Toni Morrison stretched my consciousness across continents of pain like no other writer. The recent gift of her essay, The Origin of Others, spells it out for us. We not born racist: racism is taught. She reminds us of how she exposes “colorism” whether black, white or brown in her novels. “Race” is an invention dressed up as “scientific” to justify discrimination and exploitation, where the suffering imposed on others bounces back through the generations. She quotes Harriet Jacobs who described the brutalisation of the slave trade in 1861 in her Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl,
“I can testify from my own experience and observation, that slavery is a curse to the whites as well as to the blacks. It makes the white fathers cruel and sensual; the sons violent and licentious; it contaminates the daughters; and makes the wives wretched.”
Toni Morrison also cradled in me a sense of our common humanity, which can transcend racism, sectarianism, nationalism and sexism. We can all join the resistance to the manipulation of our consciousness. We can reject the brutality of the division into Us and Them by increasing our awareness of the connections between ourselves and others. We can develop new forms of solidarity and networking. We can open our minds, open our hearts and open our wallets to honor her legacy.
The Origin of Others, pub Harvard University Press 2017 ISBN978-0-674-97645-0