Richard Wright on the Dallas and Baton Rouge shootings
If I were a member of the class that rules, I would post men in all the neighborhoods of the nation, not to spy upon or club rebellious workers, not to break strikes or disrupt unions; but to ferret out those who no longer respond to the system in which they live. I would make it known that the real danger does not stem from those who seek to grab their share of wealth through force, or from those who try to defend their property through violence, for both of these groups, by their affirmative acts, support the values of the system in which they live. The millions that I would fear are those who do not dream of the prizes that the nation holds forth, for it is in them, though they may not know it, that a revolution has taken place and is biding its time to translate itself into a new and strange way of life.
I feel that the Negroes’ relation to America is symbolically peculiar, and from the Negroes’ ultimate reactions to their trapped state a lesson can be learned about America’s future. Negroes are told in a language they cannot possibly misunderstand that their native land is not their own; and when they, acting upon impulses which they share with whites, try to assert a claim to their birthright, whites retaliate with terror, never pausing to consider the consequences should the Negroes give up completely. They never dream that they would face a situation far more terrifying if they were confronted by Negroes who made no claims at all than by those who are buoyed by social aggressiveness. My knowledge of how Negroes react to their plight makes me declare that no man can possibly be individually guilty of treason, that an insurgent act is but a man’s desperate answer to those who twist his environment so that he cannot fully share the spirit of his native land. Treason is a crime of the state.
–from American Hunger (1944)