Watch Toni Morrison Explain the “Profound Neurosis” of Racism

“If you can only be tall because somebody is on their knees, then you have a serious problem.”

As the world reacts to the death of Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison, who died Monday in New York at 88, many are sharing their favorite quotes from the trailblazing novelist, whose captivating and commanding writings on the trauma of racism came to define American literature in a way few others have been able to accomplish.

One such moment that has been widely viewed in the wake of Morrison’s death is a clip from a 1993 interview with Charlie Rose. Rose asked her how she responds to everyday racist encounters. “Let me tell you, that’s the wrong question,” Morrison quickly replied.

“Don’t you understand, that the people who do this thing, who practice racism, are bereft?” she continued, turning the question posed to her on its head. “There is something distorted about the psyche.”

“If you can only be tall because somebody is on their knees, then you have a serious problem,” she concluded. “My feeling is that white people have a very, very serious problem. And they should start thinking about what they can do about it. Take me out of it.”

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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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