[Trigger Warning: Some ableist speech]
What’s also interesting in this discussion is the ways in which Charlie Rose tries to reassert white supremacy through this discussion, first by comparing Morrison’s father to white racists (false equivalence) and then by demanding that Morrison give white people the answers.
Morrison’s ninja sword is deft, though. And she crouching tiger, hidden dragons his ass in response.
Toni Morrison: Yes I do, Charlie. But let tell you: That’s the wrong question.
Charlie Rose: Okay, what’s the right question?
TM: How do YOU feel? Not you “Charlie Rose,”
TM: But don’t you understand that the people who do this thing, who practice racism, are BEREFT. There is something distorted about the psyche. It’s a huge waste, and it’s a corruption, and a distortion. It’s like it’s a profound neurosis that nobody examines for what it is. It feels crazy; it IS crazy. AND it leaves, it has just as much of a deleterious effect on white people—and possibly, equal—as it does black people. I always knew that I had the moral high ground, all my life. I always thought those people who said I couldn’t come in the drugstore and I had to sit in all these funny places, I couldn’t go in the park…
CR: You felt morally superior to them from day one.
TM: I did! And I thought they knew that I knew that they were inferior to me—morally. I always thought that. And my parents always thought that.
CR: You said your father was racist ‘cause he always felt like he was superior.
TM: He always felt, that’s right. He always felt superior. And that was a FORM, you know, of DEFENSIVE racism. But if the racist white person—I don’t mean the person who is examining his consciousness and so on—doesn’t understand that he or she is also a RACE, it’s also CONSTRUCTED, it’s also MADE, and it also has some sort of serviceability. But when you take it away, if I take your race away, and there you are, all strung out, and all you’ve got is your little self. And WHAT is that? What are you without racism? Are you any good? Are you still strong? Are you still smart? You still like yourself? I mean, these are the questions. Part of it is: Yes, the victim. How terrible it is for black people.
CR: Yeah, but you don’t like that.
TM: I’m NOT a victim! I refuse to be one.
CR: And the victim is the other person, you know, who is morally inferior and who has to hold onto…
TM: That’s worth…that’s a serious question.
TM: Of course!
CR: for his or her own…
TM: If you have to hold on, that’s right.
CR: …somehow, for his or her own self-esteem and definition.
TM: If you can only be tall because somebody’s on their knees, then you have a serious problem. And my feeling is white people have a very, very serious problem. And THEY should start thinking about what THEY should do about it. Take me OUT of it.
CR: Then GIVE white people some free advice.
TM: [Guffaws] They’re all in my books.
bolded for emphasis.