The Source of Self-Regard | Toni Morrison

Summary of: The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations
By: Toni Morrison

Introduction

Dive into the profound thoughts of an icon in American literature, Toni Morrison, with ‘The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations’. This anthology encapsulates her powerful views on race, literature, politics, love, social responsibility, and her creative processes. Unfolding her remarkable insights on racism, fascism, and the historical representation of African-American experiences, Morrison provides an invaluable collection of wisdom that transcends time. With her ability to effortlessly blend the artistry of her novels with the philosophical messages they carry, the powerful words of Toni Morrison continue to inspire generations.

Toni Morrison’s Unfettered Views

This anthology features a collection of speeches and public appearances made by Toni Morrison that reflect her perspectives on love, literature, race, social responsibility, and politics. Morrison, who passed away in 2019, is a celebrated author and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993. Her artistry allowed her to disappear into her stories and characters, making this compilation of her direct statements a valuable insight into her creative processes. If you are a fan of Morrison’s novels, you’ll find her views on Beloved, Sula, and Jazz, among others, just as compelling and insightful.

The Danger of Racism and Fascism

According to Morrison, racists and fascists are like “twins,” both fearing democratic processes and seeking to privatize public services. Fascism is just marketing disguised as ideology and can thrive in any political structure. Morrison also highlights the tendency of people to focus on differences, causing the mistreatment of Black Americans in the US who are treated as foreigners in their own country.

Overcoming Racism

In her assessment, Morrison argued that historians and economists fail to consider perspectives beyond their own. She claimed that racial stereotypes are perpetuated by public discourse and lead to the “othering” of Black Americans. Morrison found this tragic, and believed that language used to reinforce power structures, such as policing languages of mastery, prevent new knowledge. In 1998, Morrison encouraged Sarah Lawrence graduates to prioritize seeking solutions to racism over personal happiness, emphasizing that racism is a learned behavior that can be unlearned.

Morrison’s Imagined World

Morrison’s literary and intellectual universe is a world free from racial discrimination. She acknowledged the role of race in issues like alienation, exile, forced labor, and migration but didn’t get stuck in racism. She envisioned a world where anyone could walk without fear, a “world-as-home.”

Diversifying American Literature

Acclaimed author Toni Morrison challenges the traditional US literary canon, highlighting its sexist and racist tendencies. Morrison advocates for the African-American experience to be central to American literature and for the integration of African-American works. She points out the negative portrayal of black populations by early American writers, depicting them as flawed and lacking freedom or rights. Morrison urges us to embrace our humanity, warning against the danger of losing it, and reminds us that a heart without empathy is no heart at all.

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