She doesn’t make many TV appearances, but on Wednesday night, Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winning author Toni Morrison went on The Colbert Report to talk about racism, writing, and the one book she wishes she could go back and rework.
Morrison looked regal (and kind of adorable) in her purple outfit and matching purple nail polish. It’s rare to see a serious literary giant like this giggling and joking on Comedy Central. If you love and adore Morrison, her willingness to be a little bit silly might make you love and adore her even more.
This is the author of Beloved, The Bluest Eye, Sula, and Song of Solomon, so she gets serious when she wants to. When Colbert asks her if she feels worthy of the Pulitzer, the Nobel Prize, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Morrison answers, “I know that my books are worthy, which is separate from me.” When Colbert segues into the topic of racism and tells the author that he doesn’t see race, her reaction pretty much signals: Yeah, right.
“There’s no such thing as race. None. There's just the human race,” Morrison said. And then she launched into a definition of race and racism that pretty much cements her stature as the queen of language, writing, ideas, books, communication, and life as we know it. "Racism is a construct," she continued. "It has benefits. Money can be made off of it. People who don't like themselves can feel better because of it... It has a social function. But race can only be defined as a human being."
If you ever wondered why she won the Nobel Prize, just watch the whole interview, particularly 4:17.
Morrison also talked about her writing career, and admitted that her first book, The Bluest Eye, is the one she wishes she could go back and rework. She started writing in her late 30s because she wanted to see something different in books — stories that didn’t exist yet. “Since I wanted to read it, I thought I should write it,” she said. It’s one of her most famous pieces of writing advice, and there she is relaying it on Comedy Central.
Here's the whole segment of Morrison and her wise words and her purple nail polish — she’s regal and relatable, and she pretty much shuts down any other definition of race and racism out there with a few words.