[News] Making America White Again By Toni Morrison - Rest in Power!

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Tue Aug 6 13:36:59 EDT 2019


https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/11/21/making-america-white-again?fbclid=IwAR0-2BbqwlI43fxavWBxkuhXc6pAQnjZ51UoAhDCogBqJq-wHKN3258THzM 



  Making America White Again

By Toni Morrison - November 14, 2016
------------------------------------------------------------------------

This is a serious project. All immigrants to the United States know (and 
knew) that if they want to become real, authentic Americans they must 
reduce their fealty to their native country and regard it as secondary, 
subordinate, in order to emphasize their whiteness. Unlike any nation in 
Europe, the United States holds whiteness as the unifying force. Here, 
for many people, the definition of “Americanness” is color.

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. And what then? Another black President? A 
predominantly black Senate? Three black Supreme Court Justices? The 
threat is frightening.

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. 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. Much as they may hate their behavior, and 
know full well how craven it is, they are willing to kill small children 
attending Sunday school and slaughter churchgoers who invite a white boy 
to pray. Embarrassing as the obvious display of cowardice must be, they 
are willing to set fire to churches, and to start firing in them while 
the members are at prayer. And, shameful as such demonstrations of 
weakness are, they are willing to shoot black children in the street.

To keep alive the perception of white superiority, these white Americans 
tuck their heads under cone-shaped hats and American flags and deny 
themselves the dignity of face-to-face confrontation, training their 
guns on the unarmed, the innocent, the scared, on subjects who are 
running away, exposing their unthreatening backs to bullets. 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. Only the 
frightened would do that. Right?

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.

It may be hard to feel pity for the men who are making these bizarre 
sacrifices in the name of white power and supremacy. Personal debasement 
is not easy for white people (especially for white men), but to retain 
the conviction of their superiority to others—especially to black 
people—they are willing to risk contempt, and to be reviled by the 
mature, the sophisticated, and the strong. If it weren’t so ignorant and 
pitiful, one could mourn this collapse of dignity in service to an evil 
cause.

The comfort of being “naturally better than,” of not having to struggle 
or demand civil treatment, is hard to give up. The confidence that you 
will not be watched in a department store, that you are the preferred 
customer in high-end restaurants—these social inflections, belonging to 
whiteness, are greedily relished.

So scary are the consequences of a collapse of white privilege that many 
Americans have flocked to a political platform that supports and 
translates violence against the defenseless as strength. These people 
are not so much angry as terrified, with the kind of terror that makes 
knees tremble.

On Election Day, how eagerly so many white voters—both the poorly 
educated and the well educated—embraced the shame and fear sowed by 
Donald 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.

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. ♦

/This article appears as part of a larger feature, “Aftermath: Sixteen 
Writers on Trump’s America 
<http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/11/21/aftermath-sixteen-writers-on-trumps-america>,” 
in the November 21, 2016, issue./

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