Almost any high-profile interview with Toni Morrison is going to go viral. But Toni Morrison’s recent interview with The Guardian is getting an extra dose of Internet attention. Why? Probably because in this profile, which ran on Saturday, the beloved writer voices some controversial beliefs regarding age, race, and politics.
Hermione Hoby, who wrote the profile to highlight Morrison's latest book God Help the Child , says that Morrison “has always welcomed the term ‘black writer,’” while most writers loathe being pigeonholed. And to back up Hoby’s claim, Morrison pronounces, “I’m writing for black people.” To continue, Morrison says:
I don’t have to apologize or consider myself limited because I don’t [write about white people] — which is not absolutely true, there are lots of white people in my books. The point is not having the white critic sit on your shoulder and approve it.
You can imagine that that statement alone would give Internet stir the commenters of the Internet... and you are imagining correctly. While commenter silverstreet said, “I am white and I am not the slightest bit offended by anything Toni Morrison says. She is right: she writes for black people and she doesn't have to apologize for it,” Ian Guignet-Simpson wrote, “if i wrote for 'white people' i would be classed as a Nazi.”
As they are wont to do, Twitter users are getting in on the action, too. Many tweeters express their support for Morrison (as well as the interview), and their disgust for and/or exasperation with the comments:
But Morrison’s statements about racial injustices in America (as well as her support of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton) are what really fueled the 630 (and counting) comments on the piece.
Hoby mentions that the last time she and Morrison met was just after Trayvon Martin’s death. That led to a conversation about race in America, about which Morrison says:
There are two things I want to see in life. One is a white kid shot in the back by a cop. Never happened. The second thing I want to see: a record of any white man in the entire history of the world who has been convicted of raping a black woman. Just one.
Some commenters misconstrued Morrison's statement — which is to highlight that race discrimination within the judicial system is still rabid — as a racist statement. "Shouldn't she be reported to the police for race hate?" groliesUK writes. Others questioned the veracity of Morrison's statements.
But user MsMilarepa calls out the angry commenters, writing: "This thread has become hijacked by people getting worked up by Morrison's comments about a white child being shot by police (and a white man being convicted of raping a woman). This is a pity."
Trolls come with the digital territory, and it's to be expected that they're especially vicious in response to politically fueled articles. But what readers should focus on instead is applauding Morrison's outspoken defense of her beliefs, and the lasting importance of her searing, conversation-provoking work.