November 18, 2016

Toni Morrison in The New Yorker: "Making America White Again/The choices made by white men, who are prepared to abandon their humanity out of fear of black men and women, suggest the true horror of lost status."

Spoiler alert if you haven't read William Faulkner's "Absalom, Absalom," but Morrison seems to think it's valuable in understanding what just happened in the election. Here's how her essay ends:
On Election Day, how eagerly so many white voters—both the poorly educated and the well educated—embraced the shame and fear sowed by Donald Trump....

William Faulkner understood this better than almost any other American writer. In “Absalom, Absalom,” incest is less of a taboo for an upper-class Southern family than acknowledging the one drop of black blood that would clearly soil the family line. Rather than lose its “whiteness” (once again), the family chooses murder.

82 comments:

Gahrie said...

Toni Morrison can fuck off and die. White men have sacrificed their lives for the Black man in America. White men have been the only person you are legally able to discriminate against for nearly 50 years now. The average Black person has a higher standard of living in America better than black people anywhere else in the world. Black people are STILL literally dying to get here.

I would suggest Liberia if living in the US is so disturbing to her.

Big Mike said...

"... valuable in misunderstanding what just happened in the election."

@Althouse, fixed your typo for you

PatHMV said...

This is just getting absurd. I know a LOT of white people in the south, Louisiana to be specific. I know very, very few who are afraid of interracial dating or interracial marriage. In some areas, it can be quite common. It's just lying to paint with the ridiculously broad brush that Morrison uses here.

What people are afraid of, or angry about, is this demonization that Morrison and others are making of them. She (as have any number of others) take the worst examples of racism out there (and nobody denies that there is still racism out there) and uses it to demand fealty to certain political goals or as an example to broadly categorize an entire group of people (Hillary's "deplorables," Morrison's "white men").

Jupiter said...

I agree with the "unconvincing arguments" tag, but I think Morrison may be correct in her understanding of Absalom, Absalom. Faulkner was almost as obsessed with Blackness as Morrison is.

Speaking as a white man who has made a few choices, the fear of black men has played a role in quite a few of them. Black women, not so much.

buwaya puti said...

Toni Morrison is not solely responsible for the general collapse of US education, but she certainly is more personally responsible for this disaster than any other single individual.

Her works are standard classroom reading across the land, and a leading cause of the general collapse of interest in literature and in liberal education as a whole.

I also think that its also her fault that two generations of boys, made bitter in school by being made to read her works, are generally responsible for these now grown men creating the huge market in automatic rifles. If I were made to read her stuff in high school I dont know what I would have been driven to do. I envy these lads their patience and restraint.

rhhardin said...

Blacks still think you get more stuff by agitating than by doing useful things.

Todd said...

As has been noted elsewhere but must be too much of a "white man's truth" [I guess] to register with these naval gazers, is that these "white men that are afraid of blacks and women" are the very same white men that help Obama get elected for two terms. The fact that these same folks prefer an accomplished businessman over a lying, corrupt career politician that happens to be a woman is not that surprising, especially after the last 8 years. This is not rocket science people. Reality does not care one iota for your feelz.

Jupiter said...

But describing the characters in Absalom, Absalom as "an upper-class Southern family" is kind of like describing Toni Morrison as "a noted American flower arranger and yoga enthusiast".

Owen said...

Morrison has no internal throttle. She is famous and people listen raptly to whatever she says. And here comes her favorite topic. On the upside she will gain triple Virtue Points for excoriating Trump and anyone who says a good word about him. On the downside, Trump's refusal to bow to her PC idols presents a yuuuge threat to her franchise.

Expect more of this. A lot, lot more.

Ann Althouse said...

But unlike that rude Bob Dylan, Toni Morrison showed up for the Nobel Prize ceremony and delivered the requisite lecture:

"Be it grand or slender, burrowing, blasting, or refusing to sanctify; whether it laughs out loud or is a cry without an alphabet, the choice word, the chosen silence, unmolested language surges toward knowledge, not its destruction. But who does not know of literature banned because it is interrogative; discredited because it is critical; erased because alternate? And how many are outraged by the thought of a self-ravaged tongue?"

David Begley said...

Could Toni acknowledge the fact that many blacks voted for Trump? Are they racists or uneducated?

Ann Althouse said...

Morrison is 85 years old. She's been an adored icon for a long time. It's hard to imagine what it feels like from inside her mind, but she does send these signals out, for what they're worth.

The Cracker Emcee said...

She nails it. That's exactly what was going on in our house on Election Day!

Terry said...

I read Beloved in an ethnic literature class. It's not bad, but Morrison -- or her narrative voice -- is clearly racist. She believes that White people are racist because they are white people.

The Cracker Emcee said...
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The Cracker Emcee said...
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Mac McConnell said...

My favorite and most knowledgeable authors about the South grew up in Ohio. Wiki tells me that Toni's parents left the South to escape Southern racism by moving to Ohio, the state at the time boasted the largest Klan membership in the USA.

Jupiter said...

Althouse, you want to quote Dylan, quote Dylan. Everybody quotes Dylan. He's a big boy and he can take it. But Morrison is a delicate flower. It's fine to praise her, everyone does, but don't quote her. She is doing the best she can, banned interrogatives and all.

Bob Boyd said...

"Those who forget the lessons of histrionics are doomed to repeat them." – David Burge

Anglelyne said...

AA: She's been an adored icon for a long time.

An immortal testament to the ability of soppy-minded whites to listen to some hack's word salads in rapt admiration, if the hack is black.


buways @8:13am: Very droll, sir.

Seeing Red said...

And if she passes on during the next 4 years, the president should do what?

Sebastian said...

"Be it grand or slender, burrowing, blasting, or refusing to sanctify; whether it laughs out loud or is a cry without an alphabet, the choice word, the chosen silence, unmolested language surges toward knowledge, not its destruction. But who does not know of literature banned because it is interrogative; discredited because it is critical; erased because alternate? And how many are outraged by the thought of a self-ravaged tongue?"

Just had to copy that. OMG. I'll take absent Dylan over present Morrison.

Martha said...

Morrison:"So scary are the consequences of a collapse of white privilege that many Americans have flocked to a political platform that supports and translates violence against the defenseless as strength. These people are not so much angry as terrified, with the kind of terror that makes knees tremble."

Wrong. Just wrong. As off base as Hillary's basket or irredeemable deplorables.
If Trump succeeds, all Americans will benefit—ALL.

Seeing Red said...

Wow, the rag didn't waste any time, what did they do? Call her for a comment while Podesta was conceding?

tola'at sfarim said...

Faulkner revival. First tim kaine introducing hillary, now toni morrison. I guess the south will rise again

Luke Lea said...

Hopefully American politics is shifting to one based on class, not race. Race divides, class unites. It is the one thing all races share in common. If so, this might be one of the last gasps of the ideology of racialism, which views the world through the lens of race.

M Jordan said...

Barack Obama, intentionally or not, hypnotized America. In the last eight years we watched ourselves devolve to a culture where there was only one moral law: Thou shalt not be a racist. From this sprang corollaries such as "White privilege must be acknowledged and checked" and "If you're white, you're racist." Mediocre Black writers such as Janelle Bouie and Ta-Nehisi Coates were awarded grand status and prizes for peddling this message in the hypnotic state America was under.

With a snap of the fingers by Donald Trump the spell was broken. Peddlars of the above message are very unhappy.

MayBee said...

Dear American Left: You are exhausting

jaydub said...

I know it's impossible for a black person to be racist, but, damn, she certainly makes a valiant effort at it.

CJinPA said...

"the poorly educated..."

Her attitude is #WhyYouGotTrump.

CJinPA said...

So scary are the consequences of a collapse of white privilege that many Americans have flocked to a political platform that supports and translates violence against the defenseless as strength.

Reminds me of a Tom Wolf quote: "The dark night of fascism is always descending in the United States and yet lands only in Europe."

The folks lighting the Molotov cocktails keep telling me Trump supporters will turn violent.

Terry said...

Luke Lea said...
"Hopefully American politics is shifting to one based on class, not race. Race divides, class unites."
In the 1920s and 1930s, class was so devisive it was thought that there were only two cures for it: eliminate class altogether (communism) and make class loyalty subordinate to loyalty to the nation (fascism). In England, class even affected the currency. An aristocrat paid the guy who pained his house in pounds (twenty shillings), while he paid the guy who pained his portrait in guineas (one pound + one shilling).

Fernandinande said...

embraced the shame and fear

Aww, that's cute.

Crimso said...

"And if she passes on during the next 4 years, the president should do what?"

Apologize for having killed her. Killed her with his mind rays.

Amadeus 48 said...

Should one compare the way cosseted literary figures see the world with the way that we actually live in it? What I see, for the most part, is people getting on with their lives without giving much thought to race, class, or gender. Issues exist-- and issues arise--but most people live in harmony where their lives intersect. Novelists, dramatists, critics, and others seek out the fault lines to heighten the tension.

It makes a good story, but it is not real life.

I live in a deep blue city in a deep blue state. Most of my friends voted for HRC. Post-election, most of them shrug it off, and wonder whether Trump will do a good job.

Laslo Spatula said...

Excerpt from "Black Blood, Black Seed":

"I'm sorry, Major Adams but -- alas -- I cannot commit to marriage to you."

"Why, Miss Christina? My family is of the best Southern lineage, and you are a Landry, the finest family in this Georgia town."

"I cannot tell you, dear Thomas. It is a secret shame I bear, and I will not soil your name with my transgression."

"Was it another man, Miss Christina? It is the sixties now -- I understand how such a thing can happen."

"Yes, I am sorry to say: it was another man. I was young and foolish."

"Weren't we all young and foolish at some point, Christina? Weren't we all?"

"But there is more..."

"You can tell me, Christina: my very soul is open to you."

"It was a black man, Major Adams. I had inappropriate relations with a black man."

"Oh my..."

"I told you: I do not want to soil your family lineage."

"You... you had a back man's seed in your womb?"

"No, Major Adams, no! I could never do such a heinous thing, even on my worst day."

"Then what is it, Miss Christina? What is this shame that torments you so?"

"God forgive me, but I sucked his man-root."

"By all that is Holy, Miss Christina!"

"Not a day goes by where I don't wish I could take that moment back. I wish I never even saw that big, thick, pulsing black man-root."

"You spit it out, of course."

"No, Major Adams: I am ashamed to say I swallowed."

"You, a fine Southern belle of impeccable ancestors, had a black man's seed swimming in your stomach? Do you not see how wrong that is?"

"I should have thrown myself into the river and drowned."

"That would have been probably for the best. There is no way I can be with you, now; I can never kiss those lips again, knowing they were once around a black man's man-root."

"I am so sorry, Major Adams..."

"One last question, before I go, Miss Christina."

"Yes, Major Adams?"

"Just how big and thick was it...?"


I am Laslo.

Rick said...

How do people become such total fucking idiots?

chickelit said...

jaydub for the win at 8:55AM

madAsHell said...

And how many are outraged by the thought of a self-ravaged tongue?

Wut?

Some people like Obama, Dylan, and Ms. Morrison have the ability to string together words that sound meaningful, but it is an abstract painting, and everyone walks away with a different meaning. I've never understood why this is conflated with genius.

Big Mike said...

It just dawned on me. Toni Morrison equates making America great again with making America white again. Thanks for the clarification, Toni.

damikesc said...

Treat whites like the cause of all problems and we'll begin to vote like any other minority group.

Critical Race Theory isn't going to end up helping blacks at all.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

If you assholes keep appending "white" to every other term I'm afraid I'm going to have to reciprocate. Does that seem fair?

"This old black fool Morrison has clearly lost whatever marbles she had."
"Morrison's black idiocy really should shame people who've been promoting her for decades."

Kinda ugly, huh? Weird that tacking on "white" doesn't strike you guys as ugly in the same way, but I guess we'll all just have to get used to it.

LYNNDH said...

I was hoping that with Obama going the Racism card would disappear. Just too much to hope for I guess. Still, this Thanksgiving we will be giving thanks for the Trump win.

Lyle Smith said...

Shoot, lots of people will believe this.

Kevin said...

Spoiler Alert if you haven't read Camp of the Saints, but...

Peter said...



McCarthyism: "a campaign or practice that endorses the use of unfair and unsubstantiated allegations: 'he practiced McCarthyism long before there was a McCarthy'"

Presumably progressives are too full of self-righteousness to recognize themselves as latter-day McCarthys. Nonetheless, it's a pretty good fit.


The Godfather said...

Morrison must be an "intellectual". Only an "intellectual" would think that the best way to understand the 2016 election is to read a novel that was written 80 years ago about the aftermath of a war that ended 70 years before that.

dda6ga dda6ga said...

If racism becomes just another word there would be a lot of over educated, lazy, no skilled people without rice for their bowls...Morrison is one of them,

" We've gotta protect our phony baloney jobs!"

chrisnavin.com said...

Upon the hearthstone we unfurled the family flag. The last eight years seemed like a wagon-wheel rut in knee-deep mud. It stayed silent a good long while.

Jeb shook his head.

'Well, at least we ain't still...you know'

'You ain't gotta say it, Jeb'

'I will say it...'

'They're just down the road'

'Let's get this thing done' Clark muttered.

'Traditional narratives deny the intersectionality of black bodies in space' Meg offered.

'Oppression and privilege in power dynamics take time to process. Our biases are subtle, our memories long. Activism awakens us towards the arc of History or Herstory, Ourstory, bending towards justice.

-End scene




'

Christopher B said...

When another person looks at a broad set of facts and comes to a different conclusion than you do, you can't figure out their reasoning by looking in a mirror. Just because you rejected Trump due to perception of racism or sexism does not mean someone chose him for those reasons.

traditionalguy said...

Faulkner's South existed 80 years ago. But things have changed here for the last 40 years. Skin color is no longer relevant, and talking about it has become a huge bore.

Her refusal to acknowledge that is irrelevant to life. It is only a political shibolleth in all white northern areas that drag it out to relive their 150 year old Victory over Southern States.

Mac McConnell said...

tola'at sfarim said...
Faulkner revival. First tim kaine introducing hillary, now toni morrison. I guess the south will rise again.

What do three people born in Minnesota, Illinois and Ohio have to do with Faulkner or the South? ;-)

CJinPA said...

Presumably progressives are too full of self-righteousness to recognize themselves as latter-day McCarthys. Nonetheless, it's a pretty good fit.

Try this: every time you hear a claim of "racism," change it to "un-American." Swap "lacking tolerance" with "lacking patriotism."

When the Left says "That's not who we are" they're saying, "That's un-American." And they say it enough to make ol' Tail Gunner Joe wince.

Roughcoat said...

I live in dread that someday for some reason I will be forced to read the works of William Faulkner again. And Robert Penn Warren. And Tennessee Williams.

Robert Cook said...

I'm sure that people who live every day dealing with racism--which remains omnipresent in our society, though less overt than 50 years ago--will tend to see racism as the major (if not sole) reason Trump's supporters voted for him. This is a mistake. Surely, there are racists and homophobes and bigots of all stripes among his supporters, but the reason so many supported Trump has to do more with their (accurate) perception of having been abandoned by and condescended to by mainstream Washington--by the "professional" politicians of both parties. Whether the administration is Republican or Democrat, they see jobs fleeing their towns and states, sent overseas, and their local economies crashing as a result. Trump says he'll reverse this, bring the jobs back, and "Make America Great Again." I don't see how it's at all possible he will accomplish that, or if he'll even bother trying. But this resonates with those hurt by the global trade policies that erase domestic jobs. Someone else (not on this blog) said that working class and poor whites and blacks are united by their common class interests, more than they may be disunited by their racial differences. I don't question at all why those blacks who voted for Trump did so. He spoke to the working class and jobless directly, without blaming them for their plight, and plainly stated the truth behind the loss of jobs. Who wouldn't have responded that?

mccullough said...

If you've read Faulkner, Toni Morrison is derivative. She couldn't overcome Faulkner's influence.

mikee said...

That picture of a klansman? I think it is from about 1980 or so. Just about the time the Klan went from a few thousand members nationwide to a few hundred or less, nationwide, as the DOJ prosecuted them into nonexistence. I think the NAACP even got a Klan HQ building in SC in damages for a lawsuit.

Can't even find a modern klansman picture to use?
God, the amazingly high level of racism in America!

Bill said...

"In this last chapter I wish to observe and trace the transformation of American Africanism from its simplistic, though menacing, purposes of establishing hierarchic difference to its surrogate properties as self-reflexive meditations on the loss of the difference, to its lush and fully blossomed existence in the rhetoric of dread and desire."

-- Toni Morrison, Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination

YeeHaw! said...

What a burden racism must be to the racist!

To continually and compulsively evaluate everything through the prism of race -- a prism that distorts more than it clarifies!

To tediously tie every action, every thought, every word, no matter how far remote, to racial differences!

damikesc said...

You know, Trump won because he was the only one who actually ASKED for the vote of the "poor and uneducated". Hillary just mocked them. Sometimes, asking is all that I needed.

Jay Elink said...

"What do three people born in Minnesota, Illinois and Ohio have to do with Faulkner or the South? ;-)"

*********

Well, there is something Flem Snopse-ish about Hillary:

"Flem towers over the book ["The Mansion"], a figure with a marvelous energy for deceit, an almost Jonsonian monomania in pursuit of money."

https://newrepublic.com/article/92609/faulkner-end-road

Darrell said...

Somebody send her a Trump hat.

Deb said...

Hysteria and hyperbole go hand in hand, apparently.

Ambrose said...

Pardon me, but isn't Faulkner a "dead white male"? What does he have to say to any of us living in a diverse multi cultural tolerant society.

tcrosse said...

I'll say it again:
Laslo, you magnificent Bastard !

Unknown said...

The number of white republican voters has barely changed over the last 4 elections. There has been a constant upward trend in inter-racial dating and marriage (and with fewer and fewer incidents for the couples) over the past 30 yrs. Most conservatives I know didn't like Obama for his far left policies, and didn't care much about his race. So how is this about racism?

furious_a said...

Jeebus, it's been only ten days, people. Imagine how the next eight years are going to be. :-(

furious_a said...

McCarthyism: "a campaign or practice that endorses the use of unfair and unsubstantiated allegations

There actually *were* Communists in the State Dept. And Tailgunner Joe is Kathleen Kennedy Townsend's godfather.

Unknown said...

My town is pretty well off and is full of successful immigrants from the middle east, India, and the far east. My library looks like a little UN. Older women in Saris take walks all over. No one cares about race at all. The culture is focused on education and working hard. For example, at 1pm on Sunday when it opens, there are 30 people waiting for the doors to open. It is a great town but people like Morrison would deny that it exists and probably would disapprove.

Sam L. said...

Ahhhh, just what I needed: another reason to ignore Toni Morrison.

hombre said...

After pimping for tribalism for decades lefty bedwetters are in a tizzy because they think "the other" tribe prevailed.

Even if it were true, they have yet to explain without the use of hyperbole and fabulism, why the black tribe, feminist tribe, LGBT tribe, Latino tribe, etc., should be preferred over the white tribe. (It is a white tribe, not a white male tribe. Check the exit polls.)

You know, the tribe that created the country and has carried the weight of it on every significant step of its existence - that tribe.

Robert Cook said...

"Most conservatives I know didn't like Obama for his far left policies...."

Haha! They didn't like him for the wrong reasons then, as he has no left policies, much less far left policies. But then, it seems typical for conservatives get themselves all het up about something that isn't even true!

I dislike him for being a war-mongering centrist who serves the prerogatives of the wealthy elites while telling us all sweet, sweet lies.

Laslo Spatula said...

Excerpt from "Black Blood, Black Seed":

"Miss Christina, I simply cannot believe you and Major Adams have gone your separate ways! He is the most eligible bachelor in the county!"

"I had a secret that, as a Southern Woman of Dignity, I could not let him continue to live unaware, if we were to then be together as Man and Wife."

"A secret? Oh, I LIKE secrets! Let me guess!"

"Oh, Louise! You'd never expect it of me, I assure you."

"Is it that you sucked a black man's man-root and swallowed?"

"Dear God, Louise, how did you know?"

"It's the sixties, Christina, the Country is a-changing: nowadays Major Adams wouldn't leave you for a minor indiscretion with a white man: it would HAVE to be a black man…

"Okay…"

"And you ARE a Southern Woman of Dignity: you would never have baby-making relations with a black man, so it had to be that you sucked his man-root."

"Wow: you're good, Louise…"

"And Major Adams is a prideful man: he MIGHT forgive if you immediately spit it out, but he could NEVER accept you swallowing the seed of a black man. Never."

"Well, Louise, that is what happened, pretty much: I sucked a black man's man-root and swallowed his seed, and now I am destined to be alone and forlorn."

"What did it taste like, Miss Christina?"

"What?"

"The black man's seed: what did it taste like? Was it musky and dirty and slave-y?"

"Slave-y? What is Slave-y?"

"The natural essence of Black People, Christina, you silly! No matter how they wash, the Oil of Slavery still exudes from the pores of their dark, musky skin."

"I do not wish to further this conversation, Louise: I am afraid I have said too much, already."

"But was it monstrous, Christina, this black man's man-root? I hear they can be the length of a horse and as wide as a jar of cling peaches!"

"I will say no more, Louise."

"I bet it WAS monstrous. And I bet when his man-root erupted positively QUARTS of seed went rushing down your delicate throat! It must have been horrifying! Did you feel like you were drowning? Did you feel like you were drowning in a torrent of a black-man's slave-y slave-seed?"

"I am leaving, Louise…"

"Okay, maybe it wasn't gallons: I mean, a pint of seed would STILL be plenty to try and swallow, I imagine, even if it came from a tiny Chinaman…"

"Goodbye, Louise…"

"Goodbye, Christina. I'll see you at the Church Social tomorrow: there shouldn't be any black men THERE…"


I am Laslo.

JaimeRoberto said...

Oh Ms. Morrisson, fuck you.

SukieTawdry said...

Under slave laws, the necessity for color rankings was obvious, but in America today, post-civil-rights legislation, white people’s conviction of their natural superiority is being lost. Rapidly lost. There are “people of color” everywhere, threatening to erase this long-understood definition of America. And what then? Another black President? A predominantly black Senate? Three black Supreme Court Justices? The threat is frightening.

Yes, Toni, there are "people of color" everywhere. Unfortunately for your thesis, at present this serves only to reinforce "white people's conviction of their natural superiority." Mere quantity does not equate with quality. You will need a serious overhaul of black culture if you really expect to see a predominantly black Senate or three black Supreme Court justices. Either that or you will have to take affirmative action to its most absurd extreme.

As always, I prefer to evaluate people individually. But there is a dirty little secret that no one wants to discuss much less acknowledge: when cognitive ability is tested and measured, Asians are superior to whites, whites are superior to Hispanics and Hispanics are superior to blacks. Why don't we ever talk about the Asian threat to our long-understood definition of America?

I worry far less about a loss of "white privilege" than I do about a loss of western culture and values which demonstrably are superior to all the others.

tim maguire said...

I would like to see a poll of how many Clinton voters think "Make America White Again" is an actual Trump slogan. I'd be willing to bet money that it's more than a third. Maybe even more than half.

The Godfather said...

@Tim mcguire: Not only would "more than a third . . . maybe even more than half" of Clinton voters agree that Trump's slogan was "Make America white again", they are the same voters who, 8 years ago, thought that Sarah Palin said that she could see Russia from her house, and so justified their vote against John McCain.

There were/are plenty of good reasons to oppose Trump's candidacy, but the dumb-as-a-bag-of-hammers Hillary supporters were satisfied by non-good-reasons.

tim maguire said...

@godfather. Funny you should bring that up. Just this morning i called out a poster on techdirt for spreading that canard. Most people in the comments attacked me because while it might not be the truth, it is truthy. And that's good enough.

Unknown said...

So tired of this lying crap. Toni Morrison screw you.

Brad said...

The complete absence of any self-awareness exhibited by some racists calling other people racists would be funny if there wasn't so much at stake.

Toni Morrison, you want to see a bigot - start with the person in the mirror.

Gahrie said...

Haha! They didn't like him for the wrong reasons then, as he has no left policies, much less far left policies

Go easy on Cookie folks. From the perspective of Comrade Cookie and his handlers, this is true.

rcocean said...

Toni Morrison is an affirmative action baby. If she was a "he" - or a white female no on one would've heard of her. Read Faulkner and then read her crap.

Harsh but true. That her political thoughts are as puerile as her novels comes as no surprise.