Oct 05

Toni's view of the world.

I feel I must respond. For those of you who don't know me, for 13 years I used to haunt this space; I was the YWP Janitor.

A long time ago, too many years to remember, I picked up a book, Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison. It had just been published. I started in the afternoon and I finished shortly after dawn. It mesmorized me. It captivated me. It opened a window into a world I did not know, cannot know, can never possibly know because I am a white man. This was a black world, a women's world, a magical unfamiliar world. In today's parlance, I was woke.

I wish I could have had the opportunity to thank her.

I did the next best thing. I read every single one of her books. And this summer, several weeks before she died, I started re-reading her works. I started with Beloved. You must read this. You must.

Because that is all we can do at this point in history. Well, not all. We can read history, we can read black scholars. We can see documentaries like 13th, we can read the NYTimes 1619 series. We can listen to the This Land podcast and learn of other peoples of color. You don't need a list. Just dig in. And listen. Listen to black poets and writers, musicians and activists. Have you ever heard of Eldridge Cleaver? We can reach out to people who are different and learn who they are as human beings. We can listen more than we talk. We can understand that she is right; Toni Morrison is right. This is a white world.

In interview once, Toni Morrison was asked if she was ever going to include white characters in her novel.

That's the most racist question I've ever been asked, she responded.

It was. So we must think about what we ask and how we ask it. We must understand that its the white person's burden to be informed, to watch, to learn, to understand. To practice empathy. To give way.

And that's what so many people are afraid of right now. And why now, more than at any time in my life, racism and intolerance and ignorance are surface level. Right there in front of us. Don't bend.