From Alice Walker, poet, activist and the author of many works including The Color Purple (1982). This was the conclusion of a piece published in the recent 150th anniversary edition of The Nation:
What can the white man say to the black woman?
Only one thing that the black woman might hear.
Yes, indeed, the white man can say, your children have the right to life. Therefore I will call back from the dead those 30 million who were tossed overboard during the centuries of the slave trade. And the other millions who died in my cotton fields and hanging from my trees.
I will recall all those who died of broken hearts and broken spirits, under the insult of segregation.
I will tell you, black woman, that I wish to be forgiven the sins I commit daily against you and your children. For I know that until I treat your children with love, I can never be trusted by my own. Nor can I respect myself. I will look at your children and see not a threat but a joy.
I will remove myself as an obstacle in the path that your children, against all odds, are making toward the light. I will not assassinate them for dreaming dreams and offering new visions of how to live. I will cease trying to lead your children, for I can see I have never understood where I was going. I will agree to sit quietly for a century or so, and meditate on this.
This is what the white man can say to the black woman.