Toni Morrison

A majestic canonical literarti

You know I too, like Toni Morrison, refuse to be a victim of the vanity and insanity of whiteness. I have been a casualty many times over from its callousness but never will I become a victim of their hoaxes and get caught up in the illegitimacy of such constructed identities.

To keep alive the perception of white superiority, these white Americans tuck their heads under cone-shaped hats and American flags and deny themselves the dignity of face-to-face confrontation, training their guns on the unarmed, the innocent, the scared, on subjects who are running away, exposing their unthreatening backs to bullets. Surely, shooting a fleeing man in the back hurts the presumption of white strength? The sad plight of grown white men, crouching beneath their (better) selves, to slaughter the innocent during traffic stops, to push black women’s faces into the dirt, to handcuff black children. Only the frightened would do that. Right?

These sacrifices, made by supposedly tough white men, who are prepared to abandon their humanity out of fear of black men and women, suggest the true horror of lost status.

It may be hard to feel pity for the men who are making these bizarre sacrifices in the name of white power and supremacy. Personal debasement is not easy for white people (especially for white men), but to retain the conviction of their superiority to others — especially to black people — they are willing to risk contempt, and to be reviled by the mature, the sophisticated, and the strong. If it weren’t so ignorant and pitiful, one could mourn this collapse of dignity in service to an evil cause.

The comfort of being “naturally better than,” of not having to struggle or demand civil treatment, is hard to give up. The confidence that you will not be watched in a department store, that you are the preferred customer in high-end restaurants — these social inflections, belonging to whiteness, are greedily relished. — Mourning Whiteness, Toni Morrison, Nov 2016, The New Yorker

Reconstructing the truth by leaving out the most pertinent or rather indisputable, while idyllicizing their providence creates a narrative so dubious as to promulgate the greatest and widest form of self-deception. The faux identity of whiteness is enmeshed in a lie that provides no other alternative but to believe in a faulty construct because to not believe in it portends a collapse and disappearance under the rubble of humanity’s abyss of mere existence.

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.

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. The candidate whose company has been sued by the Justice Department for not renting apartments to black people. The candidate who questioned whether Barack Obama was born in the United States, and who seemed to condone the beating of a Black Lives Matter protester at a campaign rally. The candidate who kept black workers off the floors of his casinos. The candidate who is beloved by David Duke and endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan.

I cannot and will not sympathize or find meaning in the motivated ignorance that whiteness espouses or inspires. The tragedy in its insistence is lost on me no matter how expressly held its worldview.

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It appears the more that I write the better I perceive.

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