Those who rioted
"What struck me most about those who rioted was how long they waited--the restraint they showed. Not the spontaneity, the restraint. They waited and waited for justice, and it didn't come. No one talks about that."
- Toni Morrison, 1993, on the Los Angeles of 1992.
Toni Morrison is one of my favorite authors, and one of the greatest American writers who has ever lived. Aside from Richard Adams (Watership Down), hers was the first writing I can actually remember reading--the first that made an impression on me, the first letters that ever shook me so hard I can still recall being a girl, thirteen years old, reading Song of Solomon and thinking, "Holy shit. This is what words can do."
Toni Morrison's work was the first step I ever took in unlearning the terrible racism with which I'd been raised in the Mormon church, although I didn't realize at the time that the complex feelings her words evoked in me were, in fact, the first steps toward unlearning racism--a task I am still undertaking, a task I believe no white person has yet managed to fully complete. It is work we must be conscious of and carry forward all our lives. This system of racism was designed to benefit us. It is incumbent upon us to do the work of dismantling it and building a system of true justice and equality for all people. We cannot turn our backs on our work. We cannot allow ourselves to perpetrate this evil any longer.
I have been disappointed and disgusted with the New York Times since 2017, when their coverage (and especially their headlines, which they know damn well are the only things at least half of the country even bothers to read) became dangerously "both-sides"-ish. There are no two sides to fascism, to authoritarianism. Tyranny is always unequivocally wrong. Every American--every good person regardless of their citizenship--ought to be able to agree on that. Fascism versus liberty is black-or-white, concrete, objectively bad or good. There are very few aspects of the infinitely complex and nuanced tumble of human existence about which we may say "This is objectively bad." The New York Times has made an alarming pretense of "fairness" since 2017 and has given fascist ideas and fascist writers the space they do not deserve. I hope they will soon return to doing true journalism with real journalistic integrity and solid ethics. Until they do, I'm hesitant to post a link to their site and drive more traffic and a revenue toward them. But this is a very good profile of Toni Morrison's life, and I think she is more important in this moment than the NYT.
Read about Ms. Morrison. Her voice and her work are among the most valuable treasures of American letters. And then read her books. I have read them all and I love them all passionately. My favorites are these. I hope you will learn from these books the same lessons I learned: Compassion, humanity, rejection of hate, the universal nature of love. The things Ms. Morrison taught me made me a better person. Her words can make us all better people, if we pay attention and let them in.