Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison penned an essay this week arguing that President-elect Donald Trump was elected because Americans are terrified of the “collapse of white privilege.”
In her piece for the New Yorker titled, “Mourning For Whiteness,” Ms. Morrison claimed the United States is unique in that it “holds whiteness as the unifying force” among its citizens.
“Here, for many people, the definition of ‘Americanness’ is color,” she wrote. “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.
“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,” she continued. “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.”
Ms. Morrison, 85, went on to highlight the police-involved shootings of black men across the country.
“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,” she wrote. “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.”
Ms. Morrison scolded the white voters who embraced the “shame and fear sowed” by Mr. 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,” she wrote.
“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,” she concluded.
Ms. Morrison won a Pulitzer Prize in 1988 for “Beloved” and the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993. In 2012, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama.
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