Following legendary author Toni Morrison’s death, one of her interviews has been going viral for her unwavering commitment to calling out racism.
Morrison sat down with journalist Jana Wendt in 1998 for the program “Toni Morrison: Uncensored,” addressing topics including her Nobel Prize and racism. When Wendt asked the author when she would “incorporate white lives” into her books “in a substantial way,” Morrison hit back with a profoundly salient response.
“You can’t understand how powerfully racist that question is, can you?” she asked. “You could never ask a white author, ‘When are you going to write about Black people?’ Whether he did or not, or she did or not. Even the inquiry comes from a position of being in the center.’”
“It’s inconceivable that where I already am is the mainstream,” Morrison added.
Wendt attempted to walk back her question, saying, “It’s a question of the subject of your narrative. Whether you want to alter the parameters of it, whether you see any benefit in doing that or will you clearly see disadvantages in doing it from your own point of view?”
Morrison responded by making a comparison to being a Russian author who writes about Russia in Russian for Russians.
“The fact that it gets translated and read by other people is a benefit, it’s a plus. but he’s not obliged to ever consider writing about French people, or Americans, or anybody.”
Many across the internet have praised Morrison’s wit in the clip, which has been retweeted thousands of times, lauding the author’s ability to teach the interviewer a powerful lesson.
The author died at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City on Monday night, a spokeswoman for Knopf, her publisher, said in a statement.
Morrison, who was 88, was a trailblazer in the arts, winning not only the Nobel Prize in literature but also the Pulitzer Prize in fiction. She dedicated her career to centering the lives and histories of Black Americans.