[Sixth National Conference of Friends on Race Relations Booklet] Page: 5 of 16
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Motivations and Methods of White Power
I have been asked to talk on the motivations and
methods of white power.
The motivation part is easy and brief. It is to pre-
vent Negroes from having access to opportunity and
power so that these will be retained for whites.
When I speak of 'white power' I am not talking ex-
clusively about 'an establishment' or a 'white power
structure'. I am talking about all of us who are white.
White power isn't just something that is exercised by
the George Wallaces. It permeates our entire society.
Even if we don't knowingly participate in efforts to
keep Negroes from having access to opportunity and
power, we are partners in the enterprise by our silence,
and by our acceptance of the assumption that Negroes
are second class citizens (and as a corollary ought to be
grateful for all the progress).
This basic assumption by white America constitutes
an arrogance so accepted that it isn't even recognized-
as when the reporter asked the astronaut that obscene
question "Would you mind going into space with a
Negro?" I think to most people it seemed a perfectly
natural question. Keeping that a natural question is a
goal and a result of white power.
I mention this involvement of us all, in the begin-
ning of my remarks so that it will be clear that I am
not talking about some 'bad guys' who are throwing
road-blocks to thwart a national commitment. We
have no national commitment. Officially, yes, but
temperamentally and practically, no.
When white power blocks Negro access to opportun-
ity and power they are carrying out the national will..
And it is being done the American Way: We can feel
good about the great strides that have been made to-
ward eliminating discrimination, the civil rights acts,
the executive orders, court decisions, administrative
guidelines and the rhetoric. And at the same time we
still don't have integrated schools. Negroes are not
competing for white jobs. The lily-white suburbs are
thriving. The black ghettos in our inner cities are
So we have the situation that the white people think
we have made great strides, while the great bulk of the
Negroes see little improvement. This is white power in
Some people blame a phenomenon known as the
white backlash for what they call the hardening of
white resistence. I doubt if there has been much hard-
ening of white resistence. I don't think there had ever
been much softening of it.
We have moments of moral indignation and high
profession. We like to do good. It was during one of
these interludes that we got a rush of civil rights mea-
sures. We didn't like the idea of dogs biting Negroes,
especially on television. And anyway, we believe in
equal opportunity-we have always said so.
So we passed the laws. But I doubt if we ever se-
riously intended to change the basic status of Negroes
as second class citizens. Such a commitment, if we
ever make it, is in the future.
Butwe have a highly developed skill of seeming to
make changes and then after interest subsides, finding
a way to get around what appeared to be a new set of
rules. In the last few years this talent has been utilized
with remarkable success. Seeming to do something
while not really doing anything is a much used tactic.
It comes into play when the forces demanding change
create a climate that requires action.
Now for a broad look at white power. There is an in-
terlocking financial and political network that operates
from a well-understook set of premises. It works to see
that 'right-thinking' people and people that can be
'counted on' are advanced, or are given contracts and
loans, and in general have the prerogatives and bene-
fits of being part of the establishment.
To keep the establishment white is only a small part
of their aim. In fact, until recently, they took that so
much for granted, that they were probably not aware
of it-just automatically did the things that would
keep it white.
The purpose is to maintain control of the accesses to
opportunity and power and to use power for their own
benefit. There is a tight network of economic and social
pressures that is perfectly programmed to respond to
any deviation from white power standard behavior. It
will go into action against any group that shows signs
of storming these heights. Fifty years ago there was
even a flurry of concern about women-but they soon
contained that threat.
There is an effort to maintain conditions that will
keep such ideas from hatching. I think this is back of
our national policy of maintaining poverty by support-
ing a sub-standard welfare program that guarantees
that its recipients will riot graduate to the mainstream
of our society. The desperately poor don't cause much
I think it is back of our allowing the public school
system to deteriorate so alarmingly. I think it is back
of our failure to implement the Full Employment Act
of 1946 which mandated the federal government to
utilize its resources to maintain full employment. For
a number of reasons the establishment doesn't really
want full employment.
It is certainly responsible for our becoming such a
military nation. Wars (hot and cold) are the best sup-
porters of our dominant industrial-military complex.
But then, in a different way, so are school teachers
and social workers. They are agents of the establish-
ment and help to keep going the myths, attitudes and
adjustments that keep the American poor the most
Here’s what’s next.
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[Sixth National Conference of Friends on Race Relations Booklet], text, July 1967; (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth595342/m1/5/: accessed May 27, 2020), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Southern University.