“I want to feel what I feel. Even if it’s not happiness” - Toni Morrison
Toni Morrison Takes White Supremacy To Task
Few intellectuals have waged a public battle against white supremacy and patriarchy like Toni Morrison. Morrison has both examined and challenged systems of domination throughout her intellectual life. With her novels, essays, and interviews she has taken critical looks at the interlocking systems of race and gender oppression. In this interview she is asked by PBS’s Charlie Rose what it is like for her to encounter racism. In true Morrison fashion she turns the question on its head, and places the onus for explaining racism back into the hands of White people. She asks Rose what he thinks of racism, why do Whites hold onto, and what are they going to do about it ending it. She rejects the notion that racism is simply something that Black people must grapple with, insisting, demanding, that White people also grapple with it. Fearless. Brilliant. Powerful.
Toni Morrison: I never use anyone I know. In The Bluest Eye I think I used some gestures and dialogue of my mother in certain places, and a little geography. I’ve never done that since. I really am very conscientious about that. It’s never based on anyone. I don’t do what many writers do.
Interviewer: Why is that?
Toni Morrison: There is this feeling that artists have—photographers, more than other people, and writers—that they are acting like a succubus … this process of taking from something that’s alive and using it for one’s own purposes. You can do it with trees, butterflies, or human beings. Making a little life for oneself by scavenging other people’s lives is a big question, and it does have moral and ethical implications.
In fiction, I feel the most intelligent, and the most free, and the most excited, when my characters are fully invented people. That’s part of the excitement. If they’re based on somebody else, in a funny way it’s an infringement of a copyright. That person owns his life, has a patent on it. It shouldn’t be available for fiction.