You’ll Weep When Listening to Toni Morrison’s Nobel Lecture From 1993

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In Toni Morrison’s phenomenal 1993 Nobel speech she discusses the process by which “the language she dreams in” is “put into service” and how that language is used as “agency… an act with consequences.” Of her major concerns during the speech are forms of “narcissistic” and “policing” language that do nothing to hasten the evolution of the individual by way of storytelling. In contrast, such language preserves privilege, thereby becoming a “husk” of what language once was and what it was used on behalf of.

Language should not “provide shelter for despots”, but should instead be used for three main reasons; “grappling with meaning, providing guidance, or expressing love.” Language itself is violence when wielded as agency for oppression, misrepresentation, or the dumbing down of the populace. Here Morrison describes how use of language can skew and subjugate:

The systematic looting of language can be recognized by the tendency of its users to forgo its nuanced, complex, mid-wifery properties for menace and subjugation. Oppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence; does more than represent the limits of knowledge; it limits knowledge. Whether it is obscuring state language or the faux-language of mindless media; whether it is the proud but calcified language of the academy or the commodity driven language of science; whether it is the malign language of law-without-ethics, or language designed for the estrangement of minorities, hiding its racist plunder in its literary cheek – it must be rejected, altered and exposed. It is the language that drinks blood, laps vulnerabilities, tucks its fascist boots under crinolines of respectability and patriotism as it moves relentlessly toward the bottom line and the bottomed-out mind. Sexist language, racist language, theistic language – all are typical of the policing languages of mastery, and cannot, do not permit new knowledge or encourage the mutual exchange of ideas.

You can view the video below or access it directly here.

Here Are 10 Warnings Martin Luther King Jr. Gave Black People About White People

 

After Martin Luther King Jr.’s death, he was immediately homogenized by people seeking to co-opt his legacy. King was, however, an icon who thought deeply about the issues that plagued the black community and the role white America had played to bring about those circumstances. Listed below are some of the criticisms King made of white America, may of which still feel relevant today.

1.) White People Never Truly Sought an End to Discrimination

With Selma and the Voting Rights Act one phase of development in the civil rights revolution came to an end. A new phase opened, but few observers realized it or were prepared for its implications. For the vast majority of white Americans, the past decade—the first phase—had been a struggle to treat the Negro with a degree of decency, not of equality. White America was ready to demand that the Negro should be spared the lash of brutality and coarse degradation, but it had never been truly committed to helping him out of poverty, exploitation or all forms of discrimination.

2.) White People Will Abandon You

When Negroes looked for the second phase, the realization of equality, they found that many of their white allies had quietly disappeared.

3.) Never Take White People at Their Word

The Negroes of America had taken the President, the press and the pulpit at their word when they spoke in broad terms of freedom and justice. But the absence of brutality and unregenerate evil is not the presence of justice. To stay murder is not the same thing as to ordain brotherhood. The word was broken, and the free-running expectations of the Negro crashed into the stone walls of white resistance.

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4.) White People Believe in a Fantasy World

The majority of white Americans sincerely committed to justice for the Negro. They believe that American society is essentially hospitable to fair play and to steady growth toward a middle-class Utopia embodying racial harmony. But unfortunately this is a fantasy of self-deception and comfortable vanity. Overwhelmingly Americais still struggling with irresolution and contradictions.

5.) White People Are Bonded to the Status Quo

As the nation passes from opposing ex-tremist behavior to the deeper and more pervasive elements of equality, white America rearms its bonds to the statusquo. It had contemplated comfortably hugging the shorelinebut now fears that the winds of change are blowing it outto sea.

6.) White People Want Equality for Blacks, So Long as It Doesn’t Cost Them Anything

The practical cost of change for the nation up to this point has been cheap. The limited reforms have been obtained at bargain rates. There are no expenses, and no taxes are required, for Negroes to share lunch counters, libraries, parks, hotels and other facilities with whites.

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7.)  White People Don’t Even Understand What Equality Means

But most whites in America in 1967, including many persons of goodwill, proceed from a premise that equality is a loose expression for improvement.

8.) White America Really Only Seeks to Hide Inequality, Not Fix It

White America is not even psychologically organized to close the gap—essentially it seeks only to make it less painful and less obvious but in most respects to retain it.

9.) White People Don’t Believe They Have Anything to Learn

Whites, it must frankly be said, are not putting in a similar mass effort to reeducate themselves out of their racial ignorance. It is an aspect of their sense of superiority that the white people of America believe they have so little to learn.

10.) Whites Believe Blacks Have Come Far Enough

He remembers that with each modest advance the white population promptly raises the argument that the Negro has come far enough. Each step forward accents an ever-present tendency to backlash.

All of Martin Luther King’s quotes were taken from Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? (King Legacy)

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