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.”

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate