Toni Morrison: ‘We used to be called citizens. Now we’re called taxpayers’

Alex Needham in The Guardian:

On forgiveness

Tony“The really vile and violent and bestial treatment of slaves and their descendants did not succeed in making those descendants reproduce that violence and that corruption and that bestiality. It’s contemporary, but the survivors and the family members who were killed in that church [in Charleston] did not say of the killer ‘I want him dead’ – it was something grander and more humane. It was eloquent and elegant, the response of forgiveness. We sometimes understand that generosity, and I’m not going to tear you up, as a kind of weakness whereas I always thought that that was extreme strength.”

On her experience of community in the deep south

“When we were travelling in the south, there were carriages where black people sat but the most important thing was the porters, who gave you twice as much orange juice and four sandwiches and two pillows – they were so excessively generous and kind that it was like a luxury car. I was thinking not too long ago that when I was at Cornell and I saw a black man I would run toward him – then I thought that these days, with all the discussion about black men as threats, I may not do that. But I certainly wouldn’t run toward a white man, I might just have to flip along by myself.”

On her father’s hatred of white people

“Was he racist? Big time. He wouldn’t let white people in the house. My mother was just the opposite – she didn’t care who you were if you were nice to her. Later, I went down to the little town in Georgia where my father was born and one of the men who was a child at the time said that my father had seen two black men lynched on his street – they were businessmen, they had little stores and so on. He was 14 and he left and went to California and ended up living in Ohio. I think seeing that at 14 – the lynching of two neighbours – and that’s why he thought that white people were incorrigible.”

More here.