we wanted to pair a quote by Sargent Shriver with one by Dr. King. These two servant leaders both participated in the struggle for civil rights, justice, economic opportunity, and peacebuilding in the United States. Although the two walked different paths in life and had different styles, their thoughts and words certainly complemented each other, as these quotes show.

Sargent Shriver's quote, from his keynote address at the First National Catholic Conference for Interracial Justice in 1958, underlines that a material need for cheap labor as well as a psychological desire for superiority explain, as Shriver calls them, "the roots of racism". Shriver sees racism as a sin, and he stresses that to overcome racism we must embrace our spiritual selves and to have a mission of "interracial justice and charity".

Similarly, Dr. King categorizes racism as one of "three evils", along with poverty and war, in his 1967 speech of the same name. Just as Shriver refers to a material need for a cheap labor supply, King makes a similar reference, to the capitalistic system that was born out of the exploitation of slavery. And King makes explicit what Shriver only implies: that ultimately, the systems built by racism continue to bring exploitation and suffering to "both black and white, both here and abroad."

Indeed, while discriminatory policies and practices that are rooted in racism, in everything from banking to health care to housing to criminal justice, disproportionately affect Black Americans and other people of color, they ultimately affect a broader swath of society. Racism stunts our social and intellectual growth, results in fewer resources for our communities, and has real-world economic implications for all of us. Until we internalize the truly insidious nature and broad reach of racism, until we accept that is a scourge for all of us, and until we all adopt an actively anti-racist stance, we will not be able the eliminate the sin, the evil, of racism.

Like these quotes? Read Sargent Shriver's speech here, and Dr. King's quote here.  And subscribe to receive our Quote of the Week by email.

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