Toni Morrison: “People who practice racism are bereft.”

Toni Morrison Takes So-called “White” so-called “Supremacy” To Task

The transcript below is from a youtube video of Charlie Rose interviewing Toni Morrison (in 1998 based on all the clues we have found so far.) Apparently, he asked her about racism. Her response vis-a-vis people who practice racism is worthy of close scrutiny. Therefore, we present it here for your consideration. Any errors in transcription are a result of the faults, defects and shortcomings  of the transcriber who asks the forgiveness of those who may find said errors.

Toni:
Yes I do Charlie, but let me tell you, that’s the wrong question.

Charlie:
What’s the right question?

Toni:
How do you feel? Not you Charlie Rose, but don’t you understand, that the people who do this thing, who practice racism are bereft? There’s something distorted about the psyche. It’s a huge waste and its a corruption and a distortion. It’s like…its a profound neurosis…and…nobody examines for what it is. It feels crazy…it is crazy and it leaves…It has just as much a deleterious effect on white people and possibly equal as it does Black people.

I always knew I had the moral high ground. All my life. I always thought those people who said I couldn’t come in the drug store, or sit in front of the place or couldn’t go to the park…

Charlie:
You were morally superior to them because they were…

Toni:
I did. I thought they knew, that I knew that they were inferior to me, morally. I always thought that. And my parents always thought that.

Charlie:
You said your father was racist because he thought he was superior.

Toni:
That’s right. He always felt superior. And that was a form, you know, of defense of racism. And if the racist white person, I don’t mean the person who is examining his consciousness and so on, doesn’t understand, that he or she is also a race that’s also constructed, its also made and also has some kind of serviceability. But when you take it away, if I take your race away and there you are all strung out and all you’ve got is your little self. And what is that? What are you without racism? Are you any good? Are you still strong? Are you still smart? Do you still like yourself? I mean these are the questions…part of it is…yes [puts hand over her heart] “victim,” how terrible it’s been for Black people.

Charlie:
You don’t feel like that.

Toni:
I’m not a victim. I refuse to be one.

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Charlie:
Well the victim is other person who is morally inferior.

Toni:
That’s what…that’s a serious question.

Charlie:
Who has to hold onto…

Toni:
Of course

Charlie:
Racism to somehow…for his or her own self-esteem or definition.

Toni:
If you can only be tall because, someone else is on their knees then you got a serious problem and my feeling is that white people have a very serious problem and “they” should start thinking about what “they” can do about it. Take me out if it.

Charlie:
Then give white people some free advice.

Toni:
They’re all my brothers.


4 thoughts on “Toni Morrison: “People who practice racism are bereft.”

  1. thanks for the transcript. After trying to take it down from the video in order to post on facebook, I was glad to find it on your site. Howver, I think her last response to his question for advice is “they’re all in my books.”