One of nation's most extraordinary literary visionaries takes on the topic of white superiority with a profound op-ed for The New Yorker.
Taking on the issue of the crumbling state of self-proclaimed white superiority in America, Morrison paints a vivid picture of the country’s current, troubling disposition through honest words that have never rang truer with a looming Trump presidency on the horizon. “Unlike any nation in Europe, the United States holds whiteness as the unifying force,” Morrison writes. “Here, for many people, the definition of “Americanness” is color.”
The iconic author then elaborates further, providing a thourough examination of the belief that America has been primarily associated exclusively with whiteness for decades, before noting how the post-civil rights era has slowly but surely contributed to the demise of that notion — much to the dismay of the many white people who have found comfort in it for much of their lives. “Under slave laws, the necessity for color rankings was obvious,” she adds. “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.”
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Touching briefly on the many unlawful and disturbing incidents in recent history that saw people of color targeted with attacks at the hands of white Americans, Morrison identifies the often-fatal encounters as twisted coping mechanisms of sorts, employed by some white people to deal with the reality of their fading privilege.
“In order to limit the possibility of this untenable change, and restore whiteness to its former status as a marker of national identity, a number of white Americans are sacrificing themselves. They have begun to do things they clearly don’t really want to be doing, and, to do so, they are (1) abandoning their sense of human dignity and (2) risking the appearance of cowardice,” she writes. “Much as they may hate their behavior, and know full well how craven it is, they are willing to kill small children attending Sunday school and slaughter churchgoers who invite a white boy to pray. Embarrassing as the obvious display of cowardice must be, they are willing to set fire to churches, and to start firing in them while the members are at prayer. And, shameful as such demonstrations of weakness are, they are willing to shoot black children in the street.”
Pivoting slightly as her thought-provoking piece nears its’ end, Morrison later highlights the connection between the organic dismantling of white superiority and the 2016 election. “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,” she writes, referencing Donald Trump’s highly offensive presidential campaign. “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.”
Read the full version of this powerful op-ed here. And trust us, you’ll be more than glad you did.
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